600,000 sculptures for 600,000 names, that is how in 2010 the story began. With ComingWorldRememberMe we wanted to commemorate all the victims of the First World War here in Belgium by creating a symbol for each and every one of them. In this artistic way we wanted to give them a place in our history, but even more so in or present and future. Artist Koen Vanmechelen soon became our artistic partner in this story.
That the project had to be participatory was soon clear to us. We wanted to connect thousands (and thousands and thousands and…) of people in the creation of a huge art project and reflect with them on the importance of peace. In 2014 we started our journey, which would lead us to some many places and people, along which we encountered so many stories and which now, in 2018, ends in the opening of the land art installation on the no man’s land and The Bluff, on of the most heavily fought over locations during the First World War.
Over a period of four years ten thousands of people all over Flanders and even abroad joined us in one of our workshops to become godfather or godmother of the project and create one or more of the 600,000 clay sculptures. With its name New Generation a sculpture does not only refer to the oeuvre of artist Koen Vanmechelen, it also symbolizes the mission of our participatory artistic project. New Generation shows a figure that is contemplating. But its posture at the same time shows a pronounced backbone. In the workshops the backbone was created manually by each maker. As our backbone enables us to stand up and move forward, this emphasized feature turns New Generation into a symbol of the strength of people and of a hopeful future. It is a sculpture that evoques silence, an image of a person showing frailty, but at the same time also strength.
We did not only connect people during the workshops. For each sculpture we also created a dog tag with on it the name of one of the 600,000 victims of WWI that the In Flanders Fields Museum collected on the Names List. We combined this name with a name of one of the godfathers or godmothers and thus again linked the past and the present with each other.
The 600,000 sculptures were gathered in an impressive land art installation in provincial domain De Palingbeek, together with some large works by Koen Vanmechelen. All 600,000 dog tags are presented in a large glass sculpture by Koen Vanmechelen, as a reference to the mass of war victims, but also to the diversity of nationalities and generations connected in the commemoration.
But our story does not end here. With ComingWorldRememberMe we did not only want to commemorate, we also wanted to help build a future for young people all over the world. Because of the financial contribution made by all of our godfathers and godmothers, we are today able to help children who are physically and/or psychologically suffering due to war situations. This is done through the North-South project of the province of West-Flanders and through The Comogolem Foundation of Koen Vanmechelen. In this way the past, present and future were connected and the land art installation turned into a symbol of peace that transcended both time and geographical borders.
In the fall of 2018 the land art installation was dismantled. The sculptures could be collected by everyone who wanted to adopt one as a permanent reminder of the project and the ferocity of WWI. All 600,000 were given a new home. The large sculpture Coming World by Koen Vanmechelen will be given a new destination on the domain in 2019.
This project was commissioned by the province of West Flanders and it part of the artistic commemoration project GoneWest/Reflections on the Great War.