“I am interested in producing work that is, in itself, the site of conflict,” Jean-Luc Moulène has said. In the case of his photographic inventory of “strike objects,” this aim is doubled by his subject matter: an array of modified products made by French laborers during work stoppages between the 1970s and 1990s. Whether by overlaying an agit-prop slogan onto a company logo or conspicuously removing an element usually taken for granted, these détourned wares reroute the means of production toward ulterior ends. They were originally circulated to attract attention, promote solidarity, and raise funds; often, their throwaway forms scarcely outlived the conflicts that conjured their creation.
The artist collected them through ads placed in newspapers and subsequently donated them to the French national labor archive in Roubaix. Wary of the appropriating pull of the artist’s signature and the flattening potential of photography, Moulène declines ownership of these souvenirs. He insists that they are simply presented, and not represented, by his work.
Several of the objects were produced during the LIP (Les Industries de Palente) Conflicts, a strike that took place in the LIP watch factory in Besançon (Doubs) beginning in the early 1970s and lasted until 1976. It mobilized tens of thousands of people across France and throughout Europe. During the strikes, the workers developed a form of “self-management” in which they produced watches and other objects which they sold unofficially. The strikes are also significant because the national government chose to force the company’s closure to avoid labor unrest and strikes on a national level.