© Paolo Woods, 2019.
 

STATE

I have lived in les Cayes, in the south of Haiti, between 2010 and 2013. STATE is a project that recounts this islander experience.

 

Haiti is a nation particularly proud of its unique history, language, and culture. However, the State of Haiti often remains absent, and is almost always dysfunctional. STATE explores the following issues: what happens to a society whose government fails to provide its population with basic services? Who replaces the State? To what extent does the shared identity of a population and it’s State overlap?

 

STATE breaks away from the iconography of disaster commonly used to illustrate Haiti. The work explores order rather than chaos, comedy rather than tragedy: the economic elites, the NGO business, the slow emergence of a middle class, the profusion of the FM radio station, the aggressive arrival of American Evangelicals. Year after year, I came to realize that all the substitution powers that had come to save Haiti were actually replacing Haitian authorities. And yet, in a country whose leaders have failed ever since it was founded, the population’s desire for a State remains unaltered, and “becoming the President” is the most common aspiration amongst Haitian children.  

 

I have tried to describe the dynamics that are at work in all the developing countries: international organizations versus local government; civil society versus executive power; private money versus public money.

 

This work has an ambition that is both poetic and journalistic, it draws from the universal scope of a national adventure that concerns us more than what we might think.

 

STATE is an exhibition curated Lydia Dorner and Sam Stourdzé that premiered at the Musée de l’Elysée in 2014. 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.