The maids are preparing a room for a guest who is coming to spend the weekend. Untitled #5. From Silent Lives, 2009–2011
Edition 1/7 + 2 AP
Sheet size A2 (420 x 594mm)
Lucia Pigmentprint on FibaPrint Ultra Smooth Gloss Archival Paper, 285 g/sqm
Print number: GB1200X-5
Silent Lives was inspired by Juliette, a Madagascan matriarch who worked for my grandfather for 50 years. When he died, she left with neither a farewell nor a retirement package. The family were stricken by her abrupt departure but were never able to trace her whereabouts. Juliette’s actions indicated to us that she needed neither us nor our money. My grandfather had assumed that he was in charge but perhaps the true power lay with Juliette after all. The power relationship between employer and employed is shifting and subtle. What Juliette had demonstrated still tends to hold true today.
Employers know very little about their servants’ lives, their families, their dreams and hopes. Their servants have no authority, but carry a large burden of responsibility. These people who are banished to small rooms at the bottom of the garden at nightfall are, by day, stewards of power. Nannies nurture their employers’ children and help shape their perception of the world. Night watchmen guard the property at night with only a club or perhaps a bow and arrows. They see much, say little, and never betray the trust that has been bestowed on them. When their charges grow up and become employers themselves, will they remember who looked after them? Silent Lives is my way of honoring these men and women by shining a light on how they live as they uphold their side of the contract. I cannot say it is an attempt to restore their dignity, because it is very clear that they never lost it. – Guillaume Bonn