Laurent LacotteGuard, 2015.
Photo : courtesy of the artist

Since the early 2010s, Laurent Lacotte’s politically engaged interventions and photographs in public space have, through the artist’s furtive, ephemeral, anti-monumental gestures, boldly tackled the dysfunction of contemporary society, and sometimes even the symbols that supposedly represent, in the words of historian Pierre Nora, “realms of memory” — places where common history federates a nation. Through Lacotte’s actions and the details he observes, he questions the perpetuation of this cohesion, drawing particular attention to situations in which the so-called spirit of democracy is, in reality, not upheld. Such is the case with hospitality. Like Jacques Derrida, who questioned the definition of democracy in light of this notion, Lacotte, in many of his works, demonstrates with wit and determination how much Western society neglects the relationship between democracy and hospitality, a relationship nevertheless evoked in the motto of the French Republic by the notion of fraternity, and its links with liberty and equality. This idea underlies the ironic presence of the three colours of the French flag in several of his works, as well as that of another powerful yet questionable symbol of liberty and welcome, the Statue of Liberty. Although they may be considered to be infrathin, Lacotte’s gestures are no less effective or striking, even arousing the interest of passersby, who do not always recognize them as works of art, their function being to provoke both reflection and debate in areas where these no longer exist. In this sense, his works can be interpreted via the Beuysian concept of “social sculpture,” inviting collective reflection on problems that affect society as a whole. In this way, Lacotte follows in the spirit of other artist activists who shift the modus operandi of their interventions and adapt them to today’s context: from grand narratives to simple, often humorous and poetic, but equally unforgiving acts.

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This article also appears in the issue 92 - Democracy

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