Work, management, economics, politics, control systems, state-of-the-art technologies and the culture industry are the many ‘worlds’ that Julien Prévieux’s activities involve. As in the Lettres de non-motivation (Letters of Non-Application) that he has been sending out to employers regularly since 2004 – in which he responds to newspaper advertisements and details his reasons for not applying for the jobs in question – his work often appropriates the vocabulary, mechanisms and modus operandi of the sectors by which it is informed, the better to highlight their dogmas, excesses and, when all is said and done, their vacuousness.
By shrewdly adopting the stance of an individual facing whole swathes of society that are, in many respects, dehumanised, Prévieux develops a strategy of counterproductivity, or what the philosopher Elie During called, in a recent essay about the artist’s praxis, ‘counter-employment’.
The various crises and scandals that have staked up over the past decade have meant that the arcana of the world economy have become a must – and favourite subject – for Prévieux. Thus, his series of drawings entitled A la recherché du miracle économique
(In Search of the Economic Miracle, 2006) took as its point of departure three excerpts from Das Kapital by Marx, which the artist subjected to the ‘bible codes’, a decoding technique used in different periods in history to bring out hidden meaning in sacred texts. From each of the three excerpts there develops a network of key words – crash, bankruptcy, laundering, downward spiral, monopoly, audit, and so on – prophesying different financial disasters, past or future. More recently, Prévieux’s interest has veered towards what has been described by the media as ‘the swindle of the century’, namely the Bernard Madoff affair. For Forget the Money (2011), the artist managed to acquire part of the disgraced financier’s library, in the wake of the auctioning of goods seized by the FBI.
This collection of 100 or so books, made up mainly of bestsellers, thrillers and airport novels, might be deemed insignificant in other circumstances, but now has a special aura. Perusing the covers, a reading emerges that, with hindsight, cannot fail but see in titles such as No Second Chance, End in Tears and White Shark signs -foreshadowing the fate of their former owner.