Skip to product information
1 of 6

Questions (After Brecht)

Questions (After Brecht)

by Karen Knorr

Regular price £35.00
Regular price Sale price £35.00
Sale Sold out
Tax included for domestic orders. Customs duty and import tax may apply to international orders.

Karen Knorr photographed the building site of the disused Parisian Art-Deco Department store, La Samaritaine, in the summers of 2017 and 2018. In this new book, the resulting photographs, transformed with solarisation and infused with playful fantasy and surrealism are accompanied by lines from Brecht’s poem: 'Questions from a Worker Who Reads' (1935).

More about this book

Since the late 1970s, Knorr has combined image and text in her work—collecting texts and fragments, rewritten, edited, broken down, and 'pirated' from literary or news sources. Each question in the book, drawn from Brecht's text, is presented alongside a series of colour-enhanced and manipulated images of 'work theatres' on the La Samaritaine building site. The 'questions' in the text conjure up civilisations and figures in history before challenging the reader with practical queries of their creation concerning labor, class, and power⁠—the realities behind human endeavor and achievement. These are matched by Knorr's photographs of the iconic Parisian building, distorted and feminized with the extreme colors of retail fashion, while simultaneously revealing the cost and extent of labor behind the monument to consumerism.

The iconic La Samaritaine Department store was founded in 1870 by Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie Louise Jaÿ who hired the architect Frantz Jourdain, a pioneer in iron frame architecture and Art Nouveau, to expand their original site. The store was closed in 2005 and has since been in the midst of redevelopment by its new owners LVMH and is being transformed into smaller retail units and luxury flats. Knorr was supported by a commission awarded to selected photographers by La Samaritaine, chosen by curator Christian Caujolle, and was given 'carte blanche' to make work on location during the transformation of the building.

Published November 2020
215 x 300 mm, 88 pp
24 full colour images
ISBN 978-1-910401-48-4

View full details
  • Karen Knorr (USA / UK) was born in Germany in 1954 and grew up in San Juan Puerto Rico in the 1960s. She is Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts since 2010. She lives and works in London, U.K. Her photography explores cultural heritage and its ideological underpinnings. Questions concerning postcolonialism and its relationship to aesthetics have permeated her photographic work since the 1980s. Knorr won the V International Photography Pilar Citoler Prize in 2011. She has been nominated for the Deutsche Börse in 2011 and 2012 and Prix Pictet in 2012 and 2018. Her work is included in collections worldwide including SFMOMA, Tate Museum, and Pompidou Museum.

  • 'These photographs record and document a labor in progress, yet the construction workers have exited and the building is built as if by magic. The actual physical labor is here embedded in a process of reification which creates an effect so well described by Guy Debord in Society of the Spectacle, 1967: 'The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.' The images here transformed by solarized color evoke the retail shops and designer goods valued over and beyond material labor. Brecht's poem reminds us how history enhances the reputations of kings and leaders to the detriment of ordinary people and workers.'

    - Karen Knorr