– Autumn/Winter 2011

Jean-Luc Moulène: A ‘Plasticien’

Caroline Hancock

BGB Bleu Gauloises Bleues — 441, Fleury les Aubrais, Lille, June 2000, 7 × 5 × 2cm. Collection Fond National d’Art Contemporain, France

BGB Bleu Gauloises Bleues — 441, Fleury les Aubrais, Lille, June 2000, 7 × 5 × 2cm. Collection Fond National d’Art Contemporain, France

BGB Bleu Gauloises Bleues — 441, Fleury les Aubrais, Lille, June 2000,

7 × 5 × 2cm. Collection Fond National d’Art Contemporain, France 

Particularly since the 1960s, the French language has rather uniquely championed the term ‘arts plastiques’ (‘plastic arts’), a term long-abandoned in other languages and contexts in favour of alternatives like the ‘visual’ or ‘fine arts’. Probably because of this, some artists still define themselves as ‘artiste-plasticien’ (‘plastician’), as opposed to ‘artiste-peintre’ (‘painter’) or ‘artisan-designer’. The term suggests an emphasis on matter rather than image, and points at artistic activity as an exploration of materials and forms through a variety of modes. Jean-Luc Moulène tends to call himself a ‘plasticien’, even though photography is the medium for which he first gained recognition in the 1990s. But this choice is not just a matter of French habit — rather, it is a revealing move that suggests not only that image-making is just part of his practice, but that the idea of materials, their manipulation and what they might say about the form of society and the possibility of its transformation is at the core of his work.

Moulène studied arts plastiques (and literature) in Paris during the 1970s, after which he worked as an artistic adviser for a branch of the French electronics company Thomson, from 1981 to 1989, and, for a brief period in 1989, in commercial advertising. These early experiences with the fabrication of the imagery of products and brands familiarised him with the specific methodologies used in publicity and communication, and helped him analyse the desired effects of images on the social behaviours of consumers. As a result, his photographs, which span the genres of portraiture, still life, landscape and the street scene, critique the seductive character of conventional media representation, and the manipulations it allows. Though

  1. See Jean-Luc Moulène, Rosário Sousa Machado, Marc Touitou and Miguel Wandschneider (ed.), Jean-Luc Moulène. opus 1995—2007 / documents 1999—2007, Lisbon: Culturgest, 2007. 

  2. Interview of J.-L. Moulène by Florence Ostende concerning ‘The Pompidou Show’, cataloguemagazine.com, issue 6, March 2011. Available at http://www.cataloguemagazine.com/contemporary-art/magazine/article/jean-luc-moulene/ (last accessed on 13 June 2011). 

  3. This element of the work of both artists was highlighted by Pierre Restany, the art critic who coined the name ‘Nouveaux Réalistes’ in 1960, when he curated both artists in a group show, ‘Cette culture qui vient de la rue’ (‘The Culture that Comes from the Street’) at the Galerie municipale de Vitry- sur-Seine in 2000. 

  4. See Francesco Bonami (ed.), Dreams and Conflicts: The Viewer’s Dictatorship (exh. cat.), Venice:
    La Biennale di Venezia, 2003, pp.310—11. Orozco also presented work by Abraham Cruzvillegas, Jimmie Durham, Daniel Guzmán, Damian Ortega and Fernando Ortega. 

  5.  J.-L. Moulène, ‘Series Entretiens avec les artistes, Académie de Paris’, http://www.ac-paris.fr/portail/jcms/p1_124706/jean-luc-moulene (last accessed on 13 June 2011).

  6. Sophie Berrebi discussed Moulène’s work in relation to Documents at ‘The Use-Value of Documents:
 Bataille/Einstein/Leiris’, a symposium at the Courtauld Institute, in London from (23 to 24 June 2006) that accompanied the exhibition ‘Undercover Surrealism: Georges Bataille and the Magazine Documents’ (2006) at the Hayward Gallery, London. The paper, titled ‘Jean-Luc Moulène’s Dialectical Documents’, was subsequently published in Papers of Surrealism, issue 7, 2007, and is available at http://www.surrealismcentre.ac.uk/papersofsurrealism/journal7/acrobat%20files/articles/Berrebipdf.pdf (last accessed on 13 June 2011).

  7. For this comparison, see Cécile Bourne, ‘Jean-Luc Moulène’, in Tu parles, j'écoute. You Talk, I Listen (exh. cat.), Taipei: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 1998, pp.70–73.

  8. See interview between Patrick Javault, Jean-Luc Moulène and Daniel Foucard, ‘Jean-Luc Moulène / Une photographie polymorphe\, Entretien sur l'art, Paris: Fondation d'entreprise Ricard, 23 septembre 2010,

    http://fondation-entreprise-ricard.com/en/conferences/entretiens/art/moulene/ (last accessed on 2 August 2011). 

  9. See Raphaël Brunel, 'Jean-Luc Moulène', 02, Spring 2009, pp.11–14.

    www.zerodeux.fr/jean-luc-moulene-par-raphael-brunel (last accessed on 2 August 2011). 

  10. Jean-Charles Leyris, ‘Objets de grève, un patrimoine militant’, In Situ, no. 8, March 2007, http://www.insitu.culture.fr/article.xsp?numero=8&id_article=leyris-0 (last accessed on 13 June 2011).

  11. Entretiens avec Régis Durand, Jean-Luc Moulène. Document 1, Paris: Jeu de Paume,  2005, p.10. Translation the author’s.

  12. J.-L. Moulène quoted in Mental Archaeology: Matti Braun, Thea Djordjadze, Jean-Luc Moulène, exhibition leaflet, Ivry-sur-Seine: Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Crédac, 2010, p.39. Translation the author’s.

  13. See 'Etudes pour Body', interview with Jean-Luc Moulène recorded on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Paris-Bombay-Delhi’, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2011: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xj5okc_paris-delhi-bombay-jean-luc-moulene_creation (last accessed on 2 August 2011).

  14. Hans-Ulrich Obrist and J.-L. Moulène interviewed Antonio Negri in Italy, an extract of which was published in the magazine accompanying the exhibition ‘Voilà: Le Monde dans la tête’ at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2000 (published by Paris-Musées and Les Inrockuptibles). 

  15. Antonio Negri, Art & Multitude, Paris: Mille et Une Nuits, 2009; English edition, trans. Ed Emery, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011, pp.36–37.