Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café
Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café
Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café
Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café
Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café
Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café
Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café
Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café
Assembly (Generic & Specific) - Le Grand Café


AGENCY: name given to administrative organisations charged with tasks relating to information, to coordination; commercial establishment serving as an intermediary between clientele and professionals; by metonymy, the word also designates the buildings, the offices of an agency. In the etymological essence of the noun, we ultimately discover the principle of action (from the Latin agere) in a broad sense: the agency houses that which acts, operates — the body taking part in the production of particular phenomena.

When Kobe Matthys began his “list of things” activity in 1992, he embraced the term Agency in all its acceptations: to inform, to coordinate, to link notions originating in external professional, social and cultural fields, and to consider the space that contains the content. By choosing this word rather than his own name, he was already calling into question the nature of his activity and his status as an artist.

But what is in this “list of things” that Kobe Matthys has been elaborating for twenty years? It refers to judicial procedures that deal with intellectual property, cases where the author’s action is not obvious, affairs that create jurisprudence and sometimes bring about controversial debates. These are concrete cases, taken directly from life; they call into question trademarks, copyright, patents, they concern objects such as a frisbee, a boat, an exhaust pipe, a corkscrew with rabbit ears, a record sleeve, a performance…

These things frequently express a particular tension, between originality and banality, the individual and the collective, body and mind, nature and culture. Kobe Matthys pays particular attention to objects that do not fit within any clear category, and which sometimes have uncertain links with the art world. Illusions, burlesque spectacles, photographic reproductions, works dictated by the spirit world; forms that are all difficult to define, where the creators are poorly identified, or where the use-value obliterates their artistic dimension. This is precisely the heart of what Agency is aiming at: the exercise of doubt, that Marcel Duchamp used so well, and the attempt/temptation to define art’s limits in the face of objects which go beyond those limits. What is an artistic act? By insistently seeming to ask this question, Kobe Matthys emphasises the subversive aspects of playing with the boundaries of art.

Who is he? An enthusiastic investigator into the protocols of the judicial world, but also an archivist, a collector, a lecturer and a curator… His things are displayed in space according to a very rigid visual system: the installation is made up of metallic shelves, on which are disposed plain wooden boxes filled with documents and items of evidence (printed texts, press cuttings, books, DVDs, etc.), all numbered and available to the public. Specific cases (the object and a summary of legal opinions) are also presented on tables, and the suspended lighting hanging over them creates the atmosphere of an archive. All of these litigious objects are very ordinary, which helps, perhaps, to bring out the irreducible, unsolvable, nature of each case. Classification, here, is accompanied by a kind of perpetual surpassing, where the real can be approached according to new rules and from unexpected angles. It recalls Borges’s Atlas, quoted by Foucault in his work The Order of Things, as a model of a system that «shattered, as you read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of your thought1».

The public needs to participate to activate this flow of information: the reader sorts, chooses and makes her own way, combining the isolated elements at his disposal and putting them together to articulate a coherent assemblage.

For Le Grand Café, Agency is proposing a selection from his list of things. The first family of controversies explores the following problem: how can the commonplace be included in artistic practices? “Many art practices get classified as common, because they are considered utilitarian. The design of useful articles, no matter how satisfying, gets exempted of copyright protection as works of art. Intellectual property law defines useful article as “having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information2 .””
The second series of controversies concerns the question of machines: how can non-humans sometimes be included in artistic practices?
“Certain art practices involve collaborations with non-humans, including machines. At the same time copyright law seems to eliminate non-humans as authors. Intellectual property law describes authors as “the person who effectively is, as near as he can be, the cause of the work which is produced.” Although the definition of “authors” does not explicitly refers to humans, it implies that humans are the intended group. Machine made things, get exempted of copyright protection as works of art. Intellectual property law excludes non-humans as authors3.” These are some research directions that are, incidentally, quite close to the programme of political ecology described by the philosopher Bruno Latour. Noting the impact of scientific discoveries on the organisation of society, Latour expresses the wish that the country’s Constitution take into account not just humans but also “non-humans”. He proposes the creation of a “parliament of things” with this in mind, whereby things would be represented by scientists or persons recognised as competent in a particular field, in the same way as citizens are by traditional elected representatives4.
These two series of controversies will be brought together and given form by Kobe Matthys during meetings that he calls Assemblies. In the company of experts, he presents real cases and opens up a frequently passionate and humorous debate, inviting at the same contributions from the public. An experience of dialogue, argument and controversy prevails: the things, presented in the form of texts, discussions and material objects, are like stories or metaphors raising not just legal issues, but also philosophical and artistic ones. In his way of seeking to explore all the mechanisms of intellectual property, Kobe Matthys sketches out a kind of ecology of artistic practices, a science of relations to the world around us, or as the biologist Ernst Haeckel defines it, ecology as “science as the conditions of existence”.
As a live extension to the exhibition, these three calls to the public will add to Agency’s unending quest – in which Kobe Matthys’s position is not unlike that of Don Quixote, a character about whom Michel Foucault, once again, gave a lovely definition of the poet: “he who, beneath the named, constantly expected differences, rediscovers the buried kinships between things, their scattered resemblances5”.

Éva Prouteau

1 – Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les Choses, Paris 1966, éditions Gallimard, preface, p. 7-11
2 & 3 – Kobe Matthys, traduction de l’anglais Éva Prouteau
4 – Bruno Latour, Nouvelles règles de la méthode scientifique, Revue Projet, 2001.
5 – Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les Choses, Paris 1966, Éditions Gallimard, p. 62-63


How can the common be included in (utilitarian) artistic practices?
— chose 000493 (Dentlab)
— chose 000495 (Quattro)
— chose 000496 (Windows 3.0)
— chose 000781 (Feist 1983 Directory)
— chose 000794 (Corel)
— chose 000797 (Second National Bank of Gotham City)
— chose 000840 (Auto Drive)
— chose 000848 (Dannon Healthy Habit Cookbook and Great Tasting Recipes)
— chose 000849 (Rodigy Truffle)
— chose 000852 (nose masks)
— chose 000864 (SOT-1, SRC-1, SRC-4A and SWTF-3)
— chose 000885 (Daley Bicentennial Plaza)
— chose 000891 (Moth Europe)
— chose 000892 (Liza)
— chose 000934 (Cherry Ripe)
— chose 000969 (Spectacular Ballet, Stirk Family and Statuary Act)
— chose 000970 (Explosion Zeichnungen)
— chose 000986 (McClintock)
— chose 001009 (Koosh)
— chose 001015 (Skyy’s vodka photographs)
— chose 001029 (Letty Lynton)
— chose 001034 (part numbers)
— chose 001039 (ABC Green Version I )
— chose 001042 (children sweaters)
— chose 001049 (Easy Pin Shell Forms)
— chose 001051 (fabric design)
— chose 001053 (fabric pattern)
— chose 001054 (rhomboids knit pattern)
— chose 001055 (Stars and Clouds)
— chose 001056 (cloth print)
— chose 001057 (letters, forms and envelops)
— chose 001058 (belt buckles)
— chose 001059 (Cycloops)
— chose 001060 (Missing Persons)
— chose 001061 (scarf cap)
— chose 001062 (costumes)
— chose 001063 (bridal dresses)
— chose 001064 (lace design No. 3076)
— chose 001065 (toe socks)
— chose 001066 (base table lamp)
— chose 001072 (casino uniforms)
— chose 001075 (It’s’ a Jungle Out There)
— chose 001077 (Double Gardenia)
— chose 001095 (E.T. – The Extra-terrestrial)
— chose 001110 (Mini-Winders, Baby Mini-Winder, Star Mission Mini-Winder Robot, Mickey Mouse Peanut Putter and Mickey Mouse Star Ship)
— chose 001143 (stuffed toy animals)
— chose 001149 (shoe sole)
— chose 001169 (Frisbee)
— chose 001170 (Kenwood A103)
— chose 001172 (cartridges)
— chose 001173 (Tyco bricks)
— chose 001175 (Marguerite)
— chose 001177 (exhaust system)
— chose 001194 (ceramic models of a cocker spaniel)
— chose 001198 (lamp)
— chose 001203 (Jewelers’ Index)
— chose 001229 (Saint Rita and Saint Theresa)
— chose 001233 (Flower Plaid)
— chose 001241 (mezzotints of The Blue Boy and Pinkie)
— chose 001243 (post office Kayenta, Arizona)
— chose 001262 (Elliptra)
— chose 001275 (cemetery monument)
— chose 001277 (children’s wear)
— chose 001278 (antique telephone)
— chose 001281 (Flying Eagle I)
— chose 001290 (light house hole)
— chose 001292 (lobby)
— chose 001312 (Illustrated Catalogues of James N. Clow and Son, Manufacturers and Dealers in Supplies for Plumbers, Steam and Gas Fitters, Water and Gas Works, Railroads and Contractors)
— chose 001359 (Chico Mendez Mural Garden)
— chose 001367 (broderies du grand parterre)
— chose 001371 (grass Reflected Tips)
— chose 001388 (Kenzo pont Neuf )
— chose 001401 (Original Stormtrooper)
— chose 001406 (Amazon)
— chose 001407 (woolen sweaters)
— chose 001433 (scarves)
— chose 001445 (Elegance Constellation)
— chose 001447 (dress patterns)
— chose 001448 (china)
— chose 001452 (Orion)
— chose 001453 (Thrifticheck banks)
— chose 001460 (wire wheel covers)
— chose 001461 (Stuffed Monkey, Stuffed Hippo, Stuffed Fish and Stuffed Frog)
— chose 001462 (eyeglass display cases)
— chose 001469 (dress)
— chose 001535 (Introductory Language Work)
— chose 001637 (bus stop)
— chose 001653 (Liberty Lid)
— chose 001654 (jungle animal heads)
— chose 001798 (Chinese Kitchen n1 menu)
— chose 001819 (Awning Grids)
— chose 001820 (carpet samples)
— chose 001821 (Westerly Stud)
— chose 001822 (California Costume Collections)
— chose 001823 (iron tables)
— chose 001824 (Halloween costumes)
— chose 001825 (wrapping paper)
— chose 001851 (boat)
— chose 001868 (Niagara)
— chose 001904 (slurry pump)
— chose 001907 (Female Treasure)
— chose 001913 (T-6985 Group)
— chose 001914 (clochose on stuffed toy bears)
— chose 001919 (tiger costume)
— chose 001921 (But’N Up Vest and Apron Dress)
— chose 002083 (Wish Big)
— chose 002096 (technical drawing)
— chose 002098 (colored rods)
— chose 002099 (The Sharp Featured Man)
— chose 002100 (JS 9000 )
— chose 002101 (tables racing guide)
— chose 002103 (Dolan Lamp)
— chose 002109 (Hysport fabrics)
— chose 002110 (Carry Cape)
— chose 002111 (Mink and Tangerine)
— chose 002112 (Pull It)
— chose 002113 (red frock)
— chose 002114 (pants)
— chose 002122 (hookah)
— chose 002123 (Face-Off)
— chose 002124 (dolphin and tiger shot glass)
— chose 002125 (timber frame)
— chose 002126 (stove)
— chose 002127 (pansy lace)
— chose 002128 (20000 and 20200)
— chose 002129 (wedding dresses)
— chose 002130 (video package cover)
— chose 002131 (plans of project homes)
— chose 002132 (Spring Meadow)
— chose 002181 (action lamps)
— chose 002190 (Cappuccino, Toffee and Garnet)
— chose 002193 (technical drawings)
— chose 002132 (sketches)

How can the creations of non-humans be included in artistic practices?
— chose 000491 (ACE 100)
— chose 000770 (Zwischen Zirkuskuppel und Manege)
— chose 000781 (Feist 1983 Directory)
— chose 000782 (Bruits de la Nature nr2 )
— chose 000782 (String of Puppies)
— chose 000810 (Thierry Mugler Photograher)
— chose 000841 (TAF and METAR)
— chose 000864 (SOT-1, SRC-1, SRC-4A and SWTF-3)
— chose 000868 (taxidermist mannequins)
— chose 000885 (Daley Bicentennial Plaza)
— chose 000888 (Six Seconds in Dallas)
— chose 000889 (Compliments of Ehrich Bros. 8th Ave. & 24th St.)
— chose 000971 (Flower in Flower Pot)
— chose 001012 (Bridgewater’s labels)
— chose 001025 (beanies)
— chose 001026 (Preston the Pig and Louie the Cow)
— chose 001037 (R&R part numbers)
— chose 001045 (glass-in-glass jellyfish)
— chose 001077 (Double Gardenia)
— chose 001081 (pin in the shape of a bee)
— chose 001085 (IQ200+)
— chose 001098 (No. 212 Senior Swan, No. 345 Donkey, No. R-350 Life Size Deer, No. 353-R Stanchose North Woods Fawn, No. 355-R Reclining North Woods Fawn, No. 357-R Medium Size Standing White Tail Deer and No. 447 1/2 Lady Grecian)
— chose 001112 (Galaxian)
— chose 001143 (stuffed toy animal)
— chose 001144 (Prehistoric Pets)
— chose 001145 (jewelery)
— chose 001155 (The Cardinal)
— chose 001193 (Tea Song Rose)
— chose 001194 (cocker spaniel)
— chose 001195 (Precious Cargo)
— chose 001197 (turtle pin)
— chose 001198 (banana leaf lamp)
— chose 001199 (Baroque Rose)
— chose 001209 (lilac)
— chose 001210 (turkey decoy)
— chose 001226 (Bingo !)
— chose 001227 (Scramble 2)
— chose 001228 (The Bilble Code)
— chose 001229 (St. Rita and St. Theresa)
— chose 001230 (Fighting Dinosaurs)
— chose 001232 (K.C. Munchkin)
— chose 001233 (Flower Plaid)
— chose 001234 (Gravures sur bois des plantes)
— chose 001236 (Cats)
— chose 001241 (mezzotints of The Blue Boy and Pinkie)
— chose 001252 (repertoire Hank Williams)
— chose 001780 (legal form)
— chose 001796 (Millionaire of the Month)
— chose 002083 (Wish Big)
— chose 002190 (Cappuccino, Toffee and Garnet)
— chose 002192 (weather computer programs)


AGENCY is the generic name of a collective based in Brussels and founded in 1992 by the artist Kobe Matthys.
Kobe Matthys was born in Ghent in 1970. He lives and works in Bruxelles.