Le Mur pour la Paix: Art with a political message?


Paris is a feast for those interested in culture and the arts. After my post last week on Barbara Nicolosi’s chapter in For the Beauty of the Church, I’ve been thinking about Politics and art, and specifically Art which has a political aspect.


Le Mur pour la Paix, (the Wall for Peace) is on Champs de Mars, Paris (France) between the Ecole militaire and the Eiffel Tower. The Wall for Peace is a work conceived by French artist Clara Halter and spatially installed by the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Halter has other peace monuments in St. Petersburg (Russia) and Hiroshima (Japan); the Wall for Peace was dedicated on March 30, 2000.  The work is described in the following way (Wall for Peace):

In 2000, Clara Halter took possession of a single word – PEACE – that she illustrated ad infinitum in every language and alphabet. This led to the creation, together with architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, of three peace monuments: first the Wall for Peace in Paris on the Champ de Mars; then the Peace Tower in Saint Petersburg for the town’s tercentenary celebration in 2003; and today, in 2005, the Gates of Peace to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

The word peace is written on the transparent panels and cylindrical poles in 49 languages. I visited the work on Friday, 6 August – a significant date in light of the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs by America on Japan. During my time reflecting on Halter’s work, I witnessed a further evolution of the word – the participation of those who share the vision of the monument who has installed not only their message for peace but who had become a physical embodiment of that political desire. Elsewhere in the description of the work I came upon the following:

The Wall for Peace is freely inspired by the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. Visitors can put their messages of peace in the chinks of the Wall that are planned for this purpose.

It occurred to me that those who inserted themselves in Clare Halter’s work physically, using it as a space for reflection and education about the ramifications of the use of nuclear weapons. I wonder whether the way that this type of installation is viewed is altered because of its description as a monument?

Finally, I wanted to share with you my own artistic response to Halter’s work. I’ve called it “Peace?” This work is a way of reflecting on the political aspect of Halter’s work, the age of the gentleman in the foreground wearing a large peace symbol (a much more identifiably political symbol than the word “peace” which is Halter’s stimuli), and the clearly identifiable location of the monument.  For me, this photo incorporates many of the ideas that I hoped to explore in this post:



Images: All images taken by the author


  • Anna M. Blanch is a regular contributor to Transpositions. She is Australian by birth, and inclination, Anna grew up surrounded by the Australian bush, a large extended family, bush poetry, and sport. Anna is currently writing her PhD in Theology and Literature. She finds photography, enjoying her environment and its fruits, and being in community bring her joy.

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  1. says: Dayton Castleman

    “I wonder whether the way that this type of installation is viewed is altered because of its description as a monument?”

    I’m convinced that it makes a big difference, Anna. If you’re interested in exploring the question a little further, Rosalind Krauss discusses what she calls “the logic of the monument” in her widely read essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.”

    Here’s a link to a PDF download if interested: http://post.thing.net/node/2336

    1. says: Anna

      Thanks Dayton, I appreciate the suggestion and I’ll take a look. I’ve been taking alot of photos of sculptural pieces during my time so far here in Paris.

      It is interesting because I think that monuments have, in their very nature, political implications. Yet, in the very least, Halter’s piece is a moving piece of installation art in and of itself.

  2. says: Dayton Castleman

    Monuments, yes, political or historical, with the added twist that the historical almost always becomes politicized when memorialized in the form of a monument.

    Perfect that you’re still in Paris! I’d highly recommend going to the Musée Rodin for two reasons:

    1. To see the current show by Wim Delvoye. Very, very interesting work, including two painted, cast bronze “double helix” sculptures composed entirely of Crucifixes. Fascinating.

    2. Mostly, to see Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” and his “Balzac.” The reason for this relates to the essay I mentioned in my previous post. I’m gonna copy a salient bit of the essay below that mentions these two works, and relates directly to these questions and ideas about sculpture and monuments:

    Rosalind Krauss Sculpture in the Expanded Field October, Vol. 8. (Spring, 1979), pp. 33-34

    “Yet I would submit that we know very well what sculpture is. And one of the
    things we know is that it is a historically bounded category and not a universal
    one. As is true of any other convention, sculpture has its own internal logic, its
    own set of rules, which, though they can be applied to a variety of situations, are
    not themselves open to very much change. The logic of sculpture, it would seem,
    is inseparable from the logic of the monument. By virtue of this logic a sculpture
    is a commemorative representation. It sits in a particular place and speaks in a
    symbolical tongue about the meaning or use of that place. The equestrian statue
    of Marcus Aurelius is such a monument, set in the center of the Campidoglio to
    represent by its symbolical presence the relationship between ancient, Imperial
    Rome and the seat of government of modern, Renaissance Rome. Bernini’s statue
    of the Conversion of Constantine, placed at the foot of the Vatican stairway
    connecting the Basilica of St. Peter to the heart of the papacy is another such
    monument, a marker at a particular place for a specific meaning/event. Because
    they thus function in relation to the logic of representation and marking,
    sculptures are normally figurative and vertical, their pedestals an important part
    of the structure since they mediate between actual site and representational sign.
    There is nothing very mysterious about this logic; understood and inhabited, it
    was the source of a tremendous production of sculpture during centuries of
    Western art.

    But the convention is not immutable and there came a time when the logic
    began to fail. Late in the nineteenth century we witnessed the fading of the logic of
    the monument. It happened rather gradually. But two cases come to mind, both
    bearing the marks of their own transitional status. Rodin’s Gates of Hell and his
    statue of Balzac were both conceived as monuments. The first were commissioned
    in 1880 as the doors to a projected museum of decorative arts; the second was
    commissioned in 1891 as a memorial to literary genius to be set up at a specific site
    in Paris. The failure of these two works as monuments is signaled not only by the
    fact that multiple versions can be found in a variety of museums in various
    countries, while no version exists on the original sites-both commissions having
    eventually collapsed. Their failure is also encoded onto the very surfaces of these
    works: the doors having been gouged away and anti-structurally encrusted to the
    point where they bear their inoperative condition on their face; the Balzac
    executed with such a degree of subjectivity that not even Rodin believed (as letters
    by him attest) that the work would ever be accepted.

    With these two sculptural projects, I would say, one crosses the threshold of
    the logic of the monument, entering the space of what could be called its negative
    condition-a kind of sitelessness, or homelessness, an absolute loss of place.
    Which is to say one enters modernism, since it is the modernist period of
    sculptural production that operates in relation to this loss of site, producing the
    monument as abstraction, the monument as pure marker or base, functionally
    placeless and largely self-referential.”


      1. says: Anna

        So i went and saw Wim Devoye. Thanks for the recommendation – it was challenging and thought-provoking. I loved the “gas canisters” and the DNA crucifixes and “Tour”. I certainly want to learn more about Devoye and especially what motivated the DNA piece because I really felt like the catalogue description was a little concerning and didn’t get that there might be a theological dimension at all (whether positive or negative) to a piece where a crucifix is affixed repeatedly on multiple strands of double helix….can you really not mention that and being doing your job? Rodin is my favourite sculptor so it was an incredibly enlivening afternoon!

    1. says: Anna

      this is perfect! because i had already planned some time at the musee rodin today and then the weather was terrible and i had wanted to sit in the garden and read. So, i am now hoping to go tomorrow. Rodin is my favourite sculptor and i’m glad to finally have a chance to see his work in France (after seeing it in Germany) and to visit the musee rodin! Thanks for the quote too. I shall ponder it as i look at the works you suggest and visit the other exhibition!

      1. says: Dayton Castleman

        “I really felt like the catalogue description was a little concerning and didn’t get that there might be a theological dimension at all (whether positive or negative) to a piece where a crucifix is affixed repeatedly on multiple strands of double helix….can you really not mention that and being doing your job?”

        This is a good observation. Of course there is a theological idea of some sort implicit in the subject matter.

        For the curator to make no mention of this, however, is actually predictable — and normative. I worked closely in grad school with art historian James Elkins, and he outlines why this is a basic structural characteristic of the art world in his book On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art. The book is hit and miss when it comes to his case studies, and it is by no means a nuanced academic treatment of the idea, but he is keenly aware of the framing paradigm that most critics and historians work out of in our current art atmosphere. It’s simply not a part of the conversation, so to mention the religious dimension, in most critics’ and historians’ eyes, would seem gratuitous and unnecessary. The same is true of Delvoye’s “Tour.”

        If you have not read it, I recommend the book as required reading for anyone with questions on religion and contemporary art.

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