Paolo Woods: State

20.09.2013 – 05.01.2014

In November 2010, Paolo Woods settled in Les Cayes, a city in the south of Haiti. STATE is an exhibition that recounts this islander experience. With an ambition that is both poetic and journalistic, it draws from the universal scope of a national adventure that concerns us more than we think.

The Canadian-Dutch photographer has worked over the long-term on issues ranging from local industry to NGOs’ prevarications, the abounding radio world and the conquest of American Protestantism. His investigations unveiled the fragility of the Nation State, a fragility that turned out to be the most obvious underlying theme for a future exhibition.

Haiti is a contradiction. A nation particularly proud of its unique history, language, and singular culture. But a State which often remains absent, and almost always dysfunctional. STATE explores the following fundamental issues: what happens to a society whose government is inefficient, and whose State fails to provide its population with basic services? How can a people move forward in spite of this repeated failure?

STATE breaks away from the iconography of disaster commonly used to illustrate Haiti. The exhibition displays images that tell about order rather than chaos, comedy rather than tragedy: rich Haitians, the slow emergence of a middle class, the development of alternative bodies. With Swiss journalist and writer Arnaud Robert, Paolo Woods describes dynamics that are at work in all the developing countries: international organizations against local government; civil society against executive power; private money against public money.

The exhibition, featuring a set of some sixty original images realized between 2010 and 2013, is produced by the Musée de l’Elysée. Two books by Paolo Woods and Arnaud Robert accompany the exhibition, STATE / ÉTAT published by Photosynthèses and Pèpè published by Riverboom and the Musée de l’Elysée.