Working Class, Student and Rural Solidarities
in the West of France: a Genealogy

curated by Guillaume Désanges
and François Piron

Grand Café, Saint-Nazaire

May 26 – Sept 29, 2019 

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Press Release

The exhibition Countervailing Winds relates a chapter in the long social and political history of Brittany and the west of France, by looking at forms of action that tell a particular story of struggles and counter-cultures  around Saint-Nazaire from 1968 to the present day. Taking a range of graphic, filmic or literary documents - among other sources - as a starting point, the exhibition will bring a new perspective to bear on the connections between artistic gestures and militant actions.

The image of Parisian students launching cobblestones in May '68 has come to sum up a movement that nevertheless brought the whole of France to a standstill, and to overshadow the événements in other geographic areas and social environments. We know however that May '68 generated forms of struggle and solidarity in working class environments and rural areas, bringing about fascinating political, cultural and artistic experiments that remain hidden histories to this day.


In the west of France especially - at a time of technocratic 'modernisation' in the region - the industrialisation of agriculture, the insecurity of labour conditions in the working class world, authoritarian projects to transform the territory, and large-scale environmental pollution were some of the enduring and pressing preoccupations of the 1970s. One of the particularities of these grassroots struggles, emerging in a climate of identitarian demands and decolonisation, is a systematic connection between the here and the elsewhere, the near and the faraway, in a convergence of anger and hope.

From the actions of land collectives from the beginning of the 1970s to the Zone to Defend of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, from Armand Gatti's experiments in collective theatre to the self-managed experimental school in Saint-Nazaire, from the activist cinema of the Torr E Benn collective to the strike films of René Vautier: this project draws a new map and uncovers connections that manifest a certain spirit of place and time.

The artist takes into consideration some well-known artists of the last decades, insinuating doubt into certain dominant narratives, forcing us to look differently at or adjust our focus on existing works. At Istituto Svizzero, Milan
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, artists like Cézanne and Matisse took up this motif to express evolving notions about the body, changing ideas about pleasure, one’s relationship to nature, and how the longing for the new (in art) potentially renews a broader and more inclusive understanding of what it means to live with or against societal changes. Greene Naftali, New York
Antoine Levi, Paris
Galerie Perrotin, Paris
Peres Projects, Berlin
(MERIEM) Ok Mom. So you’re going to play yourself, but as if you existed inside the world of the CAPS. You don’t really have to be in character. I wrote this monologue for your interview scene that we’re going to shoot at the pharmacy. It’s just there to give you ideas but you don’t have to stick to any script as long as you make us believe you’re on the CAPS island in the future (...) At C L E A R I N G, New York
HangarBicocca, Milan
The Horses exemplifies Appriou’s remarkably expressive style and will invite the public into an imaginative world where figuration and mythology meet. PUBLIC ART FUND, New York