‘in Memory of Us — The Beauty of Gesture’ is above all a humanist project that is by nature universal, inclusive, collective, egalitarian, and accessible to all. It was designed to celebrate the relationship between sport, culture, education, innovation, and respect for the environment. A source of both hope and meaning, centered at once on forged friendships between peoples and the richness of sharing, it is perfectly aligned with the core principles of the Olympic Charter; it invites contemplation, and encourages interaction, the exchange of ideas and knowledge and ultimately allows for our differences to act as a source of enrichment.
10 human-scale sculptures representing the continents
‘In Memory of Us’ is an installation work that is presented in the form of ten human-scale sculptures, five men and five women, including five of whom are disabled. The number five is symbolic echo of the five interlaced rings of the Olympic symbol representing the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world. The body of work in all its dimensions was designed to encapsulate the powerful and universal link that can unite sport, culture, and education. It was conceived to evoke the core values defended by the original Olympic Games and those defining the Olympics as we know them today: friendship, peace, universality, solidarity, diversity, excellence, joy and fulfillment, mutual understanding, fair play and the will to achieve both individual and collective goals.
A concrete response to the objectives set by the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games
The project was created to focus on the same objectives as those set by the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games chaired by Tony Estanguet: to be a work that is at once broad in scope and centered on the values of sharing, solidarity, equality between men and women, respect for the environment, promoting ongoing innovation, notably in the digital fields, fostering new perspectives vis-à-vis physical disability, and ensuring universal access to educational and cultural content while strengthening the attractiveness and influence of the City of Paris, the Seine Saint-Denis and all the cities and regions involved.
A powerful echo of Nelson Mandela's words on the power of sport
Both in form and concept, this project offers a resounding echo of Nelson Mandela’s words on the powerful reach of sport. We could well imagine his iconic speech including art as an equally powerful factor in creating social connection: "Sport [and art have] the power to change the world. [They have] the power to inspire. [They have] the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport [and art] can create hope…".
A direct reference to the Monument of the Eponymous Heroes symbolizing the birth of democracy.
In a broader perspective, the 10-sculpture installation project that endeavors to embody both the values and ideals of Olympism and the spirit of sport references a major work erected around 330 BC. in the Ancient Agora of Athens: "The Monument of the Eponymous Heroes". This symbol of the birth of democracy, a marble podium bearing bronze statues of the heroes representing the tribes of Athens, featured 10 true to scale human figures in action poses, each expressing a different gesture to collectively represent the unity and diversity of the Greek people. This ensemble of statues was conceived to serve as an example and to incite Greek citizens to action and the exchange of ideas. The sculptures embodied in their aesthetics at once the movement expressed by each figure, the values of balance, harmony, measure, strength, courage, and most critically, freedom of thought and action in defense of democracy.
Making a difference by reaching out to all nationalities
‘In Memory of Us’ strives to make a tangible difference: to allow athletes and tens of thousands of visitors of all nationalities to share a unique experience that arouses curiosity, encourages the exchange of thoughts and emotions, highlights cutting-edge innovation. It opens the field to a range of artistic collaborations by demonstrating how the core values of Olympism can be transformative in our own daily lives together by fostering a spirit of sharing and solidarity as we strive to push our personal and collective boundaries for the better. The work is based on two phenomena currently taking place in every country of the world, which on a daily basis concern hundreds of million of people in every shape and form, including tens of thousands of athletes across all disciplines and those living with disabilities: the practice of taking selfies and the art of tattooing. More than 700 million selfies are posted every day on social networks around the world, and nearly one in every two people has at least one tattoo, which are widely considered to be not only a form of art but an important form of communication.
A poignant reflection of the ancient Olympic Games
For the first time in history, the practice of taking selfies has led to the emergence of a universal non-verbal language that is a series of the same gestures that are commonly used by people around the globe and understood by all. It has given birth to a new aesthetic on a planetary scale that glorifies posture, the body, heroic expressiveness and resolve to take action, reviving the tradition of linking representations of the Gods of Olympus and award-winning personalities (particularly Olympic gold medalists) as was the practice in ancient Greek times. Some 2,500 years later, the messages conveyed and sought after are identical: the quest for excellence, beauty, self-identification, admiration, heroism, as well as offering and worship. Reactions of others in the form of ‘likes’ and comments on social networks effectively replace but hold the same intentions as offerings citizens of ancient Greece would have left at the feet of sculptures in hopes benefiting themselves from the proximity to greatness. Instruments of power, knowledge, music, seduction and caring for others, the modern cell phone has replaced Zeus’ lightning bolts, Hermes’ caduceus, Apollo’s lyre, Artemis’ bow and Athena’s wings of victory, both in purpose and symbolism associated with each of these archetypal items.
Respect for nature and protection of the environment is an integral part of the project.
To complete this sculpture installation work and establish a link with the art of tattooing, which itself has so much in common with the practice of taking selfies (a search for the aesthetic, a relation to the intimate and personal history of the individual, the passage from one state to another, a sense of belonging to a group or to a community, the wish to convey a non-verbal message to others, a relation to physical gesture and the hand, etc…), an augmented reality application for smartphones and tablets was developed to allow users to visualize the various figures adorned with a series of naturalistic graphical motifs, created exclusively in collaboration with women artists, to raise awareness of the essential link between mankind and nature and the need to protect biodiversity and our environment.
Digital innovations and interactions linking education and entertainment
An important part of the project’s pedagogical dimension involves bringing to light a historical truth that the general public today is largely unaware of, notably that Greek and Roman statuary and architecture were never white, as they are commonly shown in almost every museums around the world, but were polychrome, and either painted or gilded. To further enrich the experience of discovery, a virtual reality application immerses visitors in the city of Athens as Greek citizens would have experienced it themselves 2,500 years ago; a simple and playful tool that guarantees wonderment and excitement for learning across all generations.
Recognizing oneself in the work, expression of multiple talents and reflection of the Olympic culture.
‘In Memory of Us’ is an eminently inclusive work through which everyone can find their place. This is due in particular to the phenomenon of mimicry that is immediately triggered in all nationalities by the sight and contact with the sculptures and which refers to one of the major functions of Greek statuary placed in public spaces which was to prompt citizens to imitate the figures before them, both in the actions represented and in the values expressed. Any person, regardless of age, gender, geographical origin, religion, social status, can identify, project and recognize themselves in these contemporary sculptures, witnesses of the beauty in gesture, symbols of equality and diversity, bearers of peace and friendship. They also allow for a positive change in how we view physical disability.
The work provides universal access to the Olympic culture by sharing its history, aesthetics, values and virtues, and by allowing a multitude of artistic disciplines, using local talents, to interact with each other: sculpture, photography, drawing, dance, music, motion design, video, theater, architecture...
A project that is reflective of its time, respectful of the past, anchored in the present and resolutely turned towards the future.
This free cultural support, designed to be easily accessible to the greatest number of people, addresses many civic issues and describes how the Olympic movement has adapted and is constantly adapting to new horizons and challenges facing the world: from opportunities available to women, the recognition of the importance of sustainable development, the need to deconstruct prejudices about disability, the commitment to fight illiteracy, the fight against all forms of discrimination, and the place, strength and role of art in our contemporary societies.
Celebrate humans in their pluralism and their differences and demonstrate that through sport, culture, education, innovation, and respect for the environment that everything can change!
In short, ‘In Memory of Us – The Beauty of Gesture’ is a unifying, mobilizing and participatory project that celebrates the human being in his and her pluralism and differences. Its benefits are multiple on an individual, collective, physical, emotional, educational, behavioral, and social level, allowing us to overcome all types of barriers and increase the feeling of connection with others and with our environment. The idea is to solicit and work in collaboration with several local associations and institutions in Paris and in Seine Saint-Denis in particular, to allow young talents, whether able-bodied or disabled (dancers, illustrators, designers, video artists, theater groups, composers etc...) to propose original creations signed with their name so that they may that interact, engage in dialogue and be part of the work. It is also an opportunity to advocate for equal opportunity by allowing these different audiences exposure to new professions, to learn techniques in the field of digital or image through training sessions that I would be happy to animate alongside other professionals in order to awaken, include and stimulate new career paths.
As Bertolt Brecht said so well
"There is a new game to be invented, to bring happiness to the world".