Sunday, June 8, 2014

George Brecht & Robert Filliou | La Cedille Qui Sourit

George Brecht & Robert Filliou
La Cedille Qui Sourit
Monchengladbach, Germany: Städtisches Museum, 1969
16.3 x 20.6 x 2.1 cm
Edition of 440 numbered copies

From mid-1965 to early 1968, artists George Brecht and Robert Filliou operated a small shop in the French seaside village of Villefranche-sur-Mer. The modest venue (approximately thirty-six metres square) was called  La Cédille Qui Sourit, or The Cedilla That Smiles, named after the diacritical mark added under certain letters to modify their pronunciation (suggesting an S sound rather than a K, under the letter C, for example). The proprietors claimed the store would offer for sale "anything that contained a cedilla, and anything that did not".

In reality the venue was more of a workspace and drop-in centre for friends, a “Center of Permanent Creation,” as Filliou dubbed it. The 'store' kept no regular hours, had no telephone (even at home Brecht kept his phone unplugged at all times and one would have to send a letter to arrange a phone appointment) and the stock on the shelves was not exactly merchandized in any conventional sense. The store's wares were often indistinguishable from works-in-progress, situated nearby. Even as a studio space, it's use was questionable, with the artists reportedly more likely to be working in nearby cafes.

In this way it was not dissimilar to Willem de Ridder’s European Mail-Order Warehouse, a retail operation legendary in the history of Fluxus, which was in fact just a temporary display of available stock, photographed in a living room, with an accompanying model, and dismantled the same day, to make room to shoot a pornographic film.

Most of the materials 'for sale' at The Cedilla were works and editions by other artists affiliated with Fluxus: text paintings by Ben Vautier, boxed multiples published by George Maciunas or Daniel Spoerri's MAT Editions, and books by Dick Higgins' Something Else Press.

In the third year of the store's operation, the Something Else Press published Games at the Cedilla as their 14th title (it was immediately followed by Store Days, by Claes Oldenburg, whose similar venture operated in New York City a few years prior). The book is a compendium of ideas, notations, journal records, correspondence, games, "One Minute Scenarios" and other writings made while Brecht and Filliou tended the store.

A little more than a year after it closed the pair were invited to exhibit at the Städtisches Museum in Monchengladbach, Germany. This boxed catalogue/multiple accompanies the exhibition, which ran from June 18th to July 27th, 1969.

The work consists of a slip case cardboard box mimicking an oversized matchbox and containing a standard sized one, which contains four hook screws that resemble cedillas. Also included are twenty-two die-cut cards, three leaflets, loose pages and an invitation to participate in the making of an anthology of jokes by postcard. A text by curator Johannes Cladders is included, in German, English and French.

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