Allan McCollum — The Book of Shapes


Mixed media

Allan McCollum
The Book of Shapes

Past: March 22 → May 18, 2013

The Book of Shapes exhibition is based on the eponym publication by the artist Allan McCollum, produced in 2010 by mfc-michèle didier. As the title indicates, The Book of Shapes has a specific interest for shapes; it is directly related to The Shapes Project, a project initiated by McCollum in 2005. It is therefore interesting to take a moment to remember the origin of the MFC acronym that is part of the name of the publisher, mfc-michèle didier. MFC are the initials of « Maîtres de Forme Contemporains » (Masters of contemporary forms) and directly refer to the Bauhaus masters of form. The Bauhaus’ faculty members were form masters, artists, craftsmen and workshop masters. Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919, after the merger of the Weimar Academy of Fine Art and the School of Arts and Crafts:

« Let us then create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist! Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity (…) »

It was be more complex than he expected to build this future without any division where « autonomous creation » would equal « industrial creation ». The Bauhaus masters didn’t agree with Gropius’ vision. If they concurred on the same goal, namely an art shared by all, they were categorically against the idea to turn to the industry. In reality, most of them already thought that the crafts and the arts weren’t subject to the same rules. But they considered that there could be interactions and analogies between both practices. On the other side, the relationship with the industrial process seemed for them impossible. Because of the production methods of mechanical fabrication, they thought the industry would be at opposite ends of what creative work is supposed to be.

In a way, The Shapes Project consists of a possible extension of the Bauhaus’ internal concerns and the ideological conflict between the defenders of the arts & crafts opposed to industrial production and the supporters of the disappearance of the limits between discipline and production process. Allan McCollum overcomes this contention, with the aim to make a work that has an almost ecumenical dimension.

More concretely, The Shapes Project consists of a system that generates more than thirty-one billion different shapes, made from a combination of six groups of elements. Each shape is supposed to be assigned to one individual. Since the UN established that the world population would peak at over 9.1 billion people in 2050, this system offers an ample supply of shapes allowing everyone to have their own «form-shape», whose use could be left to each and every one’s discretion.

Allan McCollum’s The Book of Shapes publication is composed of two volumes. Volume I contains the patterns, while volume II includes the instructions and guides for creating all possible combinations made from these components. Based on the analysis of mass production, The Shapes Project presents a paradox: the artist’s wish to produce a work of art at a massive scale, but ensuring at the same time that none of these objects, although created from the same mold, are similar. The Book of Shapes lets thus grasp the magnitude of this plan.

The foundations of The Shapes Project have today been laid, but Allan McCollum alone won’t be able to complete the mission he wants to accomplish. The artist invites us thus all to contribute and to really materialize the monumental ensemble. Let’s make the count in 2050.

The exhibition at mfc-michèle didier gallery displays the publication along with a selection of Shapes made by Allan McCollum up to this day.

  • Opening Thursday, March 21, 2013 6 PM → 9 PM
03 Le Marais Zoom in 03 Le Marais Zoom out

66, rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth

75003 Paris

T. 01 71 27 34 41

Arts et Métiers
Strasbourg Saint-Denis

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 7 PM
Other times by appointment

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Venue schedule

The artist

  • Allan McCollum