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31 août 2009

Sochaux - A site of interest (to an outsider)

During my time on Belju Sound Bridge, as part of which Pali Mersault and I were invited to contribute to the Belju sound archive, I spent some time researching the site of Sochaux (Territoire de Belfort) and the adjoining town of Montbéliard. Sochaux is the site of the first Peugeot factory, and throughout the past century a source of employment for a great number the regions’ workers. Knitting into themes of documentary practice which we (Stephane, Gilles and I) began to converse about at the beginning of the week, this site was both the birthplace and subject of the Sochaux Groupe Medvedkine. The group, named after the Russian filmmaker, who in 1936 travelled to through the Soviet Union on a train equipped with 35mm filmmaking, editing and projection equipment, was formed in the 1960’s with the purpose of documenting the lives and working conditions of the Sochaux workers. The group’s experimental, activist filmmaking produced a number of works related to the site, including “AVEC LE SANG DES AUTRES” and “SOCHAUX 11 JUIN 1968” (edited by Chris Marker).

Sochaux is also home to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. The top-division French club was formed in 1928 as a works team for the Peugeot factory, and within the space of a year the factory’s management was sourcing talent from across Europe to establish the Sochaux as the first professional club in France. The Stadt Bonal, which sits practically within the factory grounds, was also a major athletics track, providing a training facility and competitive platform for the Peugeot athletics team. Interestingly, the club has contingent of Swiss supporters, who cross the border from the Canton de Jura to attend matches. The contingent reached its strongest numbers during the 1970’s and 1980’s (coinciding with the fight for independence which eventually saw the francophone Canton de Jura established by vote in 1978). I am interested in these connections, and how we might begin exploring them, particularly through sound. What do the FC Sochaux-Montbéliard followers sing? Are traces of these histories (both French and Swiss), however obscured, to be found in the Stadt Bonal today?

DUNCAN WHITLEY