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Palais de Tokyo, Paris, March 8-23

Family Business presents…

The Work of Art under Conditions
of Intermittent Accessibility
An Installation and Performance-Practice
with The Order of the Third Bird
March 8th-23rd in the Family Business house
Palais de Tokyo, Paris

Saturday March 15: 1:30 – 2:00 PM, Salle 37: Lecture and Workshop, “The Rülek Scrolls and the Practice of the Door.”

New evidence strongly suggests that the Francophone Transylvanian philologist-explorer Marton Bialek (1889-1966) was an associate of the Order of the Third Bird. Several scholars with an interest in these matters will present a brief biography, and reveal Bialek’s fascinating “Exercise of the Trochilus,” a formal protocol for sustained attention to a work of art. Some guided collective experimentation will be encouraged. All are welcome, regardless of their knowledge of Bird practices.

And please note: Visiting adepts of the Order of the Third Bird will, we believe, be engaging in their ritual practices hourly, on the hour (from 15:00-20:00), within the Order’s temporary sanctuary in Family Business house.

Who is the Order of the Third Bird? There remains some confusion about the history and practices of the body known as The Order of the Third Bird, but evidence points to its having been for some time a loose network of cell-like groups that engage in ritualized forms of sustained attention to works of art. The canons of secrecy around these activities—their structure and purposes—have traditionally been sufficiently restrictive as to leave some doubt as to whether any individual professing knowledge of the Order could in fact be genuinely associated therewith.

What are they going to do at the Palais? To inaugurate its foray into “The Age of Practices,” Family Business has invited individuals thought to be associated with the Order to share elements of their traditions and protocols. This has apparently occasioned some division among the membership, but there is reason to hope that a number of adepts will be appearing for this purpose in the weeks ahead. In an effort to encourage this encounter, Family Business has put at the disposal of the Order a semi-private space inside the Palais wherein devotees of “Bird” practices may engage in their distinctive rites, and make available such materials as are deemed suitable for transmission to curious persons.

Why do members of the Order spend long periods of time standing in silence in museums and other locations? Historical sources dating from the 1920s offer the following: “Consider: the number of accumulated works of art in the world now exceeds the number of persons on the planet. If each of these human artifacts can be understood as a reified request for attention, the scale of the problem immediately strikes home with terrible force.” It seems that the Order has long considered itself a community of something like “paramedics of attention” who respond to what they take to be the baleful and continuous solicitations of innumerable made things. Exactly who is involved, and to what end—these issues remain obscure, but it has been suggested that a very considerable number of those who look at works of art in museums and galleries may be connected to the Order and are possibly engaging in its practices. Others contend, however, that the radical character of the enterprise (documents have surfaced that allude to “participant ethnography of the object” and warn of the dangers of a “temporary metempsychosis” to which practitioners apparently aspire) place the Order of the Third Bird at the fringe of those cultic associations aspiring to ecstatic possession and Dionysian self-loss. It is to be hoped that these issues will be resolved through lectures, readings, and performances at the Palais de Tokyo in the weeks ahead.

Family Business

Family Business is a not-for-profit space open to experimentation and irreverent exhibition formats, founded by Maurizio Cattelan and Massimiliano Gioni and powered by the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. A guest + a host = a ghost. Nadja Argyropulou is the Family Business guest (or ghost) curator. Palais de Tokyo is hosting Family Business between February 13 and September 7, 2014.