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The Jolie Môme Theatre Company: A Sociology of Artistic Work in Political Theater

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Sociology of the Arts in Action

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Abstract

This chapter analyzes contemporary artistic-militant practices. To understand the multiple possibilities of articulation between the artistic and the political, I analyze a particular case: the French theater company Jolie Môme. The political nature of this theatrical activity is expressed in several domains: the places where performances take place, the modes of organization of the artistic work, aesthetic choices, their support networks and the target audiences. Based on Howard Becker (Les mondes de l’art. Flammarion, 2006), this chapter studies the boundaries established between theater and politics in the case of Jolie Môme. My hypothesis is that artistic-militant practices create a space of action at the intersection of the art world and politics, giving rise to new forms of cooperation between artists and activists, in artistic experiences and struggles for social transformation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The concept of “militant theater” proposed by Olivier Neveux refers to a specific modality of political theater, characterized by its direct or leading involvement in social struggles. For clarity and precision we will retain the adjective “militant” to characterize this type of performance, taking into account that it is a description raised in the context of notions of political theater, intervention, theater-action, agit-prop theater or theater in struggle, which constitute a conceptual space that in different historical periods designates the same artistic and social phenomena.

  2. 2.

    We will use the notion of plural publics as proposed by Jean-Pierre Esquenazi (2003, 2007), assuming that it is a heterogeneous social group that can generate multiple links with works of art and other cultural products.

  3. 3.

    Esquenazi proposes a sociology of art in opposition to the definitions raised from the history of art or from aesthetic theory. In particular, he discusses the notions of art held by Gombrich, Barthes and Adorno, which propose the idea that art is a social process that goes from production to interpretation. From the perspective of Esquenazi there is no uniqueness to the work of art, but it exists in the many trajectories of meaning that the public give it. The emphasis here is on the interpretive work and the bonds established between human communities and works of art, rather than on the organization of the artistic work that is the focus of the Beckerian approach.

  4. 4.

    The notion of “world of the work” has been proposed by Alain Pessin and Catherine Dutheil-Pessin in their works on the literature of the nineteenth century and the realistic song, respectively. In dialogue with Becker’s concept of the “world of art”, which gives priority to the study of the organization of artistic work, the concept of “world of work” takes into account the imaginative dimension of artistic works, genres and trajectories. For example, in the case of studies by Catherine Dutheil-Pessin (2004) on the realistic song, the biographies of the singers, the types of staging, the public image, the sound dimension and how all these elements account for a particular type of work of the imagination.

  5. 5.

    Although there is a large number of classical and contemporary authors whose dramatic works can be classified as political theater (Bertolt Brecht, Arthur Adamov, Dario Fo, Augusto Boal, among others), which characterized the dramatic style of the theater of intervention in France after May 1968, a new method of collective writing emerged, by members of companies based on research on social problems of the time.

  6. 6.

    The Cartoucherie, located in the city of Vincennes (France), became an emblematic place for intervention theater in the seventies, when the actors of companies such as The Theater du Soleil, L’Épée de Bois and L’Aquarium built their theaters and consolidated their artistic projects. At present, it remains one of the most recognized theaters in France.

  7. 7.

    Antonio Díaz Florian, an actor and director of Peruvian origin, in 1969 founded the Workshop of L’Épée de Bois (The wooden sword) in Paris, an experimental theater group that later became the Theater L’Épée de Bois. In addition, he had been an actor in works directed by the influential Ariane Mnouchkine, founder of Théâtre du Soleil, and has directed a score of works, among which are some of his own, such as La Soufrière (2001) and El mata “Che” (2008), and others by classic authors such as García Lorca and Molière.

  8. 8.

    The title of the poem by Prévert La crosse en l’air could be translated into English as The Rifle Butt in the Air, a pacifist expression that alludes to the soldier who in the heat of battle renounces killing his enemy.

  9. 9.

    Dutheil-Pessin (2004) refers to the popular songs interpreted mainly by women in the streets of Paris in the first half of the twentieth century. Their main exponents were Fréhel, Damia and Édith Piaf.

  10. 10.

    The gogueta (goguette) is a nineteenth-century French tradition that brought together a group of fans who composed lyrics based on popular melodies expressing social criticism in a satirical tone. This festive practice has now been resumed in some parts of Paris. An example of this is the Goguette des Z’énervés created by the musician Christian Paccoud and performed weekly until today at Café Le Limonaire. See http://limonaire.free.fr

  11. 11.

    The “fourth wall” alludes to an imaginary barrier that separates the actors and the public in the classical theater. This means that the actors do not direct their eyes to the audience present in the room, nor dialogue with them, as if the theatrical scene happened in a closed space. On breaking with the “fourth wall”, the characters interact directly with the audience, questioning them directly by voice, eye contact and movement in the scene.

  12. 12.

    In a specific section, we will discuss in more detail the aspects related to the financing of the company and to the system of intermittency that applies to theater workers in France.

  13. 13.

    Abirached (2005) notes the significant increase in costs of stage props and wardrobe to French theater companies in the 1980s.

  14. 14.

    Historically, in France, to be paid in vouchers or cachets consisted of stamping a card in which the number of times the temporary workers had developed an activity was counted that must be paid as if they were employed. Subsequently, the expression was used in the theater business to refer to the remuneration of artists and technicians. Currently, it is necessary to accumulate a minimum of 507 hours for a period of between 304 and 319 days to receive payments in cachets. According to official employment statistics in France, in 2014, a total of 256,000 intermittent theater employees were registered. This figure has increased by 4.8 percent since 2010. For more details, see http://www.pole-emploi.fr/accueil/

  15. 15.

    An armed anarcho-communist group carried out actions between 1978 and 1987. The French authorities considered it a terrorist group.

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Facuse, M. (2022). The Jolie Môme Theatre Company: A Sociology of Artistic Work in Political Theater. In: Rodríguez Morató, A., Santana-Acuña, A. (eds) Sociology of the Arts in Action. Sociology of the Arts . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-11305-5_5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-11305-5_5

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