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What are the links between modern art, contemporary art and folklore, worlds that seemingly oppose each other? To use the word folklore is to invoke a notion that is subject to many controversies and misunderstandings, and which is nevertheless still today at the heart of virulent debates, particularly in Europe. The very definition of folklore has given rise to considerable controversy: the term, created in England in the mid-19th century and literally meaning the knowledge of the people, was quickly banished from intellectual and scientific circles in the 20th century because of ideological recuperations or the amateurism of often self-proclaimed specialists.
Folklore is legendary knowledge transmitted orally and shared by a community in a defined territory. Beyond the objects and know-how it generates, folklore covers a living, intangible heritage: dialects, legends, music and songs, dances, rites, festivals, customs and habits that punctuate the calendar of seasons and beliefs. Seeking roots in an indigenous culture, folklore trends were originally opposed to the notion of exoticism. This dimension of identity has led to the revival of practices considered archaic and threatened with extinction by industrialisation and globalisation. Depending on the case, these processes of safeguarding and revival may be motivated by reactionary reflexes or attempts at cultural resistance, sometimes under the influence of stereotypes.
However, folklore also infiltrates whole sections of modernity and contemporary creation in different ways. Far from the clichés of an outdated and artificial past, the artistic avant-gardes have thus been able to find in it a source of inspiration, a regenerating power or an object of analysis and criticism.

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