220 x 140 x 35 cm
220 x 140 x 35 cm
Citius - Altius - Fortius
The sculptures, installations and drawings of Jean Bedez point up the highly symbolic linking of sport as spectacle to the political and religious dimensions of today’s society. Working in a classical sculptural vein, he offers here three lion’s heads in the form of giant doorknockers. Made of resin overlaid with gold leaf, each lion has a ring in its mouth. The lion is, of course, a symbol of strength, courage and majesty that has made frequent appearances in sculpture and statuary since antiquity. Also associated with kings and prophets since Biblical times, it has often been used in public buildings to embody the radiance and impressiveness of power.
The work’s title is borrowed from the official Olympic Games motto, coined in 1891 by the Dominican prior Henri Didon, friend of Baron Pierre de Coubertin and an innovative educator who centred his teaching practice on sport. Literally meaning « Faster, Higher, Stronger », the motto stresses the quest for physical accomplishment, urging self-transcendence and the pursuit of perfection. For both Didon and Coubertin, however, it was also underpinned by an ideal of peace, fraternity and tolerance to be realised through the coming together of athletes from all over the world; whence the presence in this work of the interlocking Olympic rings representing the five continents. Here the Olympic reference simultaneously consolidates and provides insight into a piece whose creation coincided with the Beijing Games in 2008. The three lions personifying the motto’s triple imperative can thus be related to those standing guard outside the Forbidden City, their role being to drive away evil spirits and the ill-intentioned. We all recall the tense atmosphere surrounding the Games in the Chinese People’s Republic, with boycott threats coming from countries denouncing human rights violations, China’s aggressive policy towards Tibet, its activities in Darfur and pollution on some of the Olympic sites. This gives the sculpture a metaphorical dimension as the gateway to the new capitalist China, where the cult of the people and collective success has morphed into a cult of brazen individual achievement and success as typified by the rival United States. Potent political, economic and cultural issues now attach to the Olympics, where nations vie with each other on another terrain, that of sport. These doorknockers, then, are being used by the Western powers to call China to account for its alleged shortcomings in the human rights domain, while at the same time summoning the nation to come and do business. The lions can be seen, too, as battering rams, breaking down the doors of the mighty popular republic and symbolising the forcible entry of the market economy.
Equally marked by a concern with formal perfection, this work is also intended to reflect the sporting exemplar: the artist as athlete aspires to creative perfection as a means of criticising ideological and political exploitation of symbols as powerful as the Olympic ideal of peace and understanding between peoples. Bedez plays on the ambivalence of his two iconic figures – the lion and the ring – as a way of addressing us about great-nation power plays and their crystallisation in sport.