• Precaution


Florence Debeugny

November 5 to January 28, 2012

It was while photographing an abandoned shipyard a few years ago that I first noticed CAUTION printed on yellow plastic tape. Once the omnipresence of CAUTION became evident to me, I documented entire lives of the CAUTION signs adorning Vancouver industrial and commercial sites.

Although photographed in an industrial context which characterizes my art form, the CAUTION’s synthetic material is a marked departure from the previous subjects in metal, cement, and wood.

The CAUTION tape is transformed from brand-new, shiny tape with its sharp black letters, creating a forbidding linear barrier, to a dejected-looking, shapeless form, no longer able to stand at attention and perform its intended role. We see the bright yellow tapes everywhere:

It is a powerful symbol, causing us to detour around a site, despite the absence of human authority. This CAUTION has entered our subconscious, with its connotation of warning and danger, but do we even bother reading the words?

In our daily lives, we are continually warned of places in which we must not be: they are considered dangerous, off-limits; they are where access is denied; they are areas around which we detour. We are warned about behaviour in which we must not engage: we must not enter, spit, or eat/drink/smoke; we must not fold, staple, or write below this line; we must stop, yield, slow, or merge. These photographs intend to lead viewers to examine the CAUTION we have imposed on our lives, the insidious creep of CAUTION in our lives, both in the moment and as we age, and how CAUTION ties our lives into knots.

Since these tapes are largely seen in construction sites’ landscapes, they also CAUTION viewers about the continuous real estate development in Vancouver which increased significantly around 2005 and in a way that could overlook the social and economic long-term. While developers pursue profit, will Vancouver’s changing neighbourhoods drive residents out of their homes? Is it time to look at the changing values of our society progress, heritage preservation, culture and high-priced housing?