Wednesday 25th November, A Prior Magazine Launch
A Prior is an art magazine based in Belgium.
This new issue is co-edited with Olivia Pender, Anna Colin and Kim Einarsson.
It is based on Gustave Flaubert’s 1881 satirical novel Bouvard et Pécuchet and is divides into chapters so that it mirrors the structure of the book. It involves a large and sprawling number of texts and projects by artists including Pablo Bronstein, Goldin+Senneby, Runo Lagomarsino, Melanie Gilligan, Unnar Orn and writers such as Marina Vishmidt, Vanessa Desclaux, Angus Cameron, Rudi Laermans amongst others. Bouvard and Pécuchet, the two eponymous heroes of Flaubert’s last unfinished book, are both middle-aged copy clerks who, at the start of the novel, are resident in Paris. After Bouvard inherits money they decide to retire to the countryside and pursue their intellectual interests.
In chapter one, as the two autodidacts design their newly purchased garden, they begin by considering the theories laid out in a book titled The Garden Architect. This manual divides gardens into an endless number of types ranging from “The Dreadful Type’ […] composed of hanging rocks, shattered trees, and burnt out shacks” to “the ‘Exotic type’ designed to inspire memories in a colonist or traveler.”” Buoyed up by their reading matter, a vast range of technical manuals, literature and magazines, in each chapter they adopt a series of different roles from gardeners, to farmers, chemists, anatomists, medical doctors, biologists, geologists, historians, archeologists, architects, curators of their own museum, literary critics, dramaturges, politicians, economists, lovers, utopian socialists, gymnasts, mystics, philosophers, educationalists (adopting two orphaned children), urban planners, until finally they argue with everyone around them and contemplate suicide. The book is a travel narrative of sorts, and there are parallels with earlier satirical/ utopian odysseys such as Voltaire’s Candide. However if Candide is an ‘everyman’ for the age of Enlightenment – expanding his knowledge of the world whilst participating in European colonial expansion – Bouvard and Pécuchet are firmly located in their own time. They are bourgeois men of the nineteenth century and subsequently their pursuit of the good life involves an attempt to educate themselves, according to all the principles and ideas already available in print. Confused by all the competing theories, the scope of Bouvard and Pécuchet’s reading is encyclopedic. However, the two men consistently fail to learn from experience being unable to recognise the value of knowledge that is not learnt from a book, such as that of the local farmer. Whereas Candide ends in defeat and subsequently returns to a simple life in the garden tilling the soil, for Bouvard and Pécuchet defeat means giving up the pursuit for knowledge and returning to their former life as copy clerks.
Chapter 1. Meeting, friendship, Bouvard’s inheritance
Chapter 2. Agriculture, landscape gardening, food preservation
Chapter 3. Chemistry, anatomy, medicine, biology, geology
Chapter 4. Archeology, architecture, history, museology, classification, the institution
Chapter 5. Literature, drama, performance, grammar, aesthetics
Chapter 6. Politics: 1848
Chapter 7. Love
Chapter 8. Gymnastics, occultism, theology, philosophy, suicide
Chapter 9. Religion
Chapter 10. Education, music, urban planning, arguments with everyone around them