Michael F. Leruth – Fred Forest’s Utopia: Media Art and Activism


The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262036498, English, 264 pages, 2017, USA

Iconoclast artist Fred Forest has been acknowledged only recently for his fringe artist tactics over the last sixty years. An artist with a modern approach to media, and with a controversial critical stance, he has used the institutional structures through a variety of critical, destabilising and clever strategies. Forest has been a boycotter of the art system, from the uninvited highly risky intervention in the Sao Paolo biennial during the military dictatorship in 1975, to suing the Parisian Centre Pompidou in 1994 for its unclear policy of art acquisitions. But even more he has been an early adopter and investigator of video portapaks, telephone systems and TV networks, using them for critical artworks. Joining Italian theorist Mario Costa in defining Communication Aesthetics in the early eighties, they wrote a manifesto in 1985 which seems to foretell what would happen in the next two decades: “Communication Aesthetics pushes the psycho-physiological implications of technological innovations further still, elaborating on their concomitant modification of our concepts of Space and Time”. From buying space in Le Monde newspapers to allow readers’ participation and expression, to running an official public campaign for the presidency of Bulgarian National Television, Forest has expanded his practice through the most diverse technologies, producing a substantial body of work with a cultural guerrilla spirit, looking for his own momentum, but playfully and deeply questioning the status quo.