999 Demeure du Chaos - 999 Propaganda

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To begin with… can you tell me how you met each other?

Lukas Zpira. - I had heard about the Abode of Chaos in the press and the media, like many people. I met Thierry through Marquis' tattoo and piercing activity, Body Art, in Lyon after Marquis told me about the Abode's appeal case. Me and Satomi decided to go to the tribunal to attend the hearing. It's not something we would normally do… but we thought it was important to be there. That's when we first met Thierry very briefly. Marquis also introduced us to a number of other people. A little later we met and started to discuss the idea of doing something together with the Bunker when it arrived. Thierry told us he envisaged the Bunker as a place where "things could happen". So we started working on our first performance at the Abode of Chaos.

Thierry Ehrmann. - Yes indeed, our first contact was via Marquis. At around the same time I found Lukas's website where I discovered a text by Hakim Bey that had a significant influence on me. Hakim Bey has done a lot of work on the idea of a strategy of subversive chaos. In fact, Lukas, let's have a look at it… (Thierry taps in the address of Body-Art.net on his computer) This is what triggered a lot of ideas. (quoting the text) "We will continue our work in publishing, in the press, on the radio, via music. In private, we will create something else, something to share freely and not consume passively. Something that can and must be freely debated, without ever being understood by the agents of alienation, something that has no commercial value, and yet is precious, something occult and yet perfectly integrated into our daily lives."

For fifteen years now I have been working on states of "disappearance", on the logic of temporary autonomous zones, as formulated by Hakim Bey, among others. And I thought "here is something interesting". Bearing in mind that we are at the beginning of the 21st century…something magnificent and tragic at the same time. My other role as chairman of Serveur Group and Artprice allowed me to understand that the frontiers are cut-and-dried even in the field of contemporary art and that we need to get into the cracks, these dividing lines, these buffer states. And that's what Lukas represents… mutation, in the strongest sense of the word. Little by little we settled into a working relationship with a healthy dose of mutual reserve. Our relations are complex. As I have said on my blog, it would take a thousand years to describe Lukas.

Last night we were talking about the Ronin (the master-less samurai or "drifting persons"). The Ronin takes a solitary path which implies a mutually consented break between two parties - the master on the one hand and the student on the other, who moves away to seek an ascetic path. I think all three of us are Ronins. Even if we all want family life, a circle of friends and a clan, there is something of the Ronin in all of us.

L.Z. - It's interesting that Thierry mentions the Hakim Bey text. I haven't looked at it for ages, and it certainly does reflect the spirit of the Abode of Chaos. At the beginning I came here pretty much unprepared, groping in the dark so to speak, without knowing what to expect. I didn't want my work or attitude to come across as that of an upstart who thinks he knows everything there is to know. Things happened gradually. First of all, we learned to understand each other. Then, almost simultaneously we both started to see the Abode as a kind of laboratory, a place where we could experiment without fear, advancing serenely without trepidation. For example, our two most important performances were "tested" here. They'd been a long time in the conceptual pipeline before we actually performed them.

T.E. - In effect, all this is the outcome of a struggle which began in the 1980s and which has two paths: one exogenous, the other endogenous. The exogenous path is that of a struggle from outside, against the State and against the system. Next to that is a more subtle internal struggle, a sort of 5th column. It is this endogenous path that we have favoured at the Abode. As a conceptual act, the Abode was born on 9 December 1999; but it was the fruit of 25 years of continual struggle and experience: exile, imprisonment, war, conflicts, ruins, empires. In short, everything we have conceived and created. And the Abode became an embodiment, particularly after September 11.

We have a very geopolitical vision of the world. It's a little McLuhanesque, but in a "glocal" version, i.e. both global and local at the same time. To paraphrase Reiser, I believe we are living a marvellous century. It is indeed a truly incredible era. And tonight I am happy, because I believe we are at the gates of chaos. I am waiting, like an excited child, for the news that the oil price has hit $100 a barrel. I know that the "old world" is faltering. Our Western civilisation is breaking up because it's too sanitized. Lukas has done a performance entitled Only the best adapted will survive. It's exactly that. The Abode, it's a curious system that is itself at the heart of the State system. That's what a Préfet (regional or departmental governor) said to me one day: "You are a State within a State". We also believe in "Old Europe", in a kind of perpetual Kantian peace which contrasts with a Clausewitzian America. I believe that the economy is a natural extension of war, but that we can also find a kind of perpetual peace through a Kantian perspective. And I also think that art makes everything possible. But we must immerse ourselves in the history of art. Rediscover the power of art? I was talking earlier today with an exhibition organiser. People have quite simply forgotten that art is the ultimate power, far greater than political power. It's a power that replaces temporal power …located somewhere between the temporal and the spiritual. And the Abode, at the end of the day, is a liturgy. It does not have the reserve or delicacy to position itself in a conventional field. The Abode is "off the map". It's almost a new religion, in the sense of "revelation", in the sense of "act" and of "clergy". And at the same time, it's a war machine, a machine borrowed from the dada movement: Propaganda.

Going back to the genesis of the Abode. Lukas and I have known each other for nearly ten years now and we know each others' personal histories and the paths that have led us both to our current thoughts and ideas. An important historical event for us appears to have been the Punk movement: In your case, what were the cultural and intellectual accidents … or triggers?

T.E. - Punk… precisely … its obvious. As I said earlier, our struggle began in the 1980s when we already started to question our position in society. Should we be inside or outside the system to fight against it? It was also travelling around the world and having "accidents" of life. One such "accident of life" that I tested was that of complete "effacement", by deciding, during the 80s, to join the regime of incapable adults, under which I experienced the supreme non-existence of having no civil status whatsoever, as provided for by French law. This law, particularly the guardianship aspect, provides a sort of legion of honour for psychotics. The withdrawal of my civil status was important for me, having no other existence than that provided for by the Nagano Convention which recognises (or not) the incapacities of the country you come from.

On another occasion there was a pseudo-alternative yelling in front of us when we were doing a performance, but I think that subversion, entryism and war are the supreme arts. It's a religion that cannot be practised just by being boisterous in front of a riot control vehicle. So, on entering the world of madness… At the same time, I had experienced this madness in 1985 when I joined the freemasons, et idem when I was judged by a masonic tribunal. Extraordinary fact: they hadn't formed the tribunal since the end of the Second Word War when they passed sentence on collaborators. Could an incapable adult under the guardianship regime be a freemason? Bearing in mind that in essence a freemason is a free man in a free lodge (as long as he has correct morals and republican values [translator's note: republican in the French sense, which includes freedom from religion])… Does being mad equate with having good morals? The Masonic tribunal, after an exceptional deliberation, declared that I was "condemned" to the "dry path". This "dry path" was superb. It sentenced me to wandering… my eyes burned by the light. The "dry path" is nothing short of illumination, contrary to the damp path, which is a slow and penetrating path. It was a blessing which allowed me - amongst other things - to progress towards a material embodiment like the Abode of Chaos. The Abode of Chaos is only the extremity of a period of constant struggle in all fields.

And then there was the discovery of Internet. We began in 1985… we were the first in France. We were the first Internet Service Provider in 1987, before Calvacom which arrived at the end of 87 / beginning of 88. Because for us Internet was a metaphor for the divine, if not the divine itself. And at that time we realised it was possible to eat away at four centuries of industrial history. That it was a way of radically modifying the relationship to power and to money. Internet is a very complicated culture. It's the only mass media whose pioneers are still around. Generally, there's a contradiction. As soon as a media becomes a mass media, the culture of the pioneers is extinguished, either with a cheque or with a kick in the arse. With Internet, it's the reverse. The culture of the pioneers is continuing more than ever. So for us Internet looked like an amazing opportunity - a sort of natural son of Proudhon and Bakunin. As I said in my portrait in the Horizons rubric of Le Monde, I decided to postpone my suicide by ten years. Of course, there is always a bunch of arseholes who remind me that the ten years are over. Unfortunately for them, as Internet is still growing exponentially with Metcalfe's Law (editor's note: Robert Metcalfe is the founder of 3Com and one of the instigators of Ethernet protocol), I think my suicide is going to be very late, circa 2052. So based on Internet, I built another life. For many years I believed that going on a voyage was a way of leaving and escaping from reality. But the biggest voyage we make is the one that happens in our heads. Internet allows the elimination of distances, freedom from aircraft cabins at 11,000 thousand feet, a real global vision, and it allows one to understand what is really happening.

Internet allows private individuals to reply to the arrogance of multi-national corporations. This is a truly remarkable power. Very often people compare Internet to the industrial revolution. No! It took sixty years for steam engine technology used in the Lille ironworks to be applied to those of Alsace-Lorraine. There is still no reflection on the subject, no mathematical model, no comparison, except perhaps the Renaissance and the discovery of the printing press. Internet obeys nothing. We have moved on to an almost horizontal format of knowledge. And the Abode of Chaos is also alive on Internet. Today there are 1,100,000 sites that mention or talk about the Abode. That is its natural milieu, its natural extension. There is almost no frontier any more between what is incarnate and what is dematerialised on Internet. We have total permeability.

When you are talking about your activities, you sometimes use the third person singular for the Abode of Chaos, sometimes the first person plural, but rarely the first person singular … (laughs)

T.E. - The "we" is the royal "we"... The "we" is just a way of stepping aside because there are always people who shares with me and who, although perhaps not visible, are contributors to my acts and my progress. The "I" is only used in times of war. When I kill, I say "I". I don't make the collective carry the responsibility. But when we are talking creation, I say "We". The "I" is reserved for the supreme act, when you kill, quite simply. You cannot kill with the "We", you kill in the first person singular.

I read somewhere that you "devoured the golden calf at the great pagan feast of the last century"…

Yes, because the anarchists that we were entered the capitalist milieu like fifth columnists. We penetrated the financial markets. We used both the Anglo-American and the European capitalist system. And, in effect, it was in 1999, after consuming the golden calf, that we noticed not so much the weight of sin, but rather that we still had to "return to Palermo". This "return to Palermo"… was to get back in touch with what we used to be. And I say it with complete frankness.

We are, above all, a gang of misfits and punks. Punks with a capital "P" … Punks, but with a sense of honour. We are warriors by nature. And at the end of the day, when I saw all that money - and being among the top 500 fortunes for several years - I really thought that maybe I had committed some form of self-betrayal. And then, it was like a complete split in which I burned everything. I burned consciously and knowingly in order to rebuild. It also has to do with the romanticism of ruins, but ruins in which we cannot be trapped since we fought against them. I've seen too many arseholes, all these post-1968ers who became major cocksuckers. That's the worst thing. You've got to remain faithful to your opinions… to be who you really are. Never forget where you come from and WHAT YOU ARE.

When things have gone wrong, I am in favour of radical surgery…tearing out… with no stitches. I therefore ripped out all that represented signs of wealth and the alchemy went very well with that. Because alchemy is perhaps the art of converting base metals into gold. But it's above all about abandoning all metals that you own so that you return naked to the arena, offer your body and your mind… and return to your origins.

Being non-conformist and unconventional, for you, these are conscious choices, the heritage of history? How do you position yourself vis-à-vis the past? Myself, I only have fragments of responses to the question of why I go in certain directions. And I am not certain that all my choices are completely conscious. How is it for you?

L.Z. - For me, non-conformism is not a condition, it's a fact. It is not something I am looking for particularly. I don't do what I do in order to belong to some alternative society fringe group. It's not like that. However, as it happens, that is exactly the case; I am in effect outside the mainstream. It's just the way it is.

T.E. - The "margin", or the fringe, is a "buffer state". I totally agree with Lukas and that's why we understand each other so well. Being an "outsider" is not just a pose for the sake of being "remarkable" or remarked upon. Western societies are built around the notion of a social contract as defined by Rousseau. You can agree and you can disagree. But once you step outside this contract, you find yourself facing evictions, involved in breaches of contracts, either unilaterally or in agreement on both sides. It's my old legal brain ticking away… I studied law, and in fact it helps me enormously. Between theology and law. Because law helps you to understand the progress of the social contract and also to know when the contract is breaking down.

For me, "marginality" is a necessity, if only just to survive. The mutation can only emerge from the fringes of the social contract social. It is not in the contract. It's precisely in the deviations from the contract or in the special provisions of the social contract that one can exist and survive, by trying to help others. Because, bizarrely, people sometimes reproach us for being "marginal". They say: "You had the balls to do it, to cut yourself off from everything…and what about US? Your whole approach is totally egotistical." What they don't understand is that, on the contrary, our approach is filled with humanism, or, at least I hope it is. It's not because we are violent in our attitudes and very rigid in our morals and our positioning vis-à-vis the system that we are not humanists… or that we don't open up our hearts. In fact, it's probably because we sometimes have the impression of holding not just a flame but rather a light… something that helps people to see. Occupying a mountain top alone is not the only expression of a humanist ambition. The myth of the hermit is bullshit. The hermit does not do what he does because he plans one day to return to the village.

Why this need, this necessity for a "mutation"?

In biology, mutations are constant. The evolution of the species can only go in that direction. If we look at the planet's history, we see that mutations are part of a natural adaptation. In all economic models, liberal or otherwise, mutation plays a key role. I love rats because they are mutants. Mutation is the survival of the species. Its DNA…a sort of continual growth You have to survive and adapt, and that's what allows us to look forward to a better future.

Strangely enough, you were talking only last night about dystopias, as opposed to utopias. That's a very interesting theme. A real subject. Today's younger generation is completely dystopic. They hear - look, not only you must evacuate, throw up your utopias. It's history already written. For example, for me, September 11, 2001 was a blessed event. I am not going to be drawn into a discussion of the 3000 Americans killed on that day; I respect their deaths. I say quite simply that nine eleven was the start of the major now cycle in History. The worst thing we have had to put up with over the last 25 years is Francis Fukuyama declaring the "End of History". If that isn't dystopia… I don't know what is…I mean that is really atrocious and inhuman … the end of history! "I, Japanese historian, naturalised American, declare the end of history" - just before the Berlin Wall was destroyed. That's gross. And so for me September 11, notwithstanding the victims, who I respect most sincerely, represents above all a major 'comeback' of history. Whatever interpretation schemas you apply, history is insolent. Nine eleven was the ultimate work of art in the formal sense of the word and it represented the dice of history being thrown once again. It was the Deus ex-machina intervening again and History re-opening to an era in which everything is possible. It is also the grand return of chaos, in the meaning of proteiform original matter, the materia prima, this matter from which all animate and inanimate things came from. This primal soup from which everything is born, long before the creative act. In my view, we in the West should have all had the wisdom to see ourselves in the ruins of nine eleven.

L.Z. - That's right. Its not that a mutation is even "necessary". It is simply happening. The world is changing. The world changed on September 11, 2001. Humanity changed radically in so many different ways… some of which even question our status as human beings. The question is more "what kind of mutation" rather than "should there be a mutation". In any case … a change is gonna come. A page has been turned. We have finally arrived in the 21st century.

Do you think there has been an acceleration of History and that we are today at some kind of major turning point?

T.E. - Yes, totally and utterly. I am going to allow myself to quote an expression that Lukas uses as the name of one of his performances: Hacking The Future. Our Group also has scientists. I describe the Group as being a kind of Bismarck Empire, a double-headed eagle, with a dichotomy that we manage well. We were recently looking at the specifications of the new Social Security Card that will take the form of an RFID (Radio frequency Identification) injected into the body. What is incredible is that we adopt these mutations even before a law has been adopted... the executive power acting alone... We get continually insulted with every imaginable name. We are borderline in the legal sense of the word, not just in the psychiatric sense. Whereas in reality, the rule of law is foregone in an attempt to tag future generations. An American ordinance of the Patriot Act includes a package of provisions which contravene the Geneva Conventions, giving extra-territorial authorisation to all forms of intervention and which will, for example, ultimately use humans (as of September 1, 2009) with traceability of all children born in North America. I do not see why we shouldn't modify our flesh, our bodies and reflect on these mutations. That's also what interests me with Lukas... his work on the body.

Ultimately, the body is the intimate tabernacle of our lives on Earth. Today the body belongs to bureaucrats, both in Europe and in North America, and therefore to doctors, clerics and the State. And our body is our first appropriation. Lukas does interesting work on the body because the art milieu does not go beyond the work of the French artist Orlan, who represents their token in this respect. The art milieu is frigid, terribly frigid. And so it buys tokens, like Keith Haring's or Basquiat's street art. The art milieu has Orlan ...and after Orlan, we are considered as a band of ambient psychopaths. I can do whatever I like with my body. I can implant whatever I like. I can decide to give it away, to open it and to disembowel it in full awareness of my actions.

Seen from outside, there is a lot of blackness in this kind of activity. I am thinking particularly of the phrase that is inscribed all over the Abode of Chaos: "When you see the blackness, be happy because you will see the beginning of the work". Is this the idea of a first stage that must necessarily involve something obscure and dark? Is the objective to expell the darkness and advance towards the light?

T.E. In alchemy, there is blackening, reddening and whitening. Blackening (nigredo) is cremation. Reddening (rubedo) is what happens after the putrefaction. And whitening (albedo) is the return of the ether phase. I believe that in any phase, you first need to consume the embers. You must have the ruins. It's on the ruins that a better future can be built. Its the city of Dresden to which everything is tied. The ruins of Beirut. It's Sarajevo. In a significant area of the world, black is also the symbol of life and not of mourning. In printing, black is the superposition of all colours. In electronics, black is molecular emptiness. And black is also supreme elegance. First of all there in not just one black. There are millions of data states. The dark phase is therefore a necessity, but also a reflexion. Just like when one paints or creates vanities.

The black phase is unavoidable. I believe we are in fact unconditional optimists. It's all there in the phrase you quoted: Donum Dei, "Be happy".

There is, nevertheless, an element of provocation that is both intended and without apology…

T.E. - Yes, but I would say that I am closer to Marcel Duchamp's logic has a very simple postulate: A work of art that does not pose questions is not a work of art. So, more than provocation, what we do is ask questions through our works. A slightly violent 'finger up the bum'. Provocation leads to questions without any concession. What is fabulous for us artists is that when we create, we can ask the questions without having the answers. And regarding the world of economics, of industrial relations etc., when I create a work, I elicit all different kinds of questions, but I don't have the capacity to answer them. It's not even a part of the postulate. The work posits a number of questions, but each one of us has to find the answers individually.

L.Z. - Besides, look at the provocation in the punk movement; that was designed to provoke a reaction…

Yes, I know. I ask questions pretending to be an idiot, but I know the answers fairly well. (laughs)

T.E. - As regards the punk movement, I think we are currently experiencing its grand revival... its renaissance. In the sense of the primary movement, the original "native" movement.

In fact, our work is an embodiment of the phantasms of the first wave of the punk movement…

T.E. - Absolutely. The punk movement has never been so relevant as it is today. The punks cried "No Future" in the 1970's... but today we are really facing No Future. The punk movement was a revelation for each of us. Obviously I was disgusted by the post-punk recycling we have had for decades. But today we have got back to something pure and hard.

"Information wants to be free", is a slogan used by hackers. But also by Lucifer, the bringer of light punished for having wanted to give knowledge to men. It is also the message that Christ wanted to communicate. What, in your opinion, scares people about information? What are the powers, organisations and authorities that feel threatened by information?

T.E. - Information is the axiom of freedom. All wars are above all information wars. Since the beginning of time, information is coded. Information is the primary material of warfare, the "lethal weapon". With Internet and Metcalfe's Law, the value of information grows proportional to the square of size of the network into which it is introduced. As with Moore's Law, the exponential acceleration goes way beyond any kind of constant speed. Today, information is undermining empires. It's the barbarians against the empire, hence the culture of the other which is coming.

Without giving in to cheap conspiracy theories, do you think that the elites want to subjugate and dominate…

T.E. - Absolutely!

… to instigate a soft consensus…

T.E. - Exactly!

…to keep people under control…

T.E. - Indisputably. I believe that the conspiracy theory is almost true. But it is proteiform.

Every lobby is by definition a conspiracy…

T.E. - Exactly! The three of us here today, we are already "conspiring". I don't remember which radical left-winger said that a group of three already constituted dissidence. Naturally, and information is the supreme art. War is already happening when the information is taken. He who holds the information has already won the war. Today, information is a terrible war. Us, on the other hand, we have been studying how to segment, rank and intersect information for twenty-five years. We analyse and dissect information. Every octet of data has a value.

Indeed, in that area... what are the principal activities of Serveur Group? Apart from Artprice, it remains fairly mysterious…

In short, it the organisation of information. Our business over the last twenty-five years has been focused on creating the successor to the encyclopaedia. A database is nothing more than a methodological and deliberate organisation of an information tree.

I am studying and I try at the same time to teach an interesting rule. When one feeds and inputs an opaque market with available information, this market experiences exponential growth. Like the art market in which we have become the global leader: As soon as we impacted this market, the volume of information literally exploded which then, in turn, ignited the economic market. Information is a necessity for the development of any market. Outside a capitalist schema, information is a necessity which allows the development of exchanges between individuals. The absence of information generates fear... is in itself a fact that creates anxiety... and this anxiety prevents the arbiters of the economic or social game from becoming apparent.

To be even more concrete, can you tell us a little more about the role that Artprice has played? From a market that functioned until very recently without any real reference points... to today…

The art market is the oldest market in the world. Man exchanged artworks even before he issued money. I created Artprice after analysing the history of art which can be summarised in three phases. First iconography, the man / god image. i.e. not really a market in the economic sense of the word. Then, between the XII and the XVII century, orders commissioned by royalty, aristocrats and the Church. Lastly, as of the XVII century, the artist becomes a liberated autonomous being and can produce more or less what he likes.

But one quickly realises that the information was in the hands of a very small number of people. That's what I said one day to Catherine Tasca, the Minister for Culture… "Until then, the art market belonged to its insiders and to its victims. These were the only two profiles of art market players. Artprice therefore decided to acquire hundreds of publishing collections in order to standardize the market and provide information to anyone who wants it. This means the art market can today also grow exponentially, because we have access to the real value of artworks and to their backgrounds, and we can be certain which artists and which works we are talking about.

And it's always the same thing, as in the case of the digital economy which develops with confidence. Information is what creates confidence...information allows new people to join in the game ... economic game, social game … Whatever the game!

You have also created algorithms based on chaos…

Via news agency stories, which are at the root of 90% of the world's press, we became interested in the nature of the "news" and in the possibility of ranking it. Then, using econometric tools, we defined data that allows us to establish a chaos index based on, among other things, the prices of certain commodities, of certain declarations and of certain geopolitical problems. In total, nearly 900 parameters constitute and modify this chaos index. It started at 100 on 18 October, 2001. As we speak (December 2007), our Chaos Index stands at 3100. And I believe it will reach 5000 in 2008. 2008 looks like being a year of very significant chaos.

For the uninitiated, can you explain what drives the index up?

Hakim Bey spoke of subversive agents of chaos. There is an exponential growth curve. The Western world is facing so many breakdowns of its established foundations that we are seeing an acceleration of the appearance of fracture lines. It is measurable in econometrics with all the distortion that can arise between information and reality, and our capacity to disseminate information. Moreover, the States that wanted to control information are today finding themselves cannibalised by Internet. At the end of the day, they themselves become issuers to protect against the costs of information that is supposed to be counter-information, but which itself aggravates the primary information. In short... invest millions in the Chaos Index in 2008.... and you will be a happy winner! .

Without re-opening the conversation about the objectives or your long-term vision, what do you expect from this propagation of chaos?

T.E. - I am convinced that the Western World is worn out and that we will build a better world on its ruins. I see this particularly when I travel to Islamic or Asian societies. The West has passed into a post-colonial phase. Compared to what we do nowadays, colonialism almost looked like some kind of humanism. The Americans, whether you like it or not, unfortunately share the same defects. I do not approve of Arabic society, and notably Islam societies, but when we arrive in the Near and Middle-East countries explaining that we are going to export democracy to them, because we represent democracy and modernity, it is perfectly understandable that they ask us by what right we make such affirmations. For the first time progress no longer spells happiness. Whereas that was the case for our parents. We are truly facing fracture lines that only mutants will survive.

On the one hand there is a humanist vision. On the other, an elitist vision expressed as "only mutants will survive" Where do they intersect? As I understand it, if only the mutants survive, the masses will be abandoned to their destiny. Which does not really correspond to a humanist vision, nor a Christian vision, although also present…

T.E. - When I say "only the mutants", we train the others to be mutants. It would not be right to say that we are mutants but that the others don't have the capacity to become mutants... that they are not welcome. We "precede". We receive the blows, but we say to them: "Be mutants in your daily lives, in your vision of the vision of the world". Being mutant doesn't necessarily mean having twenty-three xenografts.

L.Z. - And that doesn't mean they haven't been warned. Everyone is free to choose, but at least it is knowingly. It's visible and palpable... propagated and understood.

I don't think everyone is really free to choose. The socio-cultural conditioning is very strong. Happily, a few scattered individuals do the deciphering and dissemination of the information to try to awaken and arouse the people.

L.Z. - Precisely, the Abode is a good counter-power. It's a good way to propagate information, to make things visible and comprehensible. At least to provoke questioning and, from there, perhaps a re-evaluation of one's fundamentals beliefs and prejudices. The Abode receives at least a thousand visitors every week-end. There is therefore a significant opening to the "people".

T.E. - If we wanted to remain elitist, we wouldn't be so open. We have had over 200,000 visitors for the period February 2006 to October 2007. We do what we can to communicate. Thereafter, people have to make up their own minds. We are open to anyone who wishes to visit, wherever they come from, whatever their views and their capacity to listen. We also open our hearts and our eyes to them. Afterwards, it's up to them to decide. Freedom to choose is important.

Do you perceive any evolution over recent years in the way people look at your respective activities and artistic approaches? Or perhaps a "devolution", who knows…

L.Z. - Strange though it may seem, I get a better reception from older people than from younger people. Amongst younger people, there seems to be a higher level of rejection, perhaps at an instinctive level, something like a form of protectionism. Whereas older people seem to have gone beyond the rejection stage and seem to be more disposed to analysis and looking behind appearances. To understand that there is a real point ... a real questioning. And the older generations seem, at the very least, to respect my work. This represents an evolution. People are starting to understand that something 'abnormal' is happening. I am perhaps one of the catalysts to the extent that I express this internal questioning of fundamental beliefs and ideas. People are not stupid.

T.E. - I totally agree with Lukas. Desproges had a very amusing phrase: "I am very optimistic for the future of pessimism". People change. I have to manage a substantial number of enemies, but, among them, certain are at least frank. We are no longer youngsters. François Mitterrand used to say: "The main thing is to last". I'm 45 and I haven't changed for twenty-five years. And over time people acquire a set of reference points, remember what you said ten, fifteen or twenty years back and then look at what is happening today. We are beginning to "enjoy" a certain legitimacy in our "marginal" ways. They realize that what we said would happen is actually happening. So things are going in the 'right' direction.

L.Z. - When I spoke ten years ago of what was coming, methods of control that would be implanted in our bodies, everyone said it was pure science-fiction. As Thierry said a little earlier, the traceability of each child will be implemented by an RFID chip as of 2009.

T.E. - A 2-giga chip, whereas only a couple of kilo-octets would be enough for the blood group and personal identification data…

L.Z. - Exactly! And make no mistake, this is real. What seemed mad or very far-fetched at the time is now real.

T.E. - All my favourite forward-looking films are today finding significant resonance in reality. The proof is that I can't find any new ones.

That's right. The same in true in the field of literature: The generation of Spinrad, Brunner and Ballard is running out of steam and there is no-one who is really taking their places.

T.E. - That's it... and it's logical! We are already tomorrow. Fiction is being overtaken by reality. And on the basis of that observation, I am convinced that our work is meaningful, which I am naturally pleased about. We frequently enter into violent conflicts, particularly with State systems. And I am ever more agreeably surprised to find within systems that are so profoundly hostile a magistrate, a president or a top member of the French administration who secretly opens a door for us. These are the king of daily 'miracles' we encounter. One day I answered a senior member of the French administration who asked me to give him a true reason for seeing me evolve in this way: "Because I am your poison and in every materia medica, there must be a poison…"

Yes and speaking of Governing by Networks, the painted work on the north face of the Bunker…

T.E. - I started getting interested in Internet in 1983. We installed ourselves here in 1983. At the time we were less than 5000 in the world. During this period I met the founding fathers of Internet.

My idea was to establish a diagram of Internet on the Bunker, with the help of different persons including members of the Tangente University, in order to show that from Arpanet to today, nothing has changed. Arpanet is a structure created in 1967 to be used in the case of massive destruction of cities by nuclear warheads. It was decided to kill off point-to-point, the communication protocol of the 20th century, and replace it with the packet protocol which is the distortion and fragmentation of information into millions of packets. Thus if one path is broken, the information can use another. And in the end, there is complete continuity.

Via Governing by Networks, we discover that the fifty or so bodies such as Ompi, Icann, and all those supra-governments that are supposed to be free from any State pressure are in fact under total American domination. Whether via the virtual communities and a whole bunch of commitments, it's the US Secretary for Defence who has a hold on and adapts Internet. The thirteen root servers are practically all in the United States, Network Solution and VeriSign own all the naming charters and DNS resolutions. To give you an example that the French don't know about, all the domain names under .fr or .gouv.fr could disappear in a couple of seconds if VeriSign decided to delete a sub-address of these registers. And I hasten to add... these are just sub-domains.

Hence Governing by Networks presents a sort of reading framework composed of frontal IP addresses which allow us to discover many things.

I just want to go back to the question of the 2-giga RFID. What could the 2 gigas be used for?

T.E. - The chip will naturally contain our medical dossier with our medical history, but also certain civil and criminal records. States have been ignoring Information Technology for a long time... but they have finally understood that they have an extraordinary capability with this tool. Today, Dell's biggest client in France is the French State. There have been two major accelerations of the French State's IT budget: the first around 1996-1997 and the second around 2002-2003. Today this budget is 16 to 17 higher than the countries annual military budget. Today in France, certain decrees of application allow people who are not even members of the judicial police access to several State databases.

France, is inhabited by 65 millions individuals. But today, a search on the twenty-odd databanks that cross each of the 65 million individuals can be done in a few thousandths of a second on SQL. A few years ago, the same intersection of data was only possible after twenty minutes of searching through a network of white rooms. States have understood the power of information and that controlling information means controlling the technology that manages it. And this is a terrible reality! That's why people like us, in our mutation, we have to be in these types of IT cracks. This sort of Deep Web, or "Hidden Internet" which is a sort of magnitude between two visualisations of IP addresses.

L.Z. - "General interest" is the enemy. It's the Vaseline of history… We will of course hear that this 2-giga RFID chip is in the best "general interest" of us all, that it is important and useful to access our medical data, etc. Everyone will agree with that. Jacques Attali makes some interesting remarks about it in his A Brief History of the Future (Une Brève histoire du futur). The insurance companies will refuse to insure people who don't have the implanted chip because they won't be able to access their medical data. All of a sudden, it's a breach opened inside our bodies. These chips will be put in us and behind the information that seems necessary, other data will be loaded, bit by bit.

A classic Trojan Horse situation …

L.Z. - The chip could end up containing all kinds of information on your personality, your sexuality, your 'personal history'. And you will be scanned, exposed, stripped of your intimacy and your personality in just a few seconds.

T.E. - and the irony is that when we decide to put implants in our bodies, people call us every kind of freak imaginable. And yet our advances and our research only represents a tiny fraction of what the State is doing…

L.Z. - We are still in Hacking the Future. When I implanted my RFID chi into my hand everyone went berserk. And yet it is a technology that is on its way. It has been announced. We need to understand and be able to apprehend for the day when we will need it. So that we can take the chip out, hack into it… and put it back. We cannot allow this type of control… this assumption of power over us.

T.E. - An omnipresent and omnipotent power! In the 1980s, I created a work of art that represented a DNA molecule. At the time, apart from the scientific community, the general public had few notions about DNA. I explained at the time that one day DNA would become a universal tracer and that it would reveal information about our personal histories. Not just in the biological domain, but also in the field of the human psyche. And of course people thought I was crazy. Today it's different. As I said earlier, we have acquired a certain legitimacy.

I have found a text from 1991 for the third opus of the Abode of Chaos regarding an Internet intervention, and all I have to do is cut and paste it today. Nothing has changed. It's there. I remember a time in the 1990s when a DNA analysis cost the examining magistrate around 4000 euros. I read recently that the same analysis today costs the police roughly 30 euros. They use them today for crimes as banal as the theft of a letter box.

We therefore have an economic cost approach to crime management. I was also regarded as being nuts at the time; but now people understand. Even amongst our critics there are those who recognise that we prefigured a number of things are happening today. And strange though it may seem, amongst our supporters there are many older and even elderly people.

Can you tell us a little more about the Deep Web that you mentioned earlier?

T.E. - Yes, few people know what it is. As you both know, Internet started at an associative and non commercial level and then began to be used for commercial purposes (which is not a bad thing in itself) when the major corporations discovered the interest that Internet presented. However, very quickly we saw the development of national intranets, particularly in South-East Asia and a number of distinctly undemocratic countries. The first were, if I remember rightly, in South Korea and Singapore. These countries introduce very broadband Internet, but totally controlled. Closed within a kind of digital frontier. In effect, contrary to current assumptions, all the major countries of the planet possess an intranet. France does not, for example, have a free protocol. We are under a government controlled intranet. In other words, as soon as we go out via Worldcom, Colt, Oléane or elsewhere, we are in fact going through an IP address filter. As the IP address allows a total filtering, it can be used to police whatever we want.

So, a number of scientists and hackers started to entertain the idea of a Deep Web which would be a magnitude, a distortion, a disharmony between IP numbers. A bit like when we used to make telephone calls on the old switchboards of the 1975-80 era, when the network passed between two tones when you dialled a bank that didn't reply. The Deep Web, it's a sort of spatial-temporal gap, a period between two known relay stations. This takes us far beyond the 'associative' Internet. That's bullshit. We are already looking for ways so that hackers and people who want to live will be able to escape. This Deep Web will therefore emerge because … there is no choice.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is the problem that every home computer will have an IP address in the near future?

T.E. - Exactly. The IPGN6 [IPV6, IP generation 6] allows ten, exhibiting thirty-eight IP numbers, which will allow us the attribution of an IP address to every piece of robotic, home automation and IT equipment. By 2010-2012 an estimated 120 to 150 billion IP addresses will be operational.

Which implies that with the policing of IP addresses the authorities will be able to interrupt the functioning of a specific tool in someone's home...

T.E. - Exactly… and it goes even further than that. It's just like in Minority Report. As much an element of positive law as a legal doctrine or a legislative tool, authorities will be able to anticipate the execution of a planned "crime". In a number of texts that are currently circulating in Europe and the United States, actually "committing a crime", which for four centuries was the "consummation" of the criminal fact, no longer exists. We can now be guilty of "anticipation committing a crime". The media message we are now hearing is that we do not commit a crime and we are only 'contain' the crime. And for that, we need to prevent. And to prevent, we need legislative tools, notably, IT tools. It's a security method. Minority Report is therefore spot on.

What is the link between IP addresses and the prescience of "criminal" acts?

T.E. - When we get IP addresses that police automated equipment and IT tools of all kinds, they will provide a tagging of everything you do. Using specially programmed algorithms, the authorities will be able to say that Laurent Courau already has a plan… is in some "pre-act" phase, and that this individual constitutes a distinct danger for our society… that he is about to "execute a planned crime".

After that, the magistrate will just have to get him to admit that the criminal act was already a fact "in his head". Just as art is conceptual, it's a mental construction. And legislators in both Europe and in North America today "recognize" that the criminal act is located in the mind and no longer in the materialisation of the act itself.

Which leads to what Maurice Dantec said when discussing the end of the human adventure in an interview of December 1999…

T.E. - Yes, exactly. And it's precisely for that reason that we bust our balls here thinking up new adventures. (laughter)

Speaking of Minority Report and of its principle of divination, when we were talking about the art works on the Abode, you said that you almost work in a kind of premonitory state of mind…

T.E. - Yes indeed, the Abode does have a kind of Oracle quality. In March 2006 we painted a portrait of Hassan Nasrallah when in fact the war in the Lebanon started on 14 July of the same year. For us, Hassan Nasrallah represented something somewhat untypical, a kind of mixture of Nasserism and Islamism (editor's note: Hassan Nasrallah has been the General Secretary of the Lebanese Chiite organisation Hezbollah since 1992). We realised that a war in the Lebanon was once again a possibility and therefore we decided to paint a portrait of Nasrallah. Likewise with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose portrait we painted long before he became President of the Republic of Iran. At the time he was Mayor of Teheran, but he was already talking about the return of the Mahdi. He said that he passionately wanted to see chaos, because chaos would signify the return of the Mahdi. And blissful would be the world that would receive Him… We already felt the emergence of a redoubtable theologian and, through him, the re-emergence of the Persian Shiite movement and the entire Shiite arc that runs from Iran through Bassorah in Iraq, to the Shiites in Saudi Arabia at one end… and Pakistan at the other.

So, yes, the Abode of Chaos also functions like a Press Agency producing images without commentary and endowed with a type of premonitory capacity that allows it to write and codify what could possibly happen in the future.

In concrete terms, how does it function? The camera crew of "Envoyé Spécial" has already filmed you doing your daily media scan in the village café. How does this "info-system" function… from the morning digestion of news to the mural paintings?

T.E. - I use information processing algorithms and a type of total immersion. When you follow global news on a regular basis, you acquire premonitory skills based on geopolitical developments, cartographical considerations and a sort of macro- and micro-economic dereflection. (Translator's note: dereflection may be understood here as seeing beyond the purely economic logic of the news). And at the same time there is the idea that the individual is master of his destiny. For example, when we talk about the Iranian President or George W. Bush, they are above all men who take decisions. And these 'information processing algorithms' allow me to sense what the near future may hold for us.

When you say 'information processing algorithms', is that some kind of metaphor for the way you think?

T.E. - No, one day we'll see how it works in applied neurology. Today we know, that if the oil price gets to 100 dollars a barrel, there will be ruptures in the system, exploitation lines, profound modifications, for example climatic changes. We also know that a number of wars will become possible, because beyond 100 dollars a barrel, war would become the cheaper option. This premonition is based on an anticipation that is itself based on information that the 'other' does not have. We inevitably get back to the same starting point: information warfare. In sum, you have to go find the information in its primary sources, and then cross it and intersect it with other info. And with Internet, amongst other tools, we can 'capilliarise' and conduct a deep 'data mining' of the information.

Why is it that such work is so rare and that these predictions are never used for the common good of the people?

T.E. - It's always the same: Because information is the key to power. States possess this type of information. In reality they possess enormous quantities of information. But the 'common good' does not coincide with the interests of the ruling classes and therefore the divergence from the common good arises from the captivity of this information.

Why Kubrick on the Abode of Chaos and not another film producer? I suppose that this is no coincidence …

T.E. - There is also an author like Philip K. Dick. But it's true, Kubrick had a true vision. I appreciate the vision of exceptional beings in the evening of their lives. We were talking the other night about Warhol and his mysticism. Andy Warhol used to go to prey every morning. He was totally absorbed into an extraordinary liturgy. Kubrick, on the other hand, developed a totally paranoid vision of the world. And it is Kubrick's vision that I am studying… that dominated his thought in the last years of his life. An acute conspiracy theory vision. He got to such a level of deciphering that he decided to close himself off from the outside world. Some Kubrick fans actually believe that he is still alive and that he orchestrated his own burial. I would happily buy into this legend… It at least has the merit being aesthetically pleasing.

What is your analysis of his film Eyes Wide Shut?

T.E. - I think this film contained a message that hasn't been seen. A denunciation of a Victorian era - translated to the end of the 20th century. Kubrick's believed that class struggle was a key societal paradigm. He was obsessed with it. And in this film - beyond the sex which remains totally superficial - he introduced a 'third degree', that of the Victorian saga that he rejects, but which he realises is gradually coming back.

L.Z. - Speaking of sex and life-style, your polygamy is no accident… t is more or a deliberate choice if I correctly understand?

T.E. - Yes, it's been going on for twenty-five years now, since 1980 to be precise. Polygamy constitutes a sort of matriarchal society within which woman have a certain power. At the beginning of the 21st century, women have more and more power. In economics, the notion of physical strength is disappearing. In our family, it all happened very naturally. Not by assertion, sexual or otherwise; it's more a way of thinking and a method of organisation. This sort of clan that we constitute is interesting because the distribution of information between each of the individuals is different. We are also very free in our ways, but that comes to anyone who is accustomed to an Epicurean milieu, which we were - long before Michel Houellebecq made it his business to write a book about it.

In fact we did not wait for the publication of Les Particules élémentaires to write about this milieu with our sociologist friend. We analysed the exchange clubs milieu, the sexual minorities, homosexuals, transsexuals, etc. The partner swapping milieu is very particular. It used to have a genuinely 'revolutionary' side to it. Back in the 70s and 80s, fifty people from completely different backgrounds used to fuck all together in the same room, whereas in any other kind of public meeting, they would have 'killed' each other. The abolition of social classes via an orgy, via a sexual party, certainly deserves codification. As the years went by, we discovered that others were also studying the milieu in Germany, Italy, Spain and North America. A kind of sociological analysis was applied to how sex creates a social bridge across which people very quickly get to the essential. That's what is so astonishing about an orgy. Whoever you are fucking, once the sex is over, the following conversation always goes straight to the point with questions that would otherwise take friends or acquaintances ten or fifteen years to get around to discussing. These are phenomena that have been described hundreds if not thousands of times.

L.Z. - What interests me is to know whether polygamy is for you a declaration of intention…

T.E. - Yes, it's most likely a social contract. In every case, it requires a lot of construction, a lot of mutual concession. It's substantially more complicated that a monogamous relationship. In fact, I totally understand why the Republican marriage contract outlaws polygamy. For many people it would be a source of very serious problems. (laughs)

What made you declare you polygamy so publicly? Was it a deliberate decision?

T.E. - No, it's the pressure of information. I had a little head start over my contemporaries. It's an old soldier's reflex… noise defeats noise. My relations with the media having taught me that latter has no limits, the best solution to obtain some form of social peace was to generate a massive "noise" attack. "There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. There is nothing kept secret that will not come to light". - Paul the Evangelist, Corinthian apostle.

Speaking of Christianity, your father was, I believe, close to Opus Dei. Can you tell me something about your childhood and your adolescence?

T.E. - My father was already relatively old when I was born. He was born in 1901. Having attended Ecole Polytechnique and obtaining a Ph.D in Law, he travelled throughout Europe with the Vatican II council (1962-65) which observed the ostentatious wealth of the Church. At the time, the world had an interesting cartography of powers and influences. Opus Dei brought together business men and Church men in a form of Christian Masonry which set up a very particular distribution of power and knowledge. This of course allowed me to get a very early understanding of networks of influence. It gave me good visibility on the distribution of temporal and spiritual power …and that 'real' power must have both. Here, we have a perfect example of this analysis.

I think the Vatican is still the most powerful State in the world. By its very nature, it is a State that has no frontiers and it has a massive number of followers. It has both temporal and spiritual power. What is very interesting, however, is that the Vatican is the most computer savvy State in the world. The structuring of its database is quite exceptional. Indeed, quite extraordinary.

Opus Dei is fairly politically coloured is it not?

T.E. - Yes, although one finds Opus Dei in a variety of different circuits. In reality, it's actually quite complicated. One immediately thinks of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, its founder. But it goes much further. In any case, it pushed me towards a certain conclusion: "Behind every secret society there is another secret society". That's why I have involved myself in practically every imaginable esoteric network, including masonry, The French Grand Lodge, and also other more complex groups such as the Ordre des Veilleurs du Temple, the Knights Templers… and so on. To use a phrase one encounters in masonry, I am an eternal visitor. After my long Dry Path, I am what one might call a "multi-cardholder", i.e. practicing a number of different obediences. I believe we need to return to the origins of masonry… to the epoch when the obediences only existed for the fires of Saint John and when people were free in a free lodge. Again, it's the idea of the Japanese Ronin I mentioned earlier. For the free-masons, the Dry Path is the equivalent of the Ronin's path in life.

Which is pretty much what your life is like today… both material with Serveur Group and spiritual with the Abode of Chaos…

T.E. - Exactly. The Abode of Chaos is a material incarnation of the temporal order. And then there is a spiritual dimension with the Salamander Spirit which is more related to the spiritual and to alchemy. Basically it's a double-headed work.

I read somewhere that you establish a link between baptismal fonts and the media. Can you explain?

T.E. - Baptismal fonts and the major sources of information all have a 'State reality'. The baptism is accepting an individual who does not belong to the "common good" and who via a church liturgy, becomes an "apparent" member of a community. Today, the media act as baptismal fonts, legitimising individuals in the community. Today people are given a score and the only trace they leave is that left by the media which manages the evolution of their success rating.

And as far as material wealth is concerned, what is you relationship to money?

T.E. - It's very simple: We were among the major fortunes in France. We have gone bankrupt several times, followed by extraordinary successes. We already know how to start again with just a few euros in our pockets and how to live simply. Money does not bring either happiness or health. Nor is it an act of love… but it is a fabulous means to an end. I will always remember what a top management banker said to me one day. I think it was Charles de Croisset, CEO of Crédit Commercial de France, before it was bought by HSBC: "You will always succeed in life because you have a total disregard for money". For me, money is the sinews of war, because I am a warrior. Money is a fundamental resource in warfare. Apart from that, if you have a car crash, the emergency medical services give you the same treatment whether you are driving a Ford Cortina or a Rolls Royce. And that's why arrogance is punished.

I am always surprised when I meet people fascinated by money. They do not realise that money gives very little. Of course, on a daily basis, it removes a lot of hassle... like paying bills. Realities with which I am perfectly acquainted because I have found myself unable to pay on numerous occasions. But, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't bring anything extraordinary. That's why my relationship to money is very German Protestant - very "Rhine Capitalist".

If money is just a means to an end for you, what is the end? What is your Great Work?

T.E. - In an alchemical sense, the Great Work is to achieve immortality. It's Fulcanelli whose disciple found him in Seville aged 112.

And the Abode of Chaos … is it a new religion?

T.E. - Yes, it could be a new religion. A religion always starts in the catacombs. Remember what Alain Vivien's report on sects says to the Christians… "Do not forget that two thousand years ago, you were a sect in the catacombs of Rome." Why not create a new religion right here and now? The best buzz - you have to admit - is Christ on the cross. And it's been going on for 20 centuries. A guy who gets crucified, with 12 other guys around him at the beginning. Excuse me, but as a viral contamination … (laughs) Yes, there could be a religion of chaos. Of course, at the beginning there are three versions of chaos: Alchemical chaos, scientific chaos and chaos in the sociological sense. Scientific chaos is very interesting. The theory of chaos raises questions about our pride when everything seems completely disorderly and incomprehensible. This makes us say that these models are chaotic but in reality there is an underlying "intelligent" model. But, we don't have the capacity to evolve equally. That said, when we make an effort, we can. And that's how all the major theories appeared in the random fuzziness of the last two decades, using super-calculators that helped us to determine the murky zones.

Which takes me to the definition of Chaos in the illustrated Petit Larousse that you often quote: "Where there seems to a confusion of elements, there is in fact just a confusion of the human spirit".

T.E. - Yes it's the confusion of human beings continually seeking sophisticated models.

Another important aspect of your work seems to be topography of places. There is the Abode, the Bunker, the containers, the dissemination of the containers and of the bunkers…

T.E. - Yes, this is close to Hakim Bey's logic of temporary autonomous zones and disappearance states. The Bunker, you have to read Paul Virilio and his book Bunker Archeologie… to do with enclosed spaces. I am always looking for private atmospheres. Do you remember the last days of Hitler in The Fall. Almost the entire film takes place in a bunker. The bunker is a truly organic closed space in which everything is reflected. It has an extraordinary dimension.

The container, is the weapon of mass destruction. In 1956 a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston. The rise in the number of containers in the world since then corresponds to the growth in world trade. The weapon of mass destruction today… it's that a container between Shanghai and Le Havre costs 500 dollars to transport 50 tons. 500 dollars, 50 tons, absolute standardisation of the container based on ISO 668 standards. It must be able to resist a fall of seven metres without the slightest problem…. it can be piled 11 containers high. When you look at the statistics, it's incredible. And China produces between 8 and 9 hundred new containers every day. I say PRODUCES! And a new standard container produced by the Chinese costs 2200 to 2300 dollars, which is incredible considering the cost of steel by weight.

The price I pay for containers today is below the price I would get for the equivalent amount of steel from a scrap metal dealer. It's pure accounting sorcery when they produce balance sheets without adjusting the figures to account for raw material costs. I would get 3000 to 4000 dollars from a breaker! What is extraordinary about containers is their universality… equally useful to the army as to medical services for examples. A truly universal object.

In your work there are frequent references to war and to the warrior. In another text, you mention a state of permanent war…

T.E. - Yes but that's also in connection with certain philosophers including Baudrillard and Virilio. There's a whole current of thought about a state of permanent war. War is an inherent part of our biology. Metastasis starts as soon as you stop fighting with your body. For me, war is indicative of strong life. There are no suicides in countries that are at war. When I was in Beirut in 1984, I saw people living with all the hassles imaginable that war generates… but they don't suffer from existential questions. There are no more anti-depressants. In effect, suicide looks like a 'solution' for the rich… particularly in Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Everything is linked to war. The war against yourself. When you're an artist, you fight against inanimate form. War… it's when you write. It's also fighting against fucking nuisances. Everything is always in a state of war. It's a state of vigilance. Ad what's more, it has a certain sense: Since the beginning of time, men have fought for territories, both material and immaterial.

Just last night I said to Jo (at 3 or 4 in the morning) that the guys who teach that we can do "peaceful business" in the major universities make me laugh. War is not omnipresent in business, but as soon as it becomes international business, it's very present indeed. That is what Clausewitz said: the economy is the natural extension, the continuity of war. Everything is war, and today more than ever with the lawyers. These are horrible wars. We spend our whole time dealing with them… day and night. It's a constant battle You can't get a good night's sleep without being interrupted by some problem. It can arrive by fax, by bailiff's order, by some guy who starts a class action on the other side of the planet… by any imaginable means. So war comes in ritualised forms. But I also believe that war keeps us on our toes… vigilant. In the first place, you have to struggle against your own foolishness, against your own nonchalance. Even if you don't suffer the events, you are still in a state of war against them. Suffer war …or make war, that's what it boils down to…

And you were telling me earlier about the link between analogical technology and war?

T.E. - The next war will involve the I-Bomb: in other words, total paralysis of all semi-conductor systems, i.e. roughly 99% of our universe. The only surviving instruments will be oil lamps and all the old primary analogue systems that do not contain conductors or semiconductors.

How does the I-Bomb function? We already have nuclear bombs capable of blocking all IT systems.

T.E. - The I-Bomb creates an electric shock… produces a phase differential. The good old principle of the electrode between the anode and the cathode which means that the shockwave will destroy all computer circuitry. The only things left working will be appliances from the pre-computer era. We are currently spending a fortune buying up certain old analogical equipment. I am proud to have one of the last entirely analogical electricity generators that is in perfect working order. All the modern models are equipped with digital circuit boards. Today, practically all cars use some form of digital technology? Uninterruptible power supplies - normally used to save lives and regulate currents - are full of computer technology. Before, when a UPS started to whine, it was bypassed, we plugged it into the mains and it worked. This is no longer the case because there is an application mapping that says "stop, danger, switch everything off". We can't even backbone the thing on the mains, which is a pain. So we end up without UPS and without mains return.

There's nothing like good old analogical equipment. By comparison, digital stuff is always telling us what we can and can't do. It leaves traces whereas analogical stuff doesn't. In Matrix, Morpheus' phantom ship is analogical. When they are spotted by the robotic viral octopuses, they cut off all their digital equipment and just keep on with their good old analogical systems. This is becoming a reality today. We are conducting experiments at the Abode of Chaos to figure out how we could carry on with only analogue equipment. With analogical equipment, there is an enormous distribution of the frequency spectrum. Therefore I leave no trace. In the digital world, there is a binary coding, which is memorisable and interpolable.

For the policing of digital devices, there is also the example of GSM which works on the triangulation principle. Once again… we're back in science-fiction. In 1996 a Reuters photographer was fired for having used Photoshop to exaggerate the smoke after an Israeli attack on a Hezbollah controlled Shiite suburb of Beirut. After that, a computer technician developed a programme that can instantly recognise any digital modifications of any photograph. Because to rework a photo, one has to use raster mode which involves interpolating the adjacent pixels. Whatever the special effects, at 99%. It's an interpolation in the algorithm that will search for the adjacent pixel, and therefore it automatically detects it.

Would you describe yourself as Utopian?

T.E. - (hesitation) Yes, because utopia is a search for truth. I am a great believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy, hence my distopia. What's amusing about this kind of prophecy is that it's bound to work. Imagine or visualise something that could be described as a prophecy… but as soon as you focus on it, a kind of self-fulfilment takes place.

In other words… the magic thought… which joins dreams to reality?

T.E. - Absolutely. (laughs)

Or at least, bending reality to your will?

T.E. - It's the same old question that has haunted me for twenty-five years. The Jews have done a lot of work on this idea in the Cabala. Is it the event that creates the individual? Do you create the event or does the event create you? Of course it's a splendid philosophical debate, but anyway, I am a firm believer in self-fulfilling prophecies. I believe in the strength of word, in the strength of embodiment. There is a moment when you manage to break away from the attraction… when you hit so hard that, mechanically, embodiment occurs.

And the current forsaking of the word?

T.E. - Yes, but the word has become flesh. The strength of the word has always been that. Fuck! Wake-up you dead people! Go to any lecture hall… you see the guys, you push them and push them. The guys beat each other up and bingo… the word has become a reality. Then the guys get pulled out of the lecture hall. I find that incredible. I am actually banned from lecturing in certain places. I was told: "The consequences of your lecture were very difficult to manage Mr Ehrmann, so you lectures will henceforward be 'standardised' and delivered in a regular fashion because we do not have the means to employ security personnel."

Exactly… that's what we find on a general scale. They no longer have the means to employ security personnel and there is a refusal to talk. You only have to look at the situation in France. Who are the big sellers in literature and philosophy… we are confronted with a total devolution.

T.E. - Indeed. We are in a period where we are losing our identity and losing our direction. Even if it's totally banal, the politically correct dominates. And nobody dares to do or say anything. Why do people like us manage to make an impression… at the price of an extraordinary expenditure of effort? Because people no longer dare to stand up for what they stand for. One day a major French politician - who died recently - was asked: which people in the Lyon region have made an impact on their era. After citing one or two classic names like Mérieux and Aulas, his interviewer prompted: Thierry Ehrmann? At that moment the "father of science" paused before answering: "He's a free man and he has remained a free man". He had to give a definition. Old Raymond Barre was quite a character. I had several run-ins with him… He was one of my teachers at school. In any case, there you have it …being free is very important! And people are no longer free. It's very important.

I recently came across the following information: wealth is apparently more unevenly distributed on the planet today than at any time during the entire history of humanity, including the Middle Ages and Antiquity...

T.E. - That's right. We are facing a form of degenerated capitalism. Twenty years ago roughly 15 billion dollars changed hands on financial markets. Today, the figure is more than 2700 billion dollars per day. We have created fictive issues which means we are currently creating phoney money with a totally phoney level of GDP growth. It doesn't make any sense anymore. That's why I say that we are at the Gates of Hell in the allegorical and magnificent sense of the term. The system has worn out… needs to be replaced. It's like a man whose T4 levels have collapsed, his transaminase and Gamma GTs level have rocketed… the prognosis is bad.

The West, including Japan and the whole of Asia in its modernity, is really like an old man. A dead man, worn out and corrupted at all levels and particularly in his capitalistic organs. All the indicators are in the red. Regulation tools… flow controls. …None of these tools will stop the rot. Everything can be bought. Everything has a price, including pollution. The dematerialisation of the financial sphere and the capacity of men to imagine financial instruments like futures (i.e. which gamble on future prices) is very interesting. You can buy futures of issues… futures which "short" the securities of the principal stock exchanges… futures of anything you can imagine. As though we had arrived at the end of the runway. That's why we need to reinvent. Personally, I believe in a Renaissance.

That is precisely the theme of my next question! Let's indulge in a little forecasting... from where, and how, do you imagine this renaissance coming?

T.E. - We may laugh about cyberpunk but it's a type of fiction that has had an impact on reality and which now goes back twenty-five years. It contains a very strong "transversal" quality. You define it a hundred times better than anyone else. Indeed that's how I met you. It's in sub-cultures and trans-cultures. There are loads of adjectives to describe this form of activity Fortunately a small network already exists which carries within it the genomes necessary for the apparition of a new genome, an additional genome in fact.

How would you define art?

T.E. - Art is a space where everything is possible. A place where total transgression can take place, because from a purely legal standpoint, art is the only area that still enjoys impunity. Take Lukas's performances for example. Art allows him to explore areas that would get him locked up immediately if he didn't have an "artistic" attitude in the meaning attributed by Marcel Duchamp. And it's exactly because he has an artistic attitude with deliberately organised acts and the necessary detachment that his work cannot be described as spontaneous acts… that we don't consider him a psychopath. What is the difference between Lukas and a psychopath? Lukas is a sculptor/artist. He ritualises, codifies, installs, writes and questions. He always locates himself within an art historical perspective. If that were not the case, we would be "guilty" of committing acts that may or may not be reprehensible? This is not the same as someone who works directly on himself without thinking. In the latter case, we would no longer be in the field of art and the authorities would be justified in taking an interest.

L.Z. I think it is easier to say what isn't art than what is. Attempts to define art result in a reduction to archetypes. But lots of things get labelled or are produced as art that are not.

In that case what is not art?

L.Z. - When a thing or performance does nothing more than obey a purely aesthetic consensus or only follows a set of rules and standards - if it doesn't have some element of political perspective or questioning or does not attempt to redefine or re-interpret existing perceptions, we are no longer in the field of art. Art must be something that has an impact on consensus views.

T.E. - There is also a sacred side to art. For me art must have a liturgical side to it. I have seen this numerous times in the legal battle over the Abode of Chaos. What is a work of art? The authorities are grappling with this question. It's a doctrinal state. In the case of the Abode of Chaos, I have "removed" entire sections of the private and professional quarters. Which means that the works are more important than the well-being of the people in the house. In the Abode the works have primacy over what exists, over the consensus, over comfort. Whereas someone who builds a palace or an extension, even if talented artists are involved, would be outside the field of art. The artistic element would just be a pretext for achieving the ultimate aim of adding comfort. For me, an art work must be in some way utopian, but not necessarily in the Cartesian or materialist sense. The work takes priority over everything, whatever the difficulties, whatever the conduction. By its very nature, the work of art collides with or questions assumptions. It establishes a footing and resists - in theory - the passage of time.

L.Z. I think that if art only procures well-being at a personal level, then it is pretty useless. Art takes place elsewhere, in the conception, in the idea and, once again, in a utopian mindset.

T.E. - That's where luxury tries to steal from art: for example BMW at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. I think that art is a "no concession" activity. The more I advance in my sculptural creations, the more I think art is a like a knife slash. As time goes by, one becomes less professorial and more instinctive. There are really things that emerge from art. It's perhaps the lawyer in me that is talking, but some things are really nothing more than travesty. Art is something that emerges from nothing. That's the difference between an author and a creator. What we were saying just a little earlier. It's a question of conceiving and creating "ex-nihilo", of giving birth to something that takes shape from nothing at all.

So from that observation, it's a logical step to the idea of transcendence?

T.E. - Yes, it's the ascension between the work and the sacred. As we said earlier round the table, art is kind of a 'happy accident'. An accident in the legal sense of the term… sudden and unforeseeable, but which is intimately related with joy. A work constitutes a link between yourself and the divine. In the work there is an element that escapes the eye, which escapes everything in fact and which leaves you with eyes turned to heaven. Luxury never turns eyes to heaven, but rather towards carnal desire. So art is a link to heaven.

L.Z. - That's right. Art as a link between the oneself and Heaven, that seems a good definition. Not in the religious sense of the term… but rather as something beyond our comprehension.

And how would you define yourself from a religious point of view?

T.E. - Well, to give as straightforward an answer as possible… as an agnostic I am a man of doubts. I think it was Saint Augustin - also a major alchemist by the way - who said that a believer is inhabited by doubt until the last second of his life… until his last breath. For me an atheist is a profoundly dangerous person. A believer is also profoundly dangerous. In both cases, I discretely withdraw. You have to seek. To strengthen your faith, you have to seek and never stop doubting.

Can you say a little more about the Dry Path you mentioned earlier?

T.E. - The Dry Path is a Masonic path which gives preference to solitary initiation. Following an illumination, your eyes are burnt and so you wander in the desert until your initiation is complete. It's the opposite of the Damp Path which is a slow path and penetrated by knowledge and learning. A path which opens to the 'collectivity'. The Dry Path is a path that gives preference to celerity because you are blinded by the force and the shock of the initiation. Once your eyes are burned, you wander… a long phase of solitary wandering begins.

Is that an element in masonry?

T.E. - No, it's a form of condemnation or damnation. It's the reproduction of a very Christian schema of damnation.

And your relationship to the infinite or to immortality?

L.Z. For me, immortality… I guess I see art as providing some king of immortality. Every creative act is for me a way of surviving. I don't believe in re-incarnation. But I believe in a form of Karma in the bit that constitutes your life whereby, in effect, all one's acts have consequences and everything you do generates some kind of sequence. But I don't believe in life after death or any kind of after-life. That maybe why I feel motivated by such a strong urge to create, to constitute a body of work, to leave some kind of trace. That's the only kind of immortality I believe in.

T.E. From an intellectual point de view, death is an intolerable fact. I defy anybody to imagine death not in the liturgical sense of the term but in the real sense of the term without becoming angry or mad. Hence the danger of Buddhism which is to arrive at a dissolution of the self. When most people think about death they think about their own personal end. They say "I will be dead". Trying to imagine, even for one second, that the "I" will not exist … that is not an easy intellectual exercise.

In any case, immortality is a fabulous invention. It's a state of damnation. Alchemy tends in that direction. The work of Axel Kahn on the secret of the salamander (editor's note - The Secret of the Salamander - Medicine and its search for immortality by Axel Kahn and Fabrice Papillon. Éditions Nil, Paris, March 2005). The salamander is the symbol of immortality because it can self-regenerate. It's the only animal whose genome can reproduce infinitely. It is capable of re-growing lost arms and repairing damage to its heart or even its head… there is always a genome duplication. This in not the same as the outgrowths of lizards or other species. These are just cellular excrescences. Now, to continue the discussion within a more 'literary' context … the real problem is whether or not to accept immortality. It's a real job. Ask yourself what you would do when your close friends and family die and you carry on living? It is therefore interesting to pose the question of immortality, even if it's a shamanic or literary path. What conflicts would I live through, what horrors would future generations produce? What madness would I see, engender or suffer by continuing through time? In fact this takes us close to the subject of a film entitled Interview with a vampire. Immortality is for me the most beautiful torment for mankind. It's a marvellous torture.

And here, at the Abode of Chaos, alchemy operates on what?

T.E. - It operates on the people. It's amusing. We also have compa+nies listed on the stock market that have shown alchemical tendencies. One day our share price went berserk … extreme volatility. The craziest price history in Europe, quite beyond the rational data, because markets are everything except rational. They gamble purely on expectations. And one day, with a bigwig from Goldman-Sachs who was unable to explain the price evolution using every imaginable ratio at his disposal, we concluded that it was a kind of alchemy.

The Abode of Chaos transforms people. Personally, it has cooked, demolished, burned and dislocated me. The alchemy happens at a personal level. You are obliged to abandon all pretentions, all "performances". At the beginning, the old people literally spat at us in the streets. It was normal. They spat their disgust at what we were doing. It was worse than facing an army of lunatics.

L.Z. - I believe it was Stelarc who spoke of man letting go of mankind. And here, it's a little bit what is happening.

T.E. - It was Canseliet, Fulcanelli's disciple, who saw his master aged 112 in Seville in 1957. And that's why I recently painted on the top of the Abode: "The master is there and he is waiting for you". One day an old man went to see Canseliet who was mourning the loss of his master. Canseliet was staying in the lush countryside around Seville and the old man said to him a phrase that I found in a protestant temple in Geneva. When I saw it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Three weeks later, I painted it high above the entrance to the Abode. And a month and a half later, it cropped up it another context, in another study. There are very bizarre coincidences in life.

Are you still waiting for something?

T.E. - The Morning of the Magician's… we are still waiting for it. We are waiting for the sublime, we are waiting for the other-worldliness. There is mystery everywhere, even in a mass human grave. Goya saw it. People have lost their capacity to see the wondrous and the sublime in tragedy. That's why I say we are living in a magnificent but tragic century. The 21st century will be a century of tragedy and magnificence.

And what might be the mechanisms that will reset the machine in the right direction?

T.E. - That man rediscovers his animalistic reality and his humanity. Today, today when someone dies in a resuscitation unit, the family is led away from the dead person. People no longer know what death is. Proximity to death… accompaniment in the process of dying is important. Eros and Thanatos are both important. That's why we always try to foster relations with both death and sex… to go as far as possible in sex …and as far as possible in death. The two extremes help you to find your roots. Go fuck till you drop, come out of a mortuary or go watch a slightly sordid resuscitation. That's why one can smell sex in resuscitation and death in sex. Today, peoples' lives are sanitised… everything is sanitized … their bodies, their thoughts. It goes back to the dandyism of the 18th century. Lukas, for example, has a dandy attitude. He has an aesthetic of suffering.

I imagine you disagree, Lukas? You talk more about pain than suffering…

L.Z. - Yes. It needs to be put into context. At the beginning my work was often associated with suffering. In fact, I have always worked with pain, although not actually seeking pain. It was David Le Breton who helped me to see the distinction between the two.

T.E. - Suffering is pain from a humanist or religious point of view. Pain is a biological phenomenon, a medical consequence. Suffering has more of a spiritual overtone. It's pain transcended into good or evil. Suffering lasts over time whereas pain goes away. As soon as pain is accepted it is largely evacuated.

What are you waiting for tomorrow, after tomorrow, in the future?

T.E. - I am waiting for Pierre le Romain. I am waiting for the phylactery and the end of this church. I am waiting for the new era. The seven hills of Rome will burn… a substantial part of what we have been will burn. I am waiting for the 'accidents of history' in the sense used by Virilio. The rips of history. Only history is capable of offering an extraordinary joy such as that of 3:30 pm on 11 September 2001. I was working with a CAC man at the time. CAC men are extremely well paid. There are about 40 in Europe… guys who trade exclusively shares in the French CAC 40 index… guys who act like prima donnas and are often coked up to their eyeballs. He was working on one of my shares at that moment, and, before everyone, bang… we had the entire backbone of Wall Street that froze. We immediately knew that something was up. He understood. And we knew it 16 minutes before anyone else. It was only after that we got the image sublimated. I am of course taking care of how I express myself… We had something that went beyond comprehension, something like a sublime artistic act.

Why was it beyond comprehension?

T.E. - Because of its artistic perfection. A sanctuary, a perfect sky, the cameras, the perspective… The scenography was better than anything created by Hollywood. From a purely artistic point of view, it was a spectacle that one never tires of watching. From a visual point of view, as a work, the plasticity of the image is absolute. It's a "detowering" electronic blue, a perfect blue.

Do you think we are going to escape stagnation and move on towards a new era?

T.E. - Yes, I am very optimistic.

Why? Is it the acceleration… the accident which is becoming inevitable?

T.E. - Of course. We have the capacity to produce our own accidents. For example, we have built the A380. Notwithstanding the financial scandal, it is the ideal target for terrorists. It can carry 700 or 800 people. Its size poses a whole series of aeronautical problems which I am acquainted with as a pilot with more than 500 hours of flying experience. From the point of view market logic, it responds to a real demand for inter-continental flights and long-haul connections. But it has become the ideal target of all terrorists. It is therefore, by its very nature, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And there you have it… La Spirale two weeks after…Mr Courau, in that interview - that was very interesting as it happens - Monsieur Ehrmann explained to you the self-fulfilling prophecy of the A380 and would you believe it that in the framework of our letter of request, we would like to have … "Direct from the 8 o'clock TV news presented by France 2, we are live and direct from the quai des Orfèvres (police station), the custody has just been announced for the fourth consecutive day of the investigative journalist Laurent Courau and the business man Thierry Ehrmann. We do not know what the public procutor's case is based on… but we confirm the facts, the A380 is a self-fulfilling prophecy, we have just heard that the EADS share has just been suspended from trading on the Nasdaq …until trading resumes… which we estimate will be tomorrow morning…" and… when you will laugh the least, is when the A380 crashes…

_ Hello Laurent, Hello Lukas?

_ Yeah, what…

_ Laurent, why don't you call me back? Oh, you've got people around you? Yes, OK…



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