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Litany (2007) - Valenciennes (France)

Jean-Bernard Métais, "Valenciennes" (2007). Place d'Armes, Valenciennes (France)

Placed precisely at the former location of the city's belfry (an ancient 14th century edifice that collapsed in 1840), Métais' work is a 45-meter high arrow that marks the spot, regenerating an emblematic link to local history. The belfry, a lookout tower characteristic of northern French cities in the Middle Ages, was a meeting point where diverse crowds would gather daily to conduct business, debate rules and laws, and celebrate events… It was above all a neutral, open forum where people could come to share and discuss news.

To valorize the location of the Place des Armes, Métais designed a light yet stark structure: a giant needle that points to the sky. Aside from its formal function as a monumental landmark, the work also acts upon the square like a "rumor". The structure is filled with thousands of whispering voices, with words of local significance, secrets shared by people of the city and its surroundings. Whether assembled verbatim, at random, or savantly composed into a surrealist litany, this sea of words draws us to it like a visual magnet. But if you approach and press your ear against the column, you can hear hundreds of different voices telling of time and elsewhere, speaking the words of here and now.

The words of this "litany" were collected by the artist from more than 2000 residents and visitors of Valenciennes, at various sites including schools, hospitals, prisons and libraries, and from the local daily newspaper "La Voix du Nord". Writer Frédéric Richaud worked with Métais on compiling, editing and organizing the written selections inscribed into the column, which represent about 2000 of the 7000 words collected.

Jean-Bernard METAIS was commissioned to create this work after winning the international competition held in 2006 by the Municipality of Valenciennes (North of France).
Price 800 000€

Inaugurated on December 2007.

photo(c) jb Métais and jy Boureau

valenciennes from jean Bernard Metais on Vimeo.

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