Olivier Culmann
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  • A chicken’s life – 1996-1998
    Caught in a situation from which neither can escape, chicken and conscript have the same inexorable fate.
    The similarities between these two documentaries, made two years apart from one another, were so striking that they had to be compared.
    One of the two, documenting the poultry industry in 1998, mirrors the other documentary which is about the last conscripts of 1996, who were called a few months before the end of the compulsory military service in France.
    The dialogue created between these two series of photographs was not planned in advance.
    I have a constant urge to minutely explore worlds which bore and fascinate me but which I also find scary and revolting, so I was forcibly drawn towards these two worlds of extreme conditioning. Suspended by their feet, emptied of their blood and then plucked at a breathtaking speed, these fowls – destined to be wrapped in cellophane and end up in the fresh food departments of our supermarkets – are a disturbing epitome of the crazed and thoughtless acceleration of our consumable and consumerist world.
    The unchangeable stages in a conscript’s life, based around the invariable rituals of his daily orders, strangely resemble the chicken’s narrowed existence of non-choice in which there can be no free will. These restrictions preside both over the destiny of an industrial chicken and the experience of a soldier.
    At the military base and on the production line, the process of conditioning becomes absurd to the point of one having to laugh at the derisory spectacle of these chickens’ lives.
    Filigranes Monograph prize, 2000
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