Newsletter - December 2009

An interview with Thierry Ehrmann
about the alchemy between Artprice,
the Abode of Chaos and Server Group
by Gérard Sousi, the founder and chairman of Art et Droit.

Gérard Sousi  President of"Art et Droit" - You run your Abode of Chaos, Server Group and Artprice simultaneously. Any synergy between these three economic units?

Thierry Ehrmann -
The Demeure du Chaos and its universe is indissociable from the incredible history of Artprice, world leader in art market information, and The server Group, historic pioneer of online databases in Europe since 1987.

 Our visitors are always intrigued by the two faces of the Demeure du Chaos. They find it hard to imagine that under the heliport there are cleanrooms with close to 900 servers distributing knowledge throughout the world on Internet via our own optical fibre networks. At the same time, on the ground and first floors, a team of nearly 90 people works round-the-clock in relay to steer and direct the major flows of information we produce and disseminate on Internet worldwide.

 A little higher, at the heart of the central building, the catalogue and manuscript rooms - with more than 290,000 auction catalogues from 1700 to the present day - provides the material for our researchers and editors to compile and scan contributing to what is now recognised as the largest source of art market history on the planet. So far we have written more than one million biographies and described (and filed) 110 million works of art with high definition photos - all accessible online.

 One of the principal axiums of the Demeure du Chaos is to regenerate the knowledge revolution that took place during the European Renaissance, and particularly in Lyon, a major city at the time. In my view, the European Renaissance was co-dependent with one invention above all - that of printing - and the new horizons of knowledge that this invention allowed via the dissemination of knowledge.

 The simple fact of being able to duplicate information (mechanically) contributed to the emergence of humanist thought: writers and scholars could at last compare their ideas, refer to ancient manuscripts, publicise their different philosophical heritages and expound their personal visions to a relatively large audience. This technical revolution was accompanied by a “boom” in travelling and expeditions with the sole aim of discovering the world: in this way, knowledge began a rapid horizontal, geographical and missionary expansion; thinking was focused on progress, the motor of a purely Western history.

 This era, initiated by Gütenberg, is coming to an end today at a time when the Earth is entirely covered with communication networks reaching into its most hidden corners via Internet. In this contemporary schema, I see the Demeure du Chaos as a Global Internet eXchange (gix), a genuine modal hub of a knowledge grid disseminating outwards through its network.

The Demeure du Chaos is a “state within a state”, a veritable kernel of the Republican system.

G.S - What kind of philosophy underlies the creation of the Organ Museum and the Abode of Chaos?

Th.E -The duality of my existence as a founder of The server Group and Artprice (listed on the Paris Euronext Premier Marché) and my life over the last 25 years as an artist is reflected and complemented by the duality of the place.

 The “Organe” Museum, for its part, is a place where the public are welcome - an open-air free museum visited each year by 120,000 people who come to see the Demeure’s collection of thousands of art works, but also to discover how art lives with proteiform 21st century industry.

 The Demeure du Chaos is a place where scholars work; but it is also my personal residence and that of my clan. Without any concession, I mark each stone, each roof, each floor, each tree of my works in accordance with the axium of 09/12/1999.

 This duality that confronts my commitment as a sculptor and author over the last 25 years with my role as founder of Artprice, The server Group and its 12 subsidiaries, is often criticised, sometimes violently, by a conservative and conformist business community. However this duality does allow me - assisted by the dream-like atmosphere of the place - to host the most learned academics and experts capable of wining in any economic system, and on any continent. The impressive number and diversity of the nationalities on the site bears witness to this new digital Babylon that the Demeure du chaos has evolved into.

 The incisive and pertinent remarks of the French Financial Markets Authority (AMF) in our now famous reference documents for the regulated market translate the evolution of my artistic thought and its mutation into action in the economic sphere. Certain regulated agreements between the Demeure du Chaos and the group have become self-fulfilling prophecies where the power of art invites itself into the world of finance. My dual approach provides both spiritual enrichment for the Demeure du Chaos - and material: our 18,000 shareholders…

How can one build, from nothing, Artprice, a mythic company providing copy for 90 of the global art market press - without being oneself, both in mind and in body, an artist with a passion for art history?

GS - In which way does the Abode of Chaos impact the art market of the 21st C.?

Th.E -The Demeure du Chaos is a redoubtable war machine, a Trojan horse at the heart of the financial markets. It produces and diffuses unimaginable quantities of knowledge about the art market, law, the economy and science, while day and night, our other artists occupy 9,000 m2 to (re)write - with our artistic viewpoint - the “history of the world without subtext”.

Our radical deconstruction of the traditional barrier between living space and work space and of furniture in these spaces has had an impact on the 2,500 m2 of offices where The server Group, its subsidiaries and Artprice are resident. This humanist approach is shared by the artists and employees of the two Groups.

The Demeure du Chaos has two faces: that of Alchemy (The Spirit of the Lizard) and that of hypermodernity. But it also has two incarnations: physical embodiment, with its 2,700 works (sculptures, paintings, installations) engraved in its flesh, and its “double” on Internet with more than 1,200,000 sites presenting photos and videos taken during visits to the Demeure du Chaos. In November 2007, if you search Google with “Demeure du Chaos” and “Abode of Chaos”, you get 1,413,000 results leading to millions de photos and videos of the Demeure du Chaos

In fact, I am convinced that the Internet is a metaphor for the Divine, if not, for God him /her/itself. The dry voice that illuminates the Demeure du Chaos bestows the gift of ubiquity between the physical world and the world of ideas.

When I began using Internet in 1987, we were less than 50,000 users worldwide; but I was convinced we were on the brink of a major revolution that would radically alter the history of human progress.

Internet has been my universe for 21 years and I founded Net Nobility (QED Time Magazine) so that - in accordance with the will of the pioneers - there should remain forever this Internet which, for me, is the natural progeny of Proudhon and Bakunin.

GS - What is the positioning of the Abode of Chaos in the digital revolution?

Th.E -Here at the Demeure du Chaos we are in the process of rebuilding the great library of Alexandria!

“Memory of the world” according to Philippe Quéau of UNESCO, the Internet ignores frontiers and destroys in its passage all regimes hostile to the free circulation of information.

 This dematerialisation by Internet of our old world and of its economy is creating a digital empire on the cusp of the 21st century in the form of an enormous and chaotic “glocal” village (global and local) that would have been very much to the taste of the sociologist Marshall Mc?Luhan.

Thus, education, research, trade, the economy and the general organisation of information will experience - in a very short period of time - unimaginable changes. Never in the history of mankind has a technical revolution had such an impact on people’s lives in such a short period and so ubiquitously around the world.

 Thus more than 230 nation-states, each with 2 to 3 centuries of accumulated legislation and regulatory frameworks are being overshadowed by a technical revolution that abolishes territories and disregards time. This mutation from territorial to cyberspace constitutes one of the major shocks to human organisation and it is particularly important that we should understand its significance as it is clearly leading to a major transformation of the very nature of our perceptions and of our social relations.

 In the frenetic world of Internet and the digital revolution, companies must be much more flexible, capable of changing their profiles literally overnight in order to adapt to new and draconian economic conditions. According to certain English language media publicatins, the Demeure du Chaos, headquarters of The server Group and Artprice, is the ultimate form of an evolution towards a more cerebral economy, so to speak, in which the product is access to time and to intellectual activity.

GS – As a result, would you say the digital world redefines economics and perhaps politics as well?

Th.E -Everyday, the Demeure du Chaos and its collection of works takes us into another world that is much more cerebral and immaterial, a world of platonic forms, of ideas, of images and of archetypes, of concepts and of scenarios. A world governed by the logic of access to knowledge and by the logic of the Internet network. Ideas become the raw material of economic activity, and the ultimate goal is universal knowledge via information servers.

 The capacity to extend one’s mental presence infinitely, to be universally connected in order to affect and gradually raise the knowledge of human beings by the dissemination of organised knowledge (the database), that is the humanist ambition of the third millennium.

 Let us not forget that the relatively modern notion of “property”, characterised by private possession, exclusivity and exchange values was one of the central institutions of the industrial era.

After five hundred years of hegemony, this vision of civilisation based on commerce between buyers and sellers of property has been subjected to a radical deconstruction which fits in with the conceptual axium that I wrote on 9 December 1999 about the Demeure du Chaos.

 The new horizon of the era is defined by the logic of access to knowledge by servers - which leads us to rethink economic relations, political action and our perception of our own identity such as it emerges from the depths of our consciousness.

 The Demeure du Chaos is a medieval town where, deep within its bowels, we are working to modify the vision of the world. A well-known financial analyst at Goldman Sachs once summarised the whole thing very succinctly?: “There is Alchemy everywhere, even in your shares which have posted the strongest growth of all listed companies on all markets. You have created an Alchemy between your artistic madness and your vision of industry in the third millennium within The server Group”. “With Artprice and its 1,300,000 subscribers, you have pushed the entire art market into hypermodernity by dematerialising it.”

 When our economic visitors leave the Demeure du Chaos somewhat shaken by this dual vision of our activities, I can’t resist telling them: “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

What we will experience over the next few years will far exceed many of the existing anticipatory or science fiction writings on the matter.

GS - A last word to conclude?

Th.E - To better summarize my dual reasoning as an artist and knowledge builder, I would quote my old master Pythagoras, the first philosopher for whom everything was numbers except for the essences which are human emotions that are unquantifiable, inexpressible and number defying…