Questions was supported by a commission awarded to selected photographers by La Samaritaine in Paris, France. Photographers were chosen by Christian Caujolle, an independant French curator and writer based between Cambodia and France. I was given an open brief "carte blance" to make work on location on the building site of La Samaritaine. This new work photographed during the summer 2017 and 2018. It returns to a process embodied in my documentary practice infused with playful fantasy and surrealism. Documentary is understood as an expanded field that addresses notions of evidence and reality by using a strategy of poetics in combination of image and text. The photographs are taken with a large format digital back and transformed into solarised "work theatres" on a building site. La Samaritaine building site is now under construction and is presently being transformed into smaller retail shops and luxury flats by the Japanese Agency Saana. The building is financed by the LVMH group that now owns La Samaritaine and Pucci as one of its luxury houses. The photographs are accompanied by lines from Brecht's poem: Questions from a Worker Who Reads (1935) each stanza accompanying an image of the builders' work sites. Each stanza becomes a caption of the image. These photographs record and document a labour in progress, yet the construction workers have exited and the building is built as is by magic. The actual physical labour is here embedded in a process of reification which creates an effect so well described by Guy Debord (Society of the Spectacle, 1967): "The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images'. The images here distorted in colour evoke the retail shops and designer good valued over and beyond material labour.
Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will read the names of kings. Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished, Who raised it up so many times?
In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?
Great Rome is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them?
Over whom did the Caesars triumph?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants?
Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it, The drowning still cried out for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India. Was he alone?
Caesar defeated the Gauls. Did he not even have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Years War. Who else won it?
Every page a victory. Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man. Who paid the bill ?
So many reports. So many questions.