The false but understandable dichotomy of the built environment and the “natural world”—false insofar as human structures are no less “natural” than beehives and beaver dams—is dramatized even more starkly in the last picture in the series, France #002, the finest of the exhibition. It shows a Leader Price discount store in Saint-Flour. The squat rectangles of the building plummet into a drab gray parking lot populated by nine cars and a single towering lamppost. The blue-and-red diamond logo of the storefront offers the eye a respite from an image of banality itself. Except that we see that the store, shot from a hillside several hundred yards away, is surrounded, nearly engulfed, by lush green countryside, wilderness and foliage, fields and yellow flowers and pale dirt. An outcropping of flora-streaked cliff face to the right of the frame shoots out over the houses that sit slightly below the Leader Price, dominating the scene, the rocks’ right angles echoing and overpowering those of the buildings below. And now we notice that the discount store’s roof seems itself to be fuzzed grayish-green with encroaching plant life, a harbinger of the weed-choked cityscapes familiar from dystopian fiction.
“In a few millennia, this Leader Price will still be there,” Houellebecq says in an interview, while admitting he touched up the photo by saturating the blue and red of the diamond and the green of the surrounding vegetation. Capitalism might well destroy us, as it has thousands of other species. But like the rocks above Saint-Flour, our shopping malls will remain, in midst of other woe than ours.