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"Les Immatériaux" (1985)

Overview of a postmodern manifestation in the Centre Pompidou

5 July – 30 October 2023

Collections of film, video, sound and digital works area
Museum, level 4

Curated by philosopher Jean-François Lyotard and design theorist Thierry Chaput, accompanied by a team of scientific consultants, "Les Immatériaux" was presented in the Grande Galerie on level 6 of the Centre Pompidou in 1985. The curators preferred to use the word "manifestation" in order to distinguish themselves from the canons of art exhibitions and equally from the tradition of universal science and technical exhibitions. The aim was to plunge the public into a new experience of "navigation", to enable us to "convey the sense of the end of an era and the anxious curiosity arising at the dawn of post-modernity" by exploring an epistemological turning point: the early signs of a computerised society set to reshape humans’ relationship with the world.

The open 2,300 m2 area was modulated by a floating scenography conducive to a disorientating effect through different degrees of visual filters, soundtracks played through infra-red headphones and "scrollers" of projected text. A dialogue emerged between the works of art and the visual, scientific and technological devices in some sixty rooms known as "sites". Based on the five key concepts of matter, substance, maternity, material and matrix, each one invited visitors to question traditionally accepted Western concepts in multiple areas of knowledge and culture, right down to their most commonplace forms.

Although still little-known, "Les Immatériaux" figures among the striking milestones in the history of exhibitions. Many thinkers contributed to it. Philosophers such as Jacques Derrida, Bruno Latour, Isabelle Stengers also participated in its associated publication, Épreuves d’écriture (éditions Centre Georges Pompidou, 1985). 


In the framework of a long-term "Beyond Matter" European research project conducted by the National Museum of Modern Art, this folder-room puts a succinct selection of partly-reconstituted works and documents in perspective. It presents a virtual environment designed by the Museum teams in the research project, enabling us to explore a map of its archive, by definition moving and incomplete.


This interactive tool questions the possibilities of virtual modelling and the ways in which we can imagine transposing the experiential qualities of an outstanding project, whose concept opened the way for the new faces of "material" solely through their physical perception.


Virtual visit

As part of traveling exhibition "Matter. Non-Matter. Anti-Matter", the Centre Pompidou is presenting the virtual models from the exhibitions "Les Immatériaux" (Centre Pompidou, 1985) and  "Iconoclash. Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art" (ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2002) through the Immaterial Display, a newly developed computer device for exploring virtual exhibitions.


This exhibition is part of the international research and cooperation project "Beyond Matter: Cultural Heritage on the Verge of Virtual Reality" (2019-2023) initiated and directed by the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, in collaboration with Aalto University, Espoo, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Tallinn Art Hall, and Tirana Art Lab, co-funded by the European Commision's Creative Europe programme.


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