Les Mots de Paris
The Words of Paris
Paris, France 2000
From the 15th of June to the end of August 2000, Gerz’s public artwork LES MOTS DE PARIS (The Words of Paris) was installed in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris' most visited historical monument. Conceived as an exhibition of the homeless that needed the presence of street people, it invited the passers-by to give money to the city’s poorest people. The work was commissioned by "Mission 2000 en France", the millennium celebrations program and produced by the homeless association "Aux Captifs, la Libération".
A glass plate was fitted with a slot for collecting money. This plate was engraved with a text from one of the homeless people. The homeless, who by their presence were part of the art installation, were housed in a Paris bus shelter, designed by Norman Foster. Les Mots de Paris employed 12 street people for a period of 6 months.

The transition of the street people to authors of an artwork, and the change
in their relationship with the viewer was the main challenge for tourists and the Parisian public alike.

The Paris daily “Libération" published quotations by the group of homeless people during the summer of 2000:

In the street you become your father and your mother. Patricia Mont-Louis
A défaut d'avoir une maison, il faut se créer un univers. Fabrice Iris
Mis ideas molestan, mi ser molesta. Lo que soy, no conviene. Frédéric Goaoc
Have you ever seen someone poor? Do you think they've chosen to lead this life? Do you think that's fun for him? Or does he stop a moment to find out what reminds him of where he came from? And how he got where he is? Karim Bogos
Die Armut ist wie eine Hündin, die hinter dir herschleicht. Eines Tages blickst du dich um, und sie ist nicht mehr da. Belahouel Beldjilali

Object: Bus shelter, glass plaque 2.39 x 1.33 m, newspaper ads.
Partners: Athem, JC Decaux, ENSB-A, Paris France Culture Radio, Libération.
Funding: Mission 2000 en France, Ministère de la Culture, Fondation Cartier, Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations.
Supports: Archevêché de Paris, Danielle Mitterrand, Paul Virilio.


- L'Anti-Monument Les Mots de Paris, Actes Sud, Arles 2002 (French)

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© Paolo Codeluppi
© Paolo Codeluppi