Opening our 2013-2014 Programme Year, Robert Filliou: The Institute of Endless Possibilities is the first institutional solo exhibition devoted to Filliou (1926-87) in the UK. It considers Filliou's work outside of his close ties to Fluxus in order to focus specifically on his sculptural output and his concern with objects. This exhibition asks the question: when does an everyday object become a sculpture?
Filliou interrupted the definition of sculpture with time and chance. He destabilised sculpture as a fixed and incontrovertible object to construct sculpture through multiple moments of encounter. His work embodies Marcel Duchamp's 1957 statement: 'The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act'. Robert Filliou: The Institute of Endless Possibilities positions Filliou as an object-maker whose sculptures examine the very nature of the creative act. His methodology pre-empts the first wave of conceptual art, and is a crucial moment for understanding sculpture today.
Underscoring Filliou's work is an interest in what defines and constitutes an artwork. A trained political scientist, Filliou was greatly inspired by the work of Charles Fourier, especially his concept of 'attractive passions' that championed the concept of work as pleasure. Play and joy occupy crucial roles for Filliou, who believed art making was part of a permanent, universal and endless process deeply embedded everyday life.
Two key works in this exhibition are 'Eins. Un. One.' (1984) and 'Musique télépathique nº 5' (Telepathic Music number 1, 1976-1978). 'Eins. Un. One.' consists of 16,000 wooden dice, each bearing the number one on all sides, negating the laws of probability. A similar ludic bluntness can be seen in 'Musique télépathique nº 5', a sculpture made of thirty-three music stands holding playing cards and short notes inscribed with directions. The absence of players is tangible, with the work's title insinuating a collectively shared idea of a score or outcome.
Although this is the first solo exhibition of Filliou's objects in the UK, this is not the first time his work has been seen in Leeds. In 1969 he visited Leeds College of Art, to teach with Robin Page and George Brecht, where he staged a game that became a multiple art works named 'Leeds' in 1976, which will be displayed in the Institute's foyer. Two card players are blindfolded and guided through their moves by a surrounding audience - the players must collaborate with and trust the judgement of their audience.