The Wash House/ The Roadsides
Françoise Naudet, president of the Association des Sept vallées in Haute Côte d'Or, who has passed away, wants to save the village washhouses from indifference. It is at the origin of the awareness that leads, among other things, to the organization of a tour as part of the European Leader II program. The Local Action Group chaired by Martine Eap-Dupin, General Councillor and Mayor of Précy-sur-Thil with the support of Jacqueline Bosset-Chauvière at the Côte d'Or General Council, supports this project of the Fondation de France. Thirteen villages are concerned by the restorations and nine works are commissioned for the washhouses of eight of them. In addition, there is a photographic commission, which is reflected in a book. The entire operation is supported by Whirlpool (Daniel Payan).
Carrying on from the commissions initiated in the context of the circuit of wash houses in Côte d'or where artistic interventions are breathing new life into a vernacular heritage asset, a final commission was planned to reveal the current role of the wash house as a meeting place for the teenagers in each of the villages, far from adult eyes.
The selection of the people to be featured in the photographs was organized locally. The second phase involved Jones orchestrating their positions in and near the wash houses. This resulted in two series of photographs: Wash Houses and Roadsides. Children, teenagers, but also, very occasionally, an old washerwoman pose, they are on show: alone or in a group, full face, impassive and impenetrable, anonymous. The subordination of all personal feeling elevates the collection of photographs to the status of a collective portrait.
The mediator suggested bringing in Sarah Jones, a photographer, with whom he had already collaborated in 1997 on the occasion of the artist's first solo show in France, at the Consortium in Dijon. That was the year when Jones embarked on a series of photographs presenting teenage girls in different parts of their respective houses in a British village in Middlesex. The artist organized the staging of the Girls and succeeded in giving them an existence between presence and absence which frustrates any attempt to grasp their identity. Abandoning the private space of Victorian houses, in this commission Jones questions the public sphere.