Duvalierville | The Black Dog of Civic Space

In 1961 Haitian dictator, François Duvalier (aka Papa Doc), renamed a small village Cabaret to Duvalierville, and began a construction project to create a Modernist utopian town to parallel Brasilia.

In 1963 whilst the town was in construction a political opponent, Clément Barbot, began plotting to remove Duvalier from office. After many failed attempts to capture Barbot, a myth transpired that he was a shape-shifter who could transform into a black dog. Duvalier subsequently ordered that all black dogs in Haiti be killed.

From 1961 to 1963, as an attempt to destabilise the regime, the CIA bought the rights to rewrite the predictions for Aries (Papa Doc’s star sign) for the French monthly magazine, Horoscope. Their intelligence informed them that Papa Doc was highly superstitious, subscribed to, and avidly believed, the magazine.

Today Duvalierville remains an anomaly and its architectural achievements unacknowledged. In a country still deeply divided between former supporters and victims of Duvalier’s regime, this odd cluster of civic places is in part memorial, utopic dream, ruin and uncomfortable history.

The project will intertwine the histories of progressive architectural tendencies with the complex legends and legacies of dictatorship to interrogate the polarities between Modernism and Mysticism and reveal some inherent contradictions of their supposedly antipathetic relationship.

The project depicts a town haunted by a black dog and failed Modernism, using photography, film, faux De Chiricos, charcoal drawings of tropical Modernism in Lincolnshire, distressed polaroids, Haitian art, reflections on Godard’s Alphaville and archive.