This symposium is the first stage of the research project How Soon Is Now? Histories and Figures of Youth. It questions “youth” as a conceptual, aesthetic, andpolitical figure born with modernity in the visual arts, popular culture, and the humanities. At the same time, this project proposes to examine the implications ofthe problematic category of "youth" in contemporary art and thought. By exploring the processes in which youth is constituted through its forms of representation, thisproject intends to render intelligible the aesthetic and political dimensions of youth, and to grasp it as a historical allegory allowing for a reconsideration of thecontemporary in the light of its most lively site.

What image(s) does the notion of youth carry with it? What idea does it have of itself? How can we talk about it beyond ingrained ideas and the fantasies that society projects on it (at least in Western culture), making it simultaneously a force, a market, an age, a culture, a piece of a history which which we only began writing inthe twentieth-century, and which today has reached its critical stage? In recent history, the notion of youth has so often been conflated with “bringing down the house” that we now expect everything from it: to reinvent us, to shake us up, to carry us, to succeed in what others have failed at (establishing the most open communities possible), to build bridges for the future, to be radical, to be uncompromising where anyone outside of youth has already given up, to be desirable where others are overwhelmed.

But with what means? If not those that young people make themselves, for themselves, with elements that they alone will have chosen? With their culture, their places, their clandestinity. Because that which is not yet over happens in the shadows of the world. Youth is a secret. “How Soon Is Now?”, The Smiths once asked. When is it, now?

Projet de recherche (2022)

Welcome, Stéphanie Moisdon

Introduction, Philippe Azoury and Vincent Normand

Ludivine Bantigny : Representing Youth / Experiencing It. A Historical Perspective

Agnès Gayraud : "Will You Love Me When I'm Sixty Four?" Pop Music as an Art of Ages

Ludivine Bantigny and Agnès Gayraud in conversation

Lunch break

The Rave Continuum. Researching Plot and Politics of "Europe's Last Youth Culture"
Persis Bekkering


About Bébé Colère
Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel


Ludivine Bantigny

Representing Youth / Experiencing It. A Historical Perspective

The representations, discourses and other obsessions about "youth" often say less about young people than about the authorities that forge them: politicians, institutions, media, artists... In themselves, these representations are interesting: they express anxieties, doubts and hopes, but also strong opinions, sometimes peremptory visions that often translate fantasies. In such a landscape, cinema in particular is an excellent medium when it projects its lights and cameras on youth. It is these ways of telling the story of youth that this presentation addresses. But it does not stop there. For beyond the representations, what remains the most fascinating are the modalities of socialization that young people know and come across, in all their diversity. In this sense, this presentation will also question the relationship to time, historicity as an awareness of taking part in history and situating oneself in it, age identities, and generational belonging.

Agnès Gayraud

"Will You Love Me When I'm Sixty Four?" Pop Music as an Art of Ages 

Folklore has long been interpreted as the "childhood of art", a form of expression invented by popular classes and considered as the living vestige of humanity’s childhood. From its outset, recorded folk music has been appreciated as a form of "primaverism", the conviction that things in their prime are the most valuable, that authenticity stems not only from the origin but from the beginning. 

A recording fixes individual voices and their organic idiosyncrasies at the moment of their expression, and in so doing, it captures the aura of a primitive past. The fixed expressivity of recorded voices represents countless individual incarnations, and this has made pop music the most powerful musical art form to bear witness to all ages of life, not just childhood or youth. Rather than associating pop music with a particular stage of life, with a phase of inexperience (innocence, naivety, regression or youth), it is tempting to question its rooting in the expression of ages in general.

Contemporary musicians such as Angèle, Oklou, and Arca accurately represent post-adolescence, sexual maturity, and the pleasure of finally flirting with the pornographic category of "adult" content, all while reflecting on youthism, contemporary ageism, and sexist domination. Here, individual embodiment takes as its theme its own situated expression. In contrast to these younger artists, Bob Dylan sang later in his life,"It's not dark yet but it's getting there". This priority given to the expression of individuality at various ages (one’s body, one’s sexuality, one’s race, which make sense only by situating a generation in terms of someone's legal and physiological age), is what binds deeply popular recorded music to what the history of western musical art has at some point thought to have overcome during the 20th century: the romantic confidence in situated individualities, in particular incarnations, in singularities. In the contemporary artistic field, reflexive forms of art only recognize their historical age. Individual age is not a key to understanding the content of their gesture, one deciphers it rather in light of their epoch. Popular music, to the contrary, presents itself as a musical art powerfully carried by the expressiveness of the ages, even if it means sometimes to render eternal a youth whose legal status as such proceeds from the whole liberal system.

Persis Bekkering

The Rave Continuum. Researching Plot and Politics of "Europe's Last Youth Culture"

As much as any experience fails to be adequately grasped by language, the experience of the rave presents the storyteller with a specific, intriguing challenge. As the narrator in Rainald Goetz' experimental novel Rave (1998) remembers: "It was the wordless time, when we were always looking around with our big eyes so strangely in every possible situation, shaking our heads, and could almost never say anything but: speechless – pf –"

The rave, at its best, is a wordless suspension of time; a limit experience; an event blurring linear understandings of time and space, proposing its own logic. As music theorist Simon Reynolds once quoted the (unbelievably perfect) shouts of an MC at a hardcore party: 'We've lost the plot'. What does this mean if one tries to translate the rave into narrative? How to grasp its thwarted, warped, halted temporality? For her last novel Exces, part of which is published in English as the novella Last Utopia, writer Persis Bekkering has attempted to find an answer to these problems. 

The questions of narrative structure and temporality of the rave may look like purely formal ones, but they are closely tied to bigger, historical or even philosophical questions: how to understand the rave and the emergence of rave culture, at the end of the 1980s, in its time? Why did it emerge at that peculiar historical moment, when the end of history and telos of progress was famously declared, utopian ideologies lost their claim, and capitalism entered a new phase? And what did the rave propose to it: resistance or acceleration? Maybe both? In her presentation, Bekkering takes us through a meandering journey along her ongoing artistic and literary research, sharing images, texts, fragments and shouts in the dark, from her archive. Throughout the various parts and fragments, one can hear the constant drone of the search for the aesthetic expression of the permanent presence of crisis in our time.

Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel

About Bébé Colère

Screening of the film followed by a round table discussion.

For more than ten years now, Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel have been weaving together a body of work that has no equivalent within French cinema. Whether through their first feature film Jessica forever (2018), or through their numerous short and medium-length films, (Martin pleure, 2017; Notre héritage, 2015; or Tant qu'il nous restera des fusils à pompe, 2014, which won the Golden Bear at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival), they follow the destiny of their own generation (they are both less than 35 years old). This is a generation which feeds on heroism through the virtual, a generation that met porn before love and online violence before friendship, a generation for which the video game is its lost paradise.

Yet they draw from it, and this is their strength, a form of romanticism, which never wants to believe in the end of emotions. Their lyricism is unprecedented because it comes after: after the images, after the clichés, after the disillusionment, after they have been told that “no, really, sorry, there is nothing left to expect from anything, everything has been played out”. In the spring of 2020, when the earth had just come to a halt due to the Covid pandemic, Jonathan and Caroline retreated to Corsica where they dreamed of an unseen body that escaped from a video game: Bébé Colère [Baby Anger]. Bébé Colère denies his parents, Bébé Colère has no friends, Bébé Colère vomits the world and feeds on emptiness. In 13 minutes, Bébé Colère is an irreducible work that paints a portrait of a 2.0 youth caught in disarray. A post-human body, which has denied its origins and only sees the future through the features of an avatar.

Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel will discuss the possibility of romanticism today, and the conditions that allow them to invent new characters, generating their own disordered chronology. They will also talk about their aesthetic relationship with video games: the baby in Bébé Colère is a pre-programmed asset purchased online to be animated and then integrated into the film. In close collaboration with Lucien Krampf, they are also currently developing a project conceived inside a game engine. In their work, they consider the game as a new narrative track while also using pre-existing elements.

The conversation will take place in French.

Ludivine Bantigny is a historian, teacher and researcher attached to the Laboratory of History of the University of Rouen-Normandy. She works on the history of commitments, social movements, insurrections and revolutions, but has also devoted numerous books and articles to the history of youth and generations. She has published Le Plus Bel Âge ? Jeunes et jeunesse en France de l’aube des « Trente Glorieuses » à la guerre d’Algérie (Fayard, 2007), La France à l’heure du monde (Seuil, 2017, rééd. 2019), 1968. De grands soirs en petits matins (Seuil, 2018, rééd. 2020), Révolution (Anamosa, 2019), « La plus belle avenue du monde ». Une histoire sociale et politique des Champs-Élysées (La Découverte, 2020) and La Commune au présent. Une correspondance par-delà le temps (La Découverte, 2021).

Persis Bekkering is a metamorphic writer, engaging with a wide spectrum of artistic disciplines. She is interested in the emotional landscape of the contemporary, searching for new narrative forms that reflect a present permanently marked by crisis. Her recent publications include (fictocritical) essays, art criticism and fiction. Her debut novel Een heldenleven (The Life of a Hero), published in 2018, was shortlisted for the ANV Debut Prize. Her second novel Exces, shortlisted for the BNG Bank Prize for Literature, was published in 2021, part of which has been translated in English as Last Utopia by the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. Recent and forthcoming publications include texts for M HKA Antwerp, Girls Like Us, Extra Extra and NRC Handelsblad. With choreographer Ula Sickle she worked as dramaturg on the concert performances The Sadness (2020) and Echoic Choir (2021). She also teaches at the Creative Writing department of ArtEZ University of the Arts in Arnhem.

Agnès Gayraud was born in Tarbes in 1979. Under the name La Féline, she is the author and composer of several pop records released since 2014 by Kwaidan Records, including the albums Adieu l'enfance, Triomphe, and Vie Future, as well as other contributions under the moniker GRIVE. She published a book of aesthetic philosophy, Dialectic of Pop (Urbanomic, 2019), dealing with the expressive changes induced by the advent of recorded popular music since the beginning of the twentieth century. She is currently professor of art and theory at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.

Jonathan Vinel, born in Toulouse in 1988, studied editing at the Fémis. Caroline Poggi, born in 1990 in Ajaccio, studied at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris-IV) and at the University of Corsica (CREATACC degree). They have directed several films, separately (Chiens for Caroline, Notre amour est assez puissant for Jonathan) and together. Their short film Tant qu'il nous reste des fusils à pompe received the Golden Bear at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. They then directed Notre héritage, also selected at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015, followed by their first feature film Jessica Forever in 2018. They are currently working on their second feature film entitled Eat the Night.

Concept and organization: Philippe Azoury, Vincent Normand, Shirin Yousefi

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How Soon Is Now? Histories and Figures of Youth is a research project supported by ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne and HES-SO/University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland.