Countervailing Winds

Working class, student and rural solidarities in the West of France : a genealogy

Exhibition    Biographies


  • From 26th May to 29th September 2019
    At Le Grand Café - contemporary art centre
    Opening Friday May, 25th at 6pm

Hosted by Le Grand Café, the exhibition Contre-vents [Countervailing Winds] opens up an undisclosed chapter in the social and political history of Brittany region and the West of France. It focuses on the countercultures* and the forms of action that appeared during struggles 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 brings a new perspective on the connections between artistic gestures and militant actions.

The image of Parisian students throwing cobblestones in May '68 has come to sum up a movement that brought the whole of France to a standstill. It overshadowed the repercussions of these events in geographies and social environments other than Paris. May 68 has infused forms of struggle and modes of solidarity within working class environments and in rural areas, inspiring political, cultural and artistic experiments that have remained overlooked histories to this day. In the West of France in particular, the industrialisation of agriculture, the impoverishment of the working class, large-scale environmental pollution and authoritarian State projects aiming at reshaping territories for the sake of a technocratic 'modernisation', were some of the enduring and pressing concerns of the 1970s. These grassroots struggles, where anger and hope converge, emerged with a claim for a regional identity linked to the struggles of decolonisation, as a systematic connection between the here and the elsewhere.

With works and documents by:
Soazig Chappedelaine and René Vautier, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Armand Gatti, Danielle Jaeggi, Jean-Paul Fargier and Anne Caro (collectif Cent Fleurs), Nicole Le Garrec, Jean-Louis Le Tacon, Alain Lefaux, Jacques Loiseleux, Patrick Prado, Carole Roussopoulos, Bruno Serralongue, Torr E Benn
Sound design: Dominique Petitgand

This exhibition is an extension of Guillaume Désanges and François Piron’s curatorial collaboration on L’esprit français. Contre-cultures 1969-1989 [The French Psyche. Counter-cultures 1969-1989], at La maison rouge in Paris, setting out a new stage in their joint research, re-reading a particular history of marginal France.

This exhibition is presented as part of the Généalogies fictives [Fictional genealogies] cycle, developed by Guillaume Désanges for the art centre from late 2018 to summer 2020.

This exhibition is made possible thanks to the support of Riso France.

* the term ‘countercultures’ designates popular, alternative, anti-establishment movements that question the values disseminated by official culture.
The original exhibition title is Contre-vents. Solidarités ouvrières, étudiantes et paysannes dans l'Ouest de la France : une généalogie.


Guillaume Désanges is curator and art critic, founder of Work Method, a Paris based agency for curatorial projects.
He coordinated the artistic projects of Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers between 2001 and 2007.

He was guest curator at Le Plateau FRAC Ile-de-France between 2009 and 2011 where he curated the program “Concrete Erudition”. Since 2013, he is running the curatorial program of La Verrière, Fondation d’entreprise Hermès in Brussels.

Last projects: Ma’aminim / Les Croyants, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Saint-Denis, France & Tranzitdisplay, Prague, Rep. Czech, 2015, Poésie Balistique, La Verrière, Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Brussels, 2016, L’Esprit français. Contre-cultures, 1969-1989, La maison rouge - Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris, with François Piron, 2017, L’ennemi de mon ennemi, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2018, Spolia, Le Grand Café – centre d’art contemporain, Saint-Nazaire, 2018.

François Piron is an independent exhibitions curator, art critic and editor. He is now in charge of the post-Graduate programme of the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon and co-founder of the publishing cooperative Paraguay in Paris.

From 2000 to 2005, he co-directed Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers. From 2007 to 2012, he co-directed the independent art space castillo / corrales in Paris.

He curated Incorporated !, 5th edition of the Biennial of Contemporary Art of Rennes in 2016, and curated, with Guillaume Désanges, the exhibition L’Esprit français. Contre-cultures, 1969-1989, La maison rouge - Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris, 2017. In 2017 he published Guy de Cointet, Complete Theater, monograph dedicated to the writings of the artist Guy de Cointet.

Last projects: Nouvelles Impressions de Raymond Roussel, Palais de Tokyo, 2013 ; Raymond Roussel. The President of the Republic of Dreams, Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin, 2013 and New York, 2015 ; In These Great Times, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, 2014 ; Mangelos, Miroirs noirs, Frank Elbaz Gallery, Paris, 2013 and Peter Freeman Inc., New York, 2016, Odradek, Konsthall Malmö (Suède), 2018, Poésie prolétaire, Fondation d’Entreprise Ricard, Paris, 2019.

He has collaborated on numerous collective publications, including the catalogue of the 10th Biennale of Lyon 2009, the Spanish pavilion of the 2011 Venice Biennale and the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013. He recently contributed to the publications Thomas Hirschhorn, Critical Laboratory, MIT Press, 2013, and Michel Leiris et Cie, Gallimard-Centre Pompidou, 2015.


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countervailing winds