The Real as a Subject of Discourse


The Real as a Subject of Discourse

This meeting was included lectures held by Laurence Corbel and Jean-Marc Poinsot as well as a lecture workshop.




Laurence Corbel

“Deconstructing and Constructing the Real between 1960 and 1970 in France”

Using as a basis for study a number of texts by artists (Daniel Buren, Louis Cane, Marc Devade, Patrick Saytour, Claude Viallat), we aim to demonstrate that the question of reality is a subject of critical analysis founded on the concept of art as knowledge. Inspired by their reading of Louis Althusser and Jacques Derrida, from whose work they appropriated a number of concepts that they transposed into the field of art, these artists undertook a methodological process of chipping away at ideologies that calls into question the omnipresence of overlooked or unfamiliar ideas in art history. The purpose of art was no longer seen as making reality visible, but rather making visible the myths that structure the production and reception of artworks. It thus becomes a matter of “passing from the mythical to the historical, from illusion to reality” (Buren), while no longer considering the real as a prerequisite for, and independent of, thought, but instead as a problem, a question, a subject that is formed within discourse. Running counter to the emphasis on a “return to the real” that characterised the French art scene in the 1950s, described by Pierre Restany as “the exciting adventure of the real perceived as such rather than through the prism of conceptual or imaginative transcription”, these artists advocated the necessity of formulating a theorisation that questioned and explored a painterly practice defined as an object of knowledge or as criticism in action. This approach reactivates the subject of the relationship between theory and practice in art, and leads us to consider the issues at play as well as the limitations of these interrogations and their impact on artistic processes.


Jean-Marc Poinsot

“Theoretical Debate on the Notion of the Real in France in the Late 1960s”

In the late 1960s in France, the notion of the real emerged as a subject of discourse linked to “diverse realities”, to a belated modern belief in the capacity of theory to reveal“ a true reality”. This lecture aims to draw a distinction between interpretations of the theories and practices of artists such as Daniel Buren, Claude Viallat, Marc Devade and Patrick Saytour, and the ways in which we view certain works by these artists today.


Lecture Workshop


Texts proposed by Laurence Corbel

  • Daniel Buren, “Mise en garde n° 42 (1970)”, “Repères” (1971), “Limites critiques” (1971), in id., Les Écrits, t. I, Paris, Flammarion, 2012, p. 135-147, p. 151-168, p. 175-190
  • Louis Cane, Daniel Dezeuze, “Pour un programme théorique pictural”, in Supports-Surfaces, ed. by Jean-Marc Poinsot, Paris, Limage 2, 1983, p. 33-35
  • Daniel Dezeuze, “Note complémentaire”, in exhib. cat. Supports/surfaces, Paris, A.R.C., 1970, p. 54-56
  • Marc Devade, “Réponse à un questionnaire sur l'art abstrait de Georges Boudaille”, “Peinture et matérialisme”, “Pourquoi une revue ?”, “Présentation de la revue Peinture, Cahiers, Théoriques”, in id., Écrits théoriques, t. 1, Paris, Lettres modernes Minard, 1989, p. 19-30, p. 53-63, p. 77-86, p. 137-143
  • Patrick Saytour, text published in the exhib. cat. Supports/surfaces, Paris, A.R.C., 1970, p. 48-49
  • Claude Viallat, text published in the exhib. cat. Supports/surfaces, Paris, A.R.C., 1970, p. 51-53
  • Claude Viallat, “Fragments. Préliminaires à une sémiologie de la peinture réunis et présentés par Jacques Lepage” and “À propos d'un texte publié en mai 1975”, dans le Quotidien de Paris intitulé: 'Supports/Surfaces cinq ans après'”, in id., Oeuvres, écrits, entretiens, ed. by Pierre Wat, Paris, Hazan, 2006, p. 129-149
  • Louis Althusser, Pour Marx, Paris, Maspero, 1965, p. 167-170
  • Jacques Derrida, La vérité en peinture, Paris, Flammarion, 1978, p. 6-18
  • Marcelin Pleynet, “Peinture et réalité” and “Peinture et structuralisme”, in id., L'enseignement de la peinture, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1971, p. 163-184, p. 186-201
  • L'art du réel USA 1948-1968, exhib. cat., Paris, CNAP, 1968

Person in charge

Mathilde Arnoux

Dr. habil. Mathilde Arnoux

Research Director / Head of French Publications (Series Passages and Passerelles)
Phone +33 (0)1 42 60 41 24