The opaque realities of Simon Asencio’s “The Book of Rumours”

In preparation for his upcoming Independent and Kunstvlaai book presentations, Simon Asencio (1988) reveals the working process and inspirations for his most recent project, The Book of Rumours. Part of his residency at Bureau des Réalités, the book stays true to its working title: a collection of public submissions of rumours. This fits perfectly within the French co-founder of Galerie and all-round performative artist’s work on invisible choreographies, and the inquisition into the fine line between fiction and reality. Feel free to call him to submit your own and be part of the project.

In a few lines, can you talk us through your art project The Book of Rumours?

The Book of Rumours is a project I am currently developing as part of my residency at Bureau des Réalités, a non-profit project space in Vorst / Forest run by Lilou Vidal. During this period Bureau des Réalités serves as a real office space where I collect and work on the rumours.

Can you elaborate for us what you mean by “rumours”?

The ultimate origin of the word rumour is actually unknown, but one theory reaches back to the German word smuggeler, which means ‘smuggler’ (rumours becoming then a sort of story smuggler). To me, rumours are part of a larger ensemble that I would call “living stories”: stories that have a life of their own. I like to think that these stories are travelling through people, rather than people making them up: we live in these stories, enacting them out as we recount and hear them. Just because the fictitious is not “real” now, that does not imply that it will not become real at some point in the future. One could say then that fiction has made itself real.

How does the public submissions process work?

For this book I am collecting existing personal rumours. They can be submitted to the number +32 484 65 64 15, or we can set individual appointments at the Bureau des Réalités office to transmit the story. I also make rumours myself, for people. I receive appointments to elaborate rumours for specific situations. Rumours often work like a sort of make-up: the stories mask existing ambiguities. You need to be very specific within each context to find the point of ambiguity, the plot of the story. You also have to be cautious when sculpting a rumour: once alive, it is hard to tame.

What were the project’s starting points, its sources of inspiration? Where did the research initially take you? Can you talk us through your thinking process a little?

It all started from a loose quote I once heard from a Mexican artist: “gossip is crucial to the career of an artwork”. Where does the border lie between an artist’s work, and the actual organisation and circulation of the work? I have come across marketing companies using word-of-mouth strategies to advertise products. Loud people in cafés can sometimes be their ambassadors… There is also a book which maps out the undercurrent displacements of information: pirate information (the leak), sham information (the spam) or shape shifters (word of mouth).

It all started from a loose quote I once heard from a Mexican artist: “gossip is crucial to the career of an artwork”.

 How does the book title help to evoke its content?

Actually, the project operates through many names. You could say that The Book of Rumours is the working title. This title encapsulates the ambiguity of writing something that usually isn’t written, whilst also questioning the position of the author: a book usually has an author but rumours don’t, they are the fruits of collective labour. The alternative title Prosopopus is actually taken from the title of a comic book by Nicolas de Crécy. The comic recounts the story of a monster called Prosopopus whose existence is uncertain: it is not very clear whether it is an actual figure, or rather the product of the characters’ imagination. But maybe the Prosopopus is a prosopopoeia: a figure of speech in which abstract things are personified. I like how a title can also serve as an alias for something else. I have even heard some people say that The Book of Rumours is simply a ghost work.

In a general sense, how would you describe your own work, approach and aesthetic?

My work often addresses invisible choreographies: things that do something although they aren’t always very obvious. Sometimes things go unnoticed because they are considered to be obvious, and so they escape recognition. We call them “invisible” but they are actually precisely the things upholding the visible.