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Mร–DERN YOUNG PEOPLE Post Punk, Cold Wave and Novรถ Culture in France 1978 - 1983


Between the late 70s and mid-80s, in the wake of the punk wave and in parallel to other types of music like disco, funk, ska and reggae, a prolific and chaotic music scene began to develop in France, combining the energy of rock and the nihilism of punk with electronic experimentation. The period was not, on the whole, one of optimism and joy, played out as it was against a background of economic crisis and the cold war. The tendency was rather towards disillusion, accompanied by a clear-sighted recognition that a stalemate between the generations would be unavoidable in the short term. Paradoxically, as it would appear, a kind of hope and frenzied vitality could also be detected during these years. Both were fed by a sort of modernist utopia, which was sometimes wilfully ironic. This was largely based on a certain fascination with technical progress and, by extension, on a belief, tinged with mistrust, in the infinite perspectives that the new technologies now seemed to offer.

Lio in agnès b. © Catherine Faux

A whole section of France’s youth found itself confronted by the contradictions of the times it was living in: young people were torn between the sensation of living on the edge of an abyss and hope for the dawning of a new world; they were deprived of tangible ideological landmarks but resistant to the posthippy utopias of the previous generation. In search of an identity, they recognised themselves in the dark lyrics, the cold synthetic music and the laid-back attitude of the new groups bursting up all over the country, as much in the provinces as in Paris. Marie-France, Patrick Eudeline, Alain Pacadis, Dina and Marlene © Belle Journée en Perspective


With the benefit of thirty years’ hindsight, the project “Des Jeunes Gens Mödernes” [Modern Young Men] (featuring an exhibition, a book and an audio compilation produced in conjunction with Naïve, as well as a documentary) reactivates this post-punk/novo diskö/French new & cold wave scene, by means of selected works, personal testimonies and documented records. One of the project’s ambitions is to highlight a cross-section of the specific creative diversity of this scene: it does so by engaging with the music it produced, but also with the aesthetics, the attitudes, and the recurring problems that developed in parallel, looking particularly at its relationship to the modern world. So, first and foremost, it is about recreating the atmosphere and spirit of the time through what was most characteristic about it (and sometimes what partook of caricature), rather than making an exhaustive list of what was produced during those years in the style that concerns us. The project also aims to pinpoint the links that exist between that particular scene and present-day artistic creation. Multimedia by definition, the exhibition section thus contrasts various documents, artefacts and original works of the time with recent productions by contemporary plastic artists, musicians and video producers, whose work echoes, in one way or another, this particular sphere of influence of the French underground. Anonymous, Paris les Halles © Alain Dister, 1983


The project’s title refers to an article by Patrick Zerbib, which appeared in the magazine Actuel in 1980. Entitled, “Modern young men love their mothers”, the article is mainly concerned with the Marquis de Sade, Artefact and Jacno, and is really a spoof. We see the members of the group Marquis de Sade, mostly sporting ties, posing demurely with their respective mothers. They are described, as are Jean Ternisien d’Artefact and Jacno, ex-leader of the punk group Stinky Toys, as underground yuppies, immature but gifted adolescents, who tend to be a bit dandyish; they are aesthetes, curious opportunists and above all realists, far removed from the lifestyle of the rockers’ “Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll”, or the punks’ “no future” or the “peace and love” of the hippies. Although the article does not mention them, one might include in this eclectic musical circle (which is not very clearly identified except for the fact that its representatives all belong to the same generation) groups like Taxi Girl, Marie et les garçons, Electric Callas, Mathématique Moderne, Suicide Roméo, Modern Guy or even Elli (Médeiros) and jacno, Lio or Etienne Daho. Un regard sur le monde Cover January 1978 - © Bazooka

Elno in L'AFFAIRE DES DIVISIONS MORITURI film de F.J. Ossang - Film Still © F. J. Ossang

However, the phrase evoked by the project’s title should only be taken here for what it is: an expression that reveals the spirit of the age. These famous modern young men are in fact hardly more than a pretext, a line of approach through which to delve more generally into the consequences of the punk movement as a major 20th century sub-cultural phenomenon. Punk proclaimed “No Future”: the only thing was, the future was already there, and modern young men had no other choice but to face up to it. On these foundations, the New Wave generation set in motion a vast reconstruction movement; they were completely cured of any hang-ups by the kind of cultural tsunami that had gone before, which, nihilistic and radical, had “flattened” everything in its path. There was a positive and purposeful attitude underlying this, even if despair and cynicism were never very far away. The phenomenon is very accurately described by Paul Rambali [The Face] or Jean Rouzaud in “New Wave”, the last posthumous work by JeanFrançois Bizot.


Taking advantage of the “Do It Yourself” method and of provocation elevated to the status of activist strategy (which Punk enabled people to experience as being doubly effective), the New Wave drew upon artistic avant-garde movements from the past (Constructivism, Futurism, Symbolism, Dadaism, socialist realism and so on), as well as literature (Romanticism, science fiction, etc.), cinema (New Wave, German expressionist cinema) and the latest technological advances (electronic, robotic, nuclear).

Rafik et la Colonelle 1983 © Nina Childress

Modern youngsters were looking at the past so as better to see the future and they freely associated retro aesthetics with the most outrageous modernism (note the overuse of the term “modern” at the time) to create a clashing maelstrom of retro-futurism. Drawing on traditional culture as well as the underground subcultures to which various magazines and fanzines gave voice (American counter cultures, endless references to William S. Burroughs, for example, pop art, etc.), the New Wave embraced all areas of creativity together, and built bridges between the different artistic disciplines (music, visual art, designing, literature, cinema…) to an extent never before seen, foreshadowing the contemporary multi media model.


Etienne Daho and Nicole Caloc’h singer of Sax Pustuls © Pierre René-Worms

Elli & Jacno © Pierre René-Worms

From the design point of view, the project is partly organised around the notions of “after punk” and “novo” developed by Yves Adrien, but there are also abundant references to the writing of authors like Alain Pacadis or Patrick Eudeline. Finally, it is interesting to note that the period concerned, i.e. the years 1978 to 1985, represents a turning point, a transitional moment, on many levels: political, sociological, and especially, of course, musical, in the way music was produced and disseminated (free radio stations, development of the audio cassette as a medium which could be reproduced, thus paving the way for the computer-based music of today). Indeed, these artists, together with the labels which produced and supported them, like New Rose, Celluloïde, Dorian, Facteur d’Ambiance, Divine Madrigal or Garage Records, showed that it was possible to make pop music without the help of major music conglomerates and commercial radio stations. By doing this, they changed for ever the way the music industry worked, laying the foundations for what was later called alternative or independent rock.


Taxi girl © Catherine Faux

The Mödern Young People project will be : ■ A collective exhibition at the galerie du jour agnès b. from April 3rd to May 17th 2008 ■ A book and audio compilation produced in conjunction agnès b. / Naïve ■ A documentary realised by Emmanuel Bovet and Jean-François Sanz produced by Love Streams agnès b. Productions


To discover at the galerie du jour : Marquis de Sade, Elli et Jacno, Artefact, Taxi Girl, Marie et les garçons, Mathématiques Modernes, Etienne Daho, Lio, Suicide roméo, Electric Callas, Modern Guy, Tokow boys, Casion Music, Lizzy Mercier des cloux, Jad Wio, Kas product, Edith Nylon, Metal Boys/metal Urbain, Charles de goal, Messageros Killers Boys, Norma Loy, Guerre Froide, A 3 dans les W.C.… amoung others !

Electric Callas / Jangil Callas © Belle Journée en Perspective

LUV (Ladies United Violently) Valérie Chassigneux / Dominique Fury/ Aphrodisia Flamingo © Belle Journée en Perspective


Contributors : 45toursderockfrancais.net (website) 69 X 69 (Executor of rock critic Yves Adrien) Alain Dister (photograph) Bazooka (graphic designers) Belle Journée En Perspective (photographs/graphic designers) Catherine Faux (photograph) Chloé Delaume (writter) Claude Lévêque (artist) Corinne Sentou (artist) Damien Deroubaix (artist) David Fakrikian (Seventeen Records label) Dominique Fury (painter) Emmanuel Bovet (photograph/director) Enki Bilal (comics artist) Eugénie Lavenant (artist) F.J. Ossang (writter, singer of MKB et BMW, film-maker) Gilles Le Guen (DJ/journalist) J. B. Wizzz (Born Bad label) Franck Rezzak (artist) french-new-wave.com (website) Hugues Reip (artist) Infrastition/Optical Sound (labels) Jacques Floret (artist) Jean Rouzaud (journalist) Jean-Eric Perrin (journalist) Jean-Luc Fromental (journalist/editor) Jean-Luc Verna (artist) Jean-Pierre Turmel (Sordide Sentimental label) Laurent Fétis et Elisabeth Arkipoff (artists/graphic designers) Marc Caro (graphic designers/ film-maker) Maripol (photographer, stylist) Nina Childress (painter, ex singer of Lucrate milk) Pierre et Gilles (artists) Pierre la Police (artist) Pierre René-Worms (photograph) Pieter Schoolwerth (artist / Wierd Records label) Philippe Huard (painter) Poni Hoax (band) Reed o13 (photograph/graphic designer, singer of Norma Loy) René Licata (journalist/ film maker) Sandie Trash (band) Seventeen records (label) The Penelopes (band) Toma (band) Xavier Veilhan (artist)

Elli Medeiros . Bauhaus n°1 © Eugénie Lavenant


Mödern Young People galerie du jour agnès b. 3 avril – 17 mai 2008 44 rue Quincampoix Paris 4e +33 (0)1 44 54 5 90 www.galeriedujour.com www.agnesb.com www.myspace.com/desjeunesgensmodernes

agnès b. press contact : marie.schneier@agnesb.fr 01 42 60 03 41 exhibition press contact : annie.maurette@orange.fr 01 43 71 55 52

Modern young people  

MÖDERN YOUNG PEOPLE Post Punk, Cold Waveand NovöCulture in France 1978 -1983 Betweenthe late 70s and mid-80s, in the wake of the punk wave...

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