A World Tour in Words of Love
Do you remember, as a pre-teen or teen, writing and exchanging little love notes that left you breathless with excitement? Sending Valentine cards or buying a Valentine Day gift? Or, later, whispering in a loved one’s ear, or cooing to a baby?
I LOVE YOU.
Perhaps three of the most powerful words in the world, across languages, countries and cultures.
Our world today tends to be marked by violence and dominated by individualism and self-interest. Frontiers and walls are usually made to divide and separate peoples, ostensibly to protect them from each other. So, it’s refreshing to come across this wall in Paris that has a totally different objective.
Le Mur Des Je T’Aime (The Wall of I Love Yous) aims to be a link between peoples, a place of reconciliation, a mirror reflecting an image of Love and Peace, a meeting place for lovers of any age. It is in the small garden in the Square Jehan Rictus, Place des Abbesses in Montmartre, Paris, a few steps from the Abbesses Metro entrance.
The Wall is the brainchild of Fréderic Baron who, in the spirit of Phineas Fogg, decided to have a trip around the world in 80 “I Love Yous”. He did so, but without leaving Paris and its suburbs. He started by asking his younger brother to write this special phrase. Then he turned to a neighbor who was Arab or Portuguese or Russian…and so on. He opened many doors, including those of Embassies, in an effort to get as many languages as possible. He asked each person to write “I Love You” in their own language, each one on a separate page, always the same size of 21 x 29.7 cm. However, the person could choose the color: blue, green, red, black… Under the original he noted the country it came from, the language, its pronunciation, and its transcription into French. Very few people refused to participate. He ended up with 1,000 phrases, in more than 300 languages, collected into three notebooks.
Besides collecting the phrases, Fréderic Baron also began to realize that love is not just a series of words, but that in different cultures there are different customs associated with showing love. For example (in his words), “One day a civil servant from an Embassy of an African country told me: “You Westerners say I love you right away. In our country, a woman serves the best piece of meat on the plate to her man and that becomes a declaration of love” “. Another French writer, Cocteau, states this concept very clearly too, “There is no love, there is only proof of love”.
Armed with his three notebooks and 1,000 phrases, Fréderic Baron convinced the relevant bureaucrats and dignitaries that a wall should be built to celebrate this love. From the thousand written samples, he and calligrapher Claire Kito chose 311. She transribed them onto deep blue glazed lava tiles, with some splashes of pink/red for highlights.
Daniel Boulogne, who specializes in murals, also fell in love with the project and helped to complete it successfully.
The I Love You Wall is composed of 612 tiles of blue enamelled lava of 21×29.7 cm in size, and this 10×4 m panel is set into a larger wall on the side of a building. It has over 311 written “I love yous” in 250 different languages. The shape of the lava tiles resembles the sheets of paper on which Frédéric Baron’s friends and neighbors wrote their phrases. The splashes of color on the tiles are meant to represent the pieces of a broken heart, symbolizing our humanity often torn apart, and which The Wall tries to reunite.
Whether you are on honeymoon, on holiday in Paris, or a local resident, this is a really interesting spot. The wall itself is pretty, but it’s also fun to watch the people visiting the wall and their reaction to it. It seems that most (including us) try to find the phrase in their language, or another language they are familiar with. We have visited a couple of times and noted that the mural above the wall and its quotation is changed sometimes. Before, the lady in the blue evening dress was sitting on the edge of a desk and said “Be reasonable. Try the impossible”. Now, she stands holding a white cape next to a shadowy figure, and says “Loving is disorderly. Therefore, let’s love”.