Les Mots de Paris

The Words of Paris

CR 875. Year 2000

Wv 875 Les Mots De Paris

I looked after a child for two years. I worked day and night and I never saw the colour of any money. It was worse than the street. At least in the street people talk to you, and when they talk to ...

This politics of the visible consist of several layers of decision-making: what to render visible, what to leave invisible and, most importantly, how to make that which is kept invisible in today's utterly homogenised social order (politics, injustice, segregation, racism, sexism, xenophobia) visible. The theorist Edward Said, amongst others, has pointed out that the visible routinely appears as a calm surface. The process of substitution necessary for representation can act to transform the Other into a silent, speechless and still One; into One's absence.

Bojana Pejic 1993

The most profound aspect of Gerz' public projects, is their ability to incite participation and co-authorship to create something for a specific urban site. Through his interventions, Gerz creates strategies that re-engage the notion of citizenship and social responsibility as inseparable from the individual being.

James M. Clark 1995

Unity of place: The square in front of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, located in the centre of the Île de la Cité, not far from the ancient "court of Miracles". Unity of time: Celebration, in the year 2000, of a Judeo-Christian culture, which has shaped the identity of the European continent. Everything is staged to introduce the actor in the play: the poor person, who is at the heart of both the "Book of Job" and the "Beatitudes" - that same person who is justifying this intervention by the German artist Jochen Gerz. He, like the Spaniard Calderon offers if not a piece of “civic theatre” at least a symbolic act worthy of the great movements in population at the end of a millenary marked by the globalization of exchanges. Let's not forget that many European cities were founded, if not on begging, at least on the value of the gift and of exchange between the haves and the have-nots. Therefore today, Jochen Gerz is rediscovering "The Words of Paris", that gesture fundamental to any social commitment whether it be secular or mystical.

Paul Virilio 2000

Unité de lieu : Le parvis de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, au centre de l'île de la Cité, non loin de l'ancienne "cour des Miracles". Unité de temps : Le jubilé de l'an 2000 d'une culture judéo-chrétienne qui a façonné l'identité du continent européen. Tout est en place pour introduire l'acteur du drame : le pauvre, celui qui est au coeur aussi bien du "Livre de Job" que du "Discours des Béatitudes" - celui qui justifie l'intervention de Jochen Gerz, puisqu'à l'exemple de l'espagnol Calderon, notre artiste allemand nous propose sinon une pièce de "théâtre civique", du moins un acte symbolique à la hauteur des grands mouvements de population de cette fin d'un millénaire marqué par la mondialisation des échanges. Souvenons-nous en effet, que nombre de villes d'Europe ont été fondées sinon sur la "mendicité", du moins sur la valeur du don et de l'échange entre les nantis et les démunis. Jochen Gerz retrouve donc aujourd'hui avec "Les Mots de Paris", ce geste fondateur de toute socialité aussi bien laïque que mystique.

Paul Virilio 2000

Money and art, art and charity and then charity and money makes a really grey area; a Bermuda triangle of smudged reasoning and ambiguous role-play. Strictly speaking charity and art should not be mentioned in the same breath. The implication that one is dependent on the other, and vice versa, breaks a precariously constructed taboo. Although it is understood that art plays an important role, the exact nature of that role shifts and slides with political and economic change.

Sacha Craddock 2002

Dans Les Mots de Paris, rien ne se veut plus furtif, les personnes, les paroles, l’argent, tout s’échange et tout se montre, très simplement. Cette œuvre expose, c’est une exposition : sans abri ou avec, toute personne qui entre dans le champ de l’œuvre est exposée — c’est une exposition de la rencontre des gens.

Gerard Wacjman 2002

Jochen Gerz’ s most radical project to date is also one of those that has required the most effort on his part. Weeks if not months and an incredible amount of personal energy are required to create and maintain what Pfütze calls the durable framework for the invisible social stage on which all are welcome.

Volker Rattemeyer and Renate Petzinger 2011

Public authorship / work in public space

Paris, France

Bus shelter with glass and steel, designed by Norman Foster for local public transport, installed temporarily in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral

Glass plate, sand blasted, 239 x 133 cm, metal construction, with a slot for collecting money and a money cassette, 40 x 40 cm, in front of the bus shelter

In the year 2000, Jochen Gerz realized Les Mots de Paris (The Words of Paris) on the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, Europe’s most visited historical monument, from 15 June to the end of August. The work was conceived as an exhibition of 12 homeless people, who invited passers-by to make donations. The artwork allows for the poorest among the Parisian population to return to the city centre, from where they were evicted in the 19th century. The project was commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture (Mission 2000) and produced in collaboration with the aid association Aux Captifs, la Libération.

The homeless, who became a part of the installation, gathered in a temporary glass bus shelter. A glass plate in front of the shelter was fitted with a slot through which passers-by could drop money. A text by one of the participants was engraved on the plate.

Les Mots de Paris employed 12 street people (SDF –sans domicile fixe–) for a period of 6 months. They collected 110.000 Francs for the association Aux Captifs, la Libération.

See the edition of the same title (855).


12 homeless citizens of Paris


Archbishop of Paris, Danielle Mitterand, Paul Virilio


Paris, 1.3. – 31.8.2000

Exhibitions of the documentation

Arles 2002. Grenoble 2004 - 2005.


Mission 2000 en France, Ministère de la Culture, Direction régionale des Affaires culturelles, DRAC Ile-de-France, Association Aux Captifs La Libération, Fondation Cartier, Caisse de Dépôts et de Consignation, Athem Constructions, JC Decaux, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts Paris, Radio France Culture, Agence Heymann Renoult Associées, 8 students of ENSBA, Paris, Maryam Khakipour, Jean-Daniel Magnin, Gilles Dumesnil, Thierry Roisin


I: Arles/Paris 2002, Nürnberg 2011b. Ivry-sur-Seine 2017, pp. 109-115, 198-199

II: Ed. 10, 2000. Ed. 11, 2000. Ed. 12, 2000. Ed. 13, 2000. Ed. 14, 2000. Ed. 15, 2000. Ed. 16, 2000. Ed. 17, 2000. Ed. 18, 2000. Ed. 19, 2000. Ardenne/Wetterwald 2000. Audibert 1, 2000. Audibert 2, 2000. Bastian 2000. Beermann 2000. Berthod 2000. Boisseau 2000. Cassa 2000. Daniel 2000. Dargent 2000. Desmedt 2000. Devinat 2000. Drathen 2000. Fleck 2000. Freysse 2000. Glaubitz 2000. Haase 2000. Heinick 2000. Hondt 2000. Jullien 2000. Junker 2000. Karim 2000. Krusche 2000. Léonardini 2000. Lucas 2000. Mahler 2000. Meskens 2000. Mitouard 2000. Moran 2000. Neil 2000. Nemeczek 2000. Ozawa 2000. Pelé 2000. Pelé/Mitouard 2000. Schmid 2, 2000. Schmidt 2000. Soulez 2000. Suares 2000. Tesson 2000. Thély 2000. Venturini 2000. Villenoisy 2000. Wenz-Dumas 2000. Wright 1, 2000. Wright 2, 2000. Wright 3, 2000. Margat 2001. Prévost 2001. Schaub-Koch 2001. Willemsen 2001. Déotte 2004. Etter 2017. Poitevin 2017. Déotte 2018

III: Chantry 2000. Quillien 2000. Schreiner 2000. Valdez 2000. Vonna 2000. Wright 2000. Mesnard 2015

IV: Hazebrouck, Paris 2000 a. Paris 2000 b. Paris 2000 c. Wagemann, Roudeau, Paris 2000 d. Roudeau, Paris 2000 e. Paris 2000 f. Frese, Chanel Seguin, Paris 2000 g. Paris 2000 h. Paris 2000 i. Nuremberg 2018

V: Manus - Vickery 2016, pp. 14, 17, 40, 50-52, 54,188.

Access general bibliography

My name is Jochen Gerz