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Leaky Box Strategies

This week Rachel Falconer took us worldbuilding via curatorial sense-making with a selection of films, essays and articles for us to chew over. 

Yuk Hui presented a lecture on Les Immatériaux – an exhibition curated and organised by Jean-Francois Lyotard alongside Thierry Chaput. The exhibition – or “manifestation” as Lyotard referred to it – aimed at redefining what an exhibition could be, by using a philosophical framework of new materialism to combine objects from traditional art,  industrial equipment, office computers and technoscientific artefacts, to create a “zone” that made “.. visible, even palpable (and so ‘present’) a kind of ‘post-industrial’ techno-scientific condition, at once artistic, critical and curatorial. “ (1)

A detail about the exhibition which I think would make a profound impact was that Lyotard gave viewers a set of headphones with a strange “theory-sound track” (2) to accompany them through the space. The aesthetic affect of adding this soundtrack superstructure to the visual assemblage of different artefacts would result in a deep and profound multi-sensory impression that would make the show at once more affective and memorable.

In the Tate article I’ve referenced, this impression seems to linger with the writer who actually experienced the exhibition. “even though I have held onto the catalogues and related materials from the press-kit for the review I wrote at the time, it still seems difficult to bring into focus what I saw then.”  (3)

Hui takes Les Immatereaux as an example of what he defines as “exhibition as a medium” – making the case that Lyotard and colleagues are using this exhibition as a response to the “informatization” of museums and galleries. The exhibition as a whole functions as a form of information processing, communicating a message of communication. Metaphorically, as a zone in which cybernetic themes were explored, but also literally: as Hui notes in the lecture, outside the exhibition there were literally digital experiments with video conferencing! In 1985! Having just come out of an insane couple of years where we’ve interacted via video conferences, it is clear Lyotard’s ideas (and melancholia) relating to technology and the future of communication were prescient.


Centre Pompidou. (2021). – Vidéo – Centre Pompidou. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 May 2023].

1,2,3 –

Rajchman, J. (n.d.). Les Immatériaux or How to Construct the History of Exhibitions – Tate Papers. [online] Tate. Available at: