July 1, 2014



(Image Source.)

Flipping the pages of Anthony Julius' Transgressions, the Offences of Art, 2002, I became arrested by these paragraphs on page106:

Supposing these two, the innovative and the interrogative, to be ideal types, one could say that while innovators redraw boundaries, interrogators disturb them. Innovators are explorers, interrogators are ironists. Innovators enlarge, interrogators subvert. But such oppositions are purely analytical. Few works are wholly innovative, none is merely interrogative.Cubist works, for example, have both innovative and interrogative aspects. They extend art's boundaries; they provoke questions about the nature of art....

These transgressions, the innovative and the interrogative in combination, often entail, in the artist's understanding, a trumping of one rule with a notionally higher rule or 'law', thereby justifying the disregard for the rule by reference to its inferiority to the other rule or law. (This is not to be confused either with the adoption, in a ruthless art world, of self imposed constraints as the conditions of art-making, or with the explorations, within the individual artwork, of its own internal laws. The artists of the Oupeinpo movement are the best example of the former. Works of concrete art are exemplary of the latter, because, as the artist Max Bill defines them, they establish patterns which, 'having their own causality, are tantamount to laws').

(Emphasis Mine)

The bolded sentences above jumped out at me. I came out of grad school in the beginning of the 90's embracing an art form that was long declared dead. I wanted to "bring it to life", I sought to amplify the qualities natural and specific to painting: corporeality, embodiment, mortality, flesh, a fat impasto paint,I looked for alternative tools that delivered paint to canvas (focusing first on what I wanted to manifest and secondly the nature of the tool that might deliver this... as opposed to reconciling myself to what a store-bought-tool might be capable of prior to its use). I embraced the limit and change of time and state from wet to dry, the mixture to mud from refined colors... I looked for constraints that were natural and specific to paint and painting. The idea of "breaking boundaries" had become hoary, exhausted and limited with soured irony. The art world at that time was reflexively seeking limitlessness, heedless of any possible negative consequences. Painting was and is limit incarnate. If painting was dead, it needed to die because conceptuality had to live... which was fine and even necessary, but Sol LeWitt had already manifested the postmodern program in its' purest state: art as a list of instruction. All art that followed his wake risked labored elaboration. The program of postmodernity required stepped dematerialization until the point when painting evaporated into visuality, first with astonishment then eventually ad absurdum. I revolted on all this with the turn of my heel, while at the same time wanting to incorporate the accumulated wisdom and lessons learned.

SO I was delighted to discover after lo, so many years, an art movement whose concerns paralleled mine, in a roughly parallel time frame. I'm still figuring them out. What follows is a compendium of Google excavations:

Drunken Boat:

The workshop of potential painting (Oupeinpo) was created in 1980. It provides a space to work, not in the ends of completing works, but rather to make tools and, more precisely, methods, perspectives, manipulations... structures, or Oupeinpian constraints, that could become "tools for tools" within the artist's field. Thus understood, constraint is not a restriction but the necessary condition of a potential field: predetermining the number of colors allowed, for example, opens the potential field of color-measured works, just as the pencil stretches graphite works to an unlimited register.

The Oupeinpo has discerned two practical families of constraint: means-based rules, or procedural constraints, and ends-based rules, or formal constraints. Accordingly, procedural constraints apply to the manipulation of prepared knives and brushes, and formal constraint apply to the final appearance, regardless of the means used, of a painting, for example, with four separate scenes, each obtained by a 90° rotation (see Jacques Carelman's "La Rose des têtes").

In order to prove and validate its constraints, the Oupeinpo elaborates non-works. It fashions nothing other than possible perspectives needed for demonstrations, which it considers feasibility experiments. Whether or not the group's members--all working artists--actually manage to reap the benefits in their own work, Oupienpian experimentation shares the same operative distance one might find between the conditions in the 1960 laboratories where lasers were developed and today's networks of optical fibers: it's the same distance that definitively separates the registers of inquiry and that of knowledge.

By vocation, the Oupeinpo does not limit itself to the contents ofpein (painting). Its domain is that of formal structures in which the registers of both questioning and uncertainty, like a subversive formalism, remain actively formative. Like Albert Einstein, we conceive of imaginary experiments in order to push the boundaries of the equations (of constraints) to their limits, to their breaking point.

Torturing the limits, pushing the boundaries by way of Oupeinpian constraint, not in hopes of locating some chimeric escape, but rather to apprehend and motivate phenomenal wrinkles, empty spaces, to infuse outgrowths, to inspire excursions into new frontiers, and to play, to whistle tricky tunes in which supplementary dimensions of this universe may interfere.

Seizing control of these infinite additional dimensions, the Oupeinpo thereby opens the gates of epiphany to new subjects.

from Wikipedia:

Oupeinpo, contraction oforto vroir of peinturePotentielle, was created in within Or-X-Po in order to invent forms, constraints mathematical, logical or ludic able to support the work of the painters and more generally of the visual artists.

(Click the link to see the chronology from1980 to 2005 and a bibliography)

I'm happy to see the repeated references to Pataphysics, by the way.

The Third Eye Foundation:

The OULIPO The Origin of the movement

The OULIPO was created in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François le Lionnais as an attempt to explore methodically the possibilities of literature and, in general, of language.

OULIPO stands for "OUvroir de LIttérature POtentielle " (Workshop for Potential Literature). OU, the workshop, produces LI, but what kinf of LI ? LIPO, potential literature, one under constraints, both new and old, exercises in style, some difficult, some less so, aiming at assembling and reassembling letters and words according to certain forms and patterns, like the recomposed images of a kaleidoscope.
An Oulipian author is "a rat building up the labyrinth it wants to go out of". Labyrinth of what? Of sounds, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, libraries, prose, poetry and all at the same time...

This vast project firstly gathered writers, mathematicians, poets and logicians (Calvino, Pérec, Marcel Duchamp and many more...) and was used as a way to create new forms of literature.

For example, we could name "A Void" (1969) in which Georges Pérec endeavours to write a novel without using the vowel "e" or "Exercises in style" which tells the same story over again by using a whole range of different narrative forms.

"Oulipo is the opposite of chance"
Claude Berge.

"Oulipo is not a school, it is a crèche where, hidden from parents and supervisors, we play at trying to squeeze cylinders into square holes and cubes into round ones. And it works. Some days."
François Caradec.

Fortified by its success and originality, Oulipo begot a series of OU-x-PO such as:


Ouvroir de Peinture Potentielle, Workshop for Potential Painting.


Ouvroir de Littérature Policière Potentielle, Workshop for Potential Crime Literature.


Ouvroir de Tragi-Comédies Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Tragicomedies.


Ouvroir de Catastrophes Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Catastrophes./td>


Ouvroir de Photographies Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Photography.


Ouvroir de Bandes Dessinées Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Comics.


Ouvroir de Musiques Potentielles, Workshop for Potential Musics.

All these Ou-x-PO varying in degrees of seriousness and development.

We could also refer to the Dogma cinema, which was greatly inspired by this principle of creation under constraints. The Dogma was created in 1995 by two Danish directors, Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Its manifesto establishes a set of rules running counter to the standardised format of American cinema by putting great enphasis on chance, improvisation and a minimal amount of equipment (e.g. "The Idiots" by Lars Von Trier or "Festen" by Thomas Vinterberg.)


"I swear to submit to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by Dogme 95:

1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in ( if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).
3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).
4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. ( That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
10. The director must not be credited.

Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste ! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a "work", as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.
Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY."

Copenhagen, Monday 13 March 1995.

You could easily draw a parallel between these "Exercises in Style" and the world of hip hop music where rivalry is the rule, where what matters is to find the right scratch, to have a good flow or to be the best MC... It is this principle of challenge, deriving from this notion of artistic creation under constraint, that Ici d'ailleurs... offers you with its OUMUPO.

Wkipedia on Ouxpo:

Ouxpo is an acronym for "Ouvroir d'X Potentielle". It is an umbrella group for Oulipo, Oubapo, Outrapo, etc. The term 'ouvroir', originally used in conjunction with works of charity, was reused by Raymond Queneau for a blend of 'ouvroir' and 'œuvre' ("work") and roughly corresponds to the English 'workshop'. The term 'potentiel' is used in the sense of that "which is possible, or realisable if one follows certain rules".


Created within the Collège de 'Pataphysique in 1960, Oulipo is now better known than the college itself and has survived the decline of the college.

In accordance with the wishes of François Le Lionnais and Raymond Queneau, other Ouvroirs d'X Potentielle have been spun off from Oulipo for all the arts. Each ouvroir is dedicated to some field 'X'. It analyses the pre-existing constraints, and investigates new forms of potential creations within the field. The job of coordinating the ouvroirs was given first to François Le Lionnais, then Noël Arnaud, and then Milie von Bariter.

The Official Ouvroirs

After 1960-11-24 when Oulipo was created, thirteen years passed before the appearance of Oulipopo (LIttérature POlicière, detective literature) in 1973, twenty years before Oupeinpo (PEINture, painting) in 1980, and 31 years before Outrapo(TRAgicomédie) in 1991, the first ouvroir to be created without François Le Lionnais. Since then, a new ouvroir has arisen almost every year.

A list of some Ouxpo groups:


Oubapo, (BAnde dessinée, or comics)
* Ouhispo, (HIStory)
* Oumapo, (MArionnettes)
* Ouphopo, (PHOtography)
* Oulipo, (LIttérature)
* Oulipolipo, (LIbyco POlonais de LIttérature)
* Ou'inpo, (INformatique, or information technology)
* Ouca(ta)po, (CATAstrophe)
* Oupypo, ('PYgology')
* Ouarchpo, (ARCHitecture)
* Oupolpot, (POLitics)
* Ougrapo, (design GRAphique)

Oumupo and Oucipo (MUsic and CInematography) were created very early, but the dates are uncertain and these ouvroirs probably experienced multiple births. In fact, many Oumupo seem to co-exist. Oucuipo (CUIsine) was created from a fringe activity of Oulipo.

Some Others

Ougrapo (GRAmmar) wants to remain independent of Ouxpo. Some lists mention both an Oumathpo and an Oupornpo. Others, some probably parodies of ouvroirs, include Outyppo (TYPography), Oupopo (POlitics, again), Oumapo (MAthematics, again), Oulitramupo (LIttérature TRAduite en MUsique), Oupipo (PIètrerie, from piètre 'mediocre'), Oulipo (but pronounced oulīpo, as in LIposuction) -- but these do not appear to be either authentic or members of Ou-X-Po.

There exists also an Oucopo (COmedy), an Ougéopo (GEOgraphy), an Oujapo (JArdinage or gardening), and an Ououpo (OUxpo (meta-oulipo)).

The notion of an Ouflarfpo (FLARF) has also recently been theorized as a means of resolving some of the aesthetic and political tensions between Flarf and Conceptual Poetry.

Posted by Dennis at July 1, 2014 11:56 PM

Leave a comment