This book relates the history of the commission granted to the artist Alain Bernardini by fourteen agents of the Paul-Brousse university hospital. The terms of reference of this commission were clear: to create a monument for the hospital entrance, visible from both the inside and the outside, with the dual function of reflecting the hospital's endeavour to be open to society, as well as conveying a more sensitive image – to passers-by, visitors and patients. In view of the reactions of two unions, and with the agreement of the artist, the group of patrons and management, it was decided that the project would be amended and would take the form of a book.
Based on his view of the hospital as a "particular" enterprise, the artist, Alain Bernardini, took a hundred photographs of members of the staff in the various wards. Organized in three series – portraits, environments, and images of the four colours codifying the different areas of the institution –, the set forms a narrative, a fiction. Each portrait is based on a negotiation with the person photographed, concerning his or her pose. The artist asked auxiliary nurses, nurses, technicians, secretaries, deliverers and gardeners, in their workplace, to truly embody the main role in the story that they were telling, and to participate in the emergence of an audacious, constructed and enacted representation of the worker. The Monument d'images consists of two separate parts. First, a selection of photographs taken by the artist at the Paul-Brousse hospital in 2008, and second, a compilation of texts of various kinds and origins, retracing the reactions triggered by the commission: a petition, writings on the project and the work, open letters, press articles, poems, a tale, and fiction. Alain Bernardini ordered these texts from members of the hospital staff and three authors: Jean-Pierre Burdin, former cultural policy adviser of the CGT [trade union], who investigated the relationship between art and the world of work; Jean-Charles Massera, a writer, who proposed a fictional, humoristic approach to the history of the commission; and Jean-Marc Huitorel, an art critic, who situated the Monument d'images within the artist's work.
The artist Alain Bernardini is interested in the work environment and its representation. The point of view that he developed for this commission consisted in seeing the hospital as a place of work, specialized in dispensing care. The artist investigated the employees' relationship with their environment and how they influence each other, and conveyed this reflection through several media such as photography, video, painting, drawings and text. During his study period, Alain Bernardini's was in residence at the Paul-Brousse university hospital.