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Moulène, Rancière and 24 Objets de Grève: Productive ambivalence or reifying opacity?

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First exhibited in 1999, Jean-Luc Moulène’s 24 Objets de Grève is a photographic archive printed in a range of different formats, portraying a variety of products made by French workers on strike between the 1970s and the 1990s. These comprise of scarves, T-shirts, dolls, geographical maps, cigarettes, facsimile banknotes, perfume bottles and other items. The objects were aimed at financially supporting the strikers and attracting the solidarity of the general public. Often destroyed after their use, they were not created with the intention of being collected and exhibited as works of art. 24 Objets de Grève lends itself to multiple and seemingly contradictory readings: it can be read as a Rancerian celebration of the creativity of the working class or as its undue appropriation; as a commemoration of the history of the workers movement or as an act of forgetting and reification. This article explores the ambivalences, hiatuses and limitations of Moulène’s project in relation to its representational strategies and the notion of emancipatory aesthetic elaborated by Jacques Rancière.
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Keywords: Rancière; aesthetics; appropriation; commodity; détournement; emancipation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College London

Publication date: 08 December 2012

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  • Philosophy of Photography is a new peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of photography. It is not committed to any one notion of photography nor, indeed, to any particular philosophical approach. The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for debate on theoretical issues arising from the historical, political, cultural, scientific and critical matrix of ideas, practices and techniques that may be said to constitute photography as a multifaceted form. In a contemporary context remarkable for its diversity and rate of change, the conjunction of the terms 'philosophy' and 'photography' in the journal's title is intended to act as a provocation to serious reflection on the ways in which existing and emergent photographic discourses might engage with and inform each other.
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