Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 7#3/4 Paul Groot 1 Jan 1994

Paul Perry, Artist at the Side of God and Triple P

No artistic profession has been courted more intensively by advertising in preceding decades as that of visual artist. The literary world of the sixties was startled by the huge demand for copywriters; the coming decades will see the discovery of advertising by film directors; in the eighties, it was the visual artist that was embraced and finally suffocated by advertising.

This culminated in the rise and fall of Jeff Koons, the artistically empty shell that could not even hide his own nakedness with the emperor's clothes. This romance of art and ad was very symbolically breached by the intervention of porno star Cicciolina, whose activities could not be integrated into either art or advertising. Her subversive activities in the shadow of art easily surpass the soft approach of her partner Koons, and are quite enough in their own right. As opposed to Koons, who did not really understand this double play and in all naiveté dreamed of conquering the world, but could not make an artistic fist, Cicciolina's image is rock-solid. It is too intense for the art world, which absolutely cannot bear such an image. Cicciolina in the role of a new Duchamp, shoving the world's nose into the facts and referring back to herself for a period of reflection. And successfully, too.

The euphoria about the marriage of art and advertising has passed, and we now find the artist back in his old spot. He works in the experimental area (while the word 'avant garde' remains taboo, just watch whose mouth will be the first to utter it anew), that is, individual skill once again counts. And when that is not the case, he seems quite simply stuck to the computer. But the large middle area where art and advertising still so recently celebrated their triumphs, has emptied out as though by magic and disappeared from the public's interest. The terrain is desolate, waiting to be occupied once again.

Autonomous Zone

In A Bold proposal and a Modest Proposal (Landscape Automation) for the automation company Triple P Group, Paul Perry proposes contracting out this middle area, but not to a common, everyday computer or experimental artist. Rather, he is proposing a new kind of art collaboration. A genuinely Autonomous Zone. The question is the extent to which the directors of Triple P have understood the many potential meanings of this text, or the ambiguity that makes the document so readable. In any case, the time will come when this artistic manifesto, written in December 1992, will easily be considered one of the classic texts of the historical avant garde. Precisely because of its mildly ironic and yet clearly Utopian tone. It is a typical example of Perry's handwriting, well known to us from his other work, which does not possess a uniform interpretation. Or is there a uniform interpretation of his macramé wall hangings? Should his proposal for the naming of a beetle as a public art work for the community of Oosterhout be taken seriously, or is it the proposal of a manic debugger?

Is this the Bold Proposal of a muse in disguise as Apollo, or of an Apollo as the supreme god Zeus? What, wonders Perry, would God think if in all his unutterable wisdom he pondered the question of the automation company: what might an artist contribute to the firm? A couple of painting on the wall of the director's office? A nude in the corridor? A procession of flags on the headquarters? No, it would seem. Perry's God - a young biologist, a libertarian pirate - does not speak of the reality of Triple P as a medium-sized automation company consisting of the swept-together remains of a number of bankrupt competitors. If (1) God existed and (2) was a pirate, how would he respond if Triple P sailed on to his horizon? But this God has perhaps misjudged a bit, mistaking a company that is trying to get ahead for a supra-organism. This God/biologist/pirate mistakes a trendy company for a solid organisation with a clear ideology and an attractive environment. Nothing that should surprise one, as it is an old godly practice. It is the tried and true practice of a God that we know from history, an Old Man with a Beard from the Heavens, created by a certain Michelangelo for Pope Julius II in Rome in the sixteenth century, to immortalize Him on earth.

Would God see Triple P as an ecosystem? Would God draw Triple P as an organisational chart shaped like a pyramid? Would god view Triple P as friend or foe? are a few of the questions posed by Perry. Realistic, urgent questions? Not really, because Perry's God knows better and recognises the problem. Julius's God had to establish the identity of a world church; the God of Triple P has to create an identity. And when identity and ideology are still absent, histories and ideologies simply have to be manipulated and falsified: reasons for developing an identity can be invented. But weren't our gods created for exactly this? Perry's God is amazed that the introduction of networks has no priority at Triple P and that the processing of the virtual domain of information, the infosphere, is being neglected. In a word, the question is why Triple P only sells technology and does not wish to become the subject of it. Survival of the Fittest, or, put more aptly, conceptual survival, demands such an approach in order to survive.

In search of a process, subversive, anti-hierarchical, anti-organisational chart, anti-government, Perry's God seems to want to transform this automation company into an artistic one. This is not an artist who wants to sell a work of art or himself as work of art, if need be, or even to transform a network into art or contrariwise, present a network as a work of art, but one who wants to make a work of art from the social body that Triple P is. To transform an automation company into an experiment in living, a collaborative work, information exchange, interface design.

Elusive Artist

How can you make an artwork for a party without questioning the basis of their self-image, is one of Paul Perry's questions. But when one sees Perry at work in this fashion, one has the urge to bounce that question back at him. What about the self-image of a artist? Is Perry himself God, or his middleman between heaven and earth? Is he the new Michelangelo, or an impresario like Vasari? What is his location in this network, the spider that holds the strings? or does he disappear amid the countless branches, like a coincidental module? These are questions that must be answered before such an intensive collaboration between artist and business, between the God of Inspiration, Individuality, Integrity and Intelligence (Quadruple I) and Automation (Single A), between that of art and that of rational organisation, can get going. Simply because you have here two different worlds that cannot be so easily combined. In between them is the sphere of the metaphor. In the hands of the artist, the metaphor is an instrument with which he can change, deform, shatter, sublimate, deny, magnify, apotheosise, etc. reality as he wishes. Business has no answer to this and bows to the rules of everyday reality.

Perry is a relatively elusive artist because his work, all appearances to the contrary, shirks the canons of both modernism and post-modernism. As an individualist and as someone who allows himself to be depersonalised in the computer networks, he plays a double role that he continually redefines and that few can grasp. A serious critical consideration of his work barely exists at all. Understandably, because who can sufficiently grasp the real but especially the conceptual range of his work; art analyses dominated by the sphere of biochemistry, biotechnology and ecosystems? Only those who are well-versed and -read in eco-fantasy, and who see the influence of computers on art as more than a simple colour and form acceleration (now practically everywhere the case, from fractals to virtual reality), might possibly be able to answer Perry. Even the fashion of post-humanism seems to conform too much to formal artistic formulas to be a genuine discussion partner.

Triple P? We read somewhere that is stands for People, Performance, Partnership. A year after the proposal was drawn up, Perry's God has begun collaborating with the firm.

Triple P? Has that gradually come to mean Paul Perry Performance, perhaps?

Translation: Jim Boekbinder