- Jean-Luc Moulène born 1955
- Concrete and bone
- Object: 95 × 310 × 298 mm
- Purchased with funds provided by the European Collection Circle 2019
Piggy 2016 is a small-scale object made of concrete and pig bone. The artist took the head of a pig and buried it under soil for six months. He then bought a pig mask and inserted remnants of the real pig bone into it before pouring some fresh concrete into the mask and letting it dry. The resulting object was cut in half by hand with a cable and is exhibited flat to reveal its insides. The work embodies Moulène’s ongoing enquiry into the ‘significance of a cut’ and its analogue within personal and social interaction. The decision to integrate organic parts of a real pig skull and concrete, and to present the work as a cross-section gives the finished object an almost technical or human-artefactual status, with the artist operating somewhere between a craftsman, a documentary scientist and a metaphysicist. The hybrid form traces the disjunctions between abstraction and figuration, between history and lived experience.
This is one of a group of works by Moulène in Tate’s collection which deal with different approaches to object-making and the complex relationship between sculpture and photography in his work (see Tate T15160–T15163 and P82322–P82326). Moulène’s beginnings as an artist were embedded in Paris in the 1970s where figures associated with the movement known as ‘Art Corporel’, or ‘Body Art’, placed at the centre of their practice dynamic acts of liberation enacted through the body or representations of the body. Influenced by the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Moulène posited that ‘each of us has a body built through representations, and these representations have to be questioned, criticised in order to build your own body’ (quoted in Dia:Beacon 2011, p.16). Paris also attracted international artists such as Vito Acconci (1940–2017) and Hermann Nitsch (born 1938), with whom Moulène collaborated, who believed in the possibility of art as a means for change.
In the early 1980s Moulène started to use the camera as a mode of enquiry. His early photographic work was not merely an exploration of the medium’s potentiality but also an analysis of the efficacy of protest art; by voiding the work of efficacy, and distancing it from cultural-political agendas, Moulène asserted incompatibilities in the dynamics of art production and distribution of the time. His series Disjunctions 1983–99 explored his interest in mathematics and geometry. Disjunction, in mathematics, is defined as the union of two elements minus their intersection. The artist described his encounter with the notion, and its relevance to the Disjunctions series: ‘The disjunction as mathematical operation came slowly to me while thinking about rupture, discontinuity, negation, etc … as a positive way to find new dialectical knowledge.’ (Quoted in Dia: Beacon 2011, p.9.) Elsewhere, he continued:
I tried within the space of a picture, to conjure up the common space reducing its movement. Today, this common space has become almost untraceable, with entertainment and identity. In the basic diagram illustrating set theory – two intersecting circles – when two circles become equal, then we will get a sort of eclipse. At that point, utopia will have been realised, with the whole common space also being the whole personal space. But we are not there yet. This is precisely why I decided to create works that were strictly intersections. Just to get a glimpse of what that common space could look like.
(Quoted in Centre Georges Pompidou 2016, p.61.)
Moulène viewed authorship, too, as a ‘disjunction’, whereby an artist’s practice should yield non-recursive results through a series of discontinuities and gaps that culminate in anonymity and the annulment of stylistic authorship. This lends itself to an almost documentary approach to subject matter, as noted by curator Yasmil Raymond who argued that Moulène’s images are, ‘to borrow Maurice Blanchot’s terms, sans sujet and sans objet (neither subjective nor objective)’ (in Dia: Beacon 2011, p.10). In many of Moulène’s photographs a relationship is set up between document and reality – the object and its record are distinct yet of equivalent value.
This principle is consistent with the artist’s approach to his sculptures or objects, production of which dates back to the early 1990s. Moulène defines this output as his ‘Opus’, an architectural and musical term referring to the method of arrangement or construction of a body of work, but in Moulène’s case it can be seen as an exploration of modes of physical interaction between diverse, independent forms. His work engages in a process at the very confluence of the organic and the artificial, the hand-crafted and the industrial, expounding relations between the production process of an object and the social context in which the creator of that object operates, as elaborated by curator Sophie Duplaix:
The creation of any object is the result of interaction not only between a choice of materials, but also between the forces at work in its production – thus borrowing from geometry – as well as the procedure selected for manufacturing it. Moulène’s corpus of objects explores these three interactions with a great variety of decisions.
(Sophie Duplaix, ‘Introduction to a “Retrospective of Protocols”, in Centre Georges Pompidou 2016, pp.17–18.)
The first explorations of these concepts were in his early series Objets de Grève 1999–2000, translated as ‘strike objects’, where the artist engaged with unionism and activism, presenting the scene of production, the factory, as a platform for interruption and interaction, rather than as a machine of unquestioned automation and execution. These enquiries into the making of an object, expressed through a series of disjunctions, continued into Moulène’s later work.
Jean-Luc Moulène, exhibition catalogue, Carré d’art, Nîmes 2009.
Jean-Luc Moulène, Opus + One, exhibition catalogue, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York 2011.
Jean-Luc Moulène, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 2016.
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