On the beach of Leffrinckoucke, near Dunkirk, France, dozens of blockhouses follow one another, still there despite the sand, the wind and the tides. Built in 1944, these concrete blocks are the last witnesses to one of the darkest periods in human history and remind us that humans are capable of the worst.
Among these blockhouses, stands a monument of light, covered with thousands of shards of mirrors and entitled Reflect (Reflechir). This monument is the work of an artist from the Hauts-de-France region in the north of France, with the pseudonym of Anonyme. In 2014, he clandestinely seized one of the blockhouses to create a monument that is both aesthetic and rich in symbols. This shows us that men are capable of the best.
Bring the past back to light to shed light on our presentArtist Anonyme
This project, which is part of the LandArt tradition, aims to “bring the past back to light to shed light on our present” the artist confides to us. “For 15 years, many refugees have arrived in our region with the objective of going to England”. The artist has sadly observed a rise of a feeling of animosity towards refugees, in the region and in Europe in general. He then feels the urgency to “make this past visible” via an artwork in the public space in order to reach the widest possible audience.
Reflect (Reflechir) the mirror blockhouse by French artist Anonyme. Photo credit: Arnaud Helary (left) & Laurent Dubus (right)
“The city of Dunkirk was 80% destroyed during the war. Our grandparents found themselves in the same situation as today’s refugees. Moreover, with global warming and the phenomena of marine submersion, many towns in the Hauts de France are threatened and we may be the refugees of tomorrow ” remarks Anonyme. The artist who is involved in several humanitarian associations would like this project “to bring awareness. Due to our past, we have a duty of welcome and kindness towards all these people who are going through what our grandparents and parents went through ”.
A pharaonic project symbol of peace
Confronting the elements, Anonyme patiently covered the 3800 ft2 of concrete of this vestige with thousands of mirrors, transforming this symbol of hatred and war into a symbol of peace and tolerance. A year and a half were needed to complete this work.
“Reflect“, the mirror blockhouse, has been a hit with audiences in the region, providing inspiration to both amateur and professional photographers. The Instagram account shares these pictures playing with light, sky and earth. “It becomes a collaborative artwork” the artist likes to notice. Everyone takes ownership of the work and becomes both spectator and actor.
The media are also there with numerous reports in the press both written and television. The work is beautiful and full of meaning, it catches the eye literally and figuratively.
At the beginning of the summer of 2020, the artist, who provided alone the maintenance of the work that he had fully self-financed for 6 years, announced the end of the project. Indeed, the mirror blockhouse, located on the most exposed part of the coast requires the replacement each year of a third of the mosaic of mirrors. Following this announcement, the president of the Hauts-de-France region, Xavier Bertrand, publicly affirmed his support for the project and gave hope that it could continue.
Beyond the symbolic significance of the work, public art has an important positive impact on a city or region. It only takes a look towards Miami to have a demonstration and it is therefore encouraging to know that the Hauts de France region is interested in this work.
A committed artist whose causes are at the heart of the current times
While waiting to learn more about the future of Reflect, the artist Anonyme is fully occupied with a new project: the revegetation of a gas station abandoned for 10 years and renamed the Station of Senses (Station des sens).
The Station of Senses – Photos courtesy of the artist Anonyme
This project is the first in a series entitled “Vegetal attacks!”, The objective being to transform symbolic places of our civilization into archaeological remains invaded by nature.
The Station of Senses started in October 2019, is a participatory project, calling on many volunteers who transform the place. “Nature had started to take back its rights; we helped it by using a permaculture technique called “lasagna”: we stacked cardboard, paper, dead leaves, grass clippings, compost and topsoil on the asphalt. We have created a free vegetable garden (isolated from the ground) in partnership with the association Incredible Edible (“Incroyables Comestibles”) ”explains the artist. This citizen movement promotes participatory urban agriculture by inviting everyone to plant wherever possible and to share the harvest.
“With the lockdown, this year, we missed our spring a bit” regrets the artist. A health crisis that reminded us how much humans are connected, interdependent and which has pushed many city dwellers to return to nature. “But we have redoubled our efforts and thanks to constant maintenance over the past two months, the station is starting to be totally overgrown.”
Whether it is Reflect or the Station of Senses, these works deal with questions at the heart of the news and invite us to more tolerance, respect and sharing. Hopefully these public works can last and reach an even wider audience because their message is universal.
To find out more: follow the instagram account @anonyme_project
I recommend this beautifully written article (in French) by Emmanuelle Potiquet on her platform Troisieme Galerie who made me discover this artist.