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.

LAYR, Vienna
High Art, Paris
Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand
Der Tank of the Art Institute, Basel
Lafayette Anticipations, Paris
Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon
JTT, New York
Édouard Montassut, Paris