A brand new installation FLAGS by the French-Chinese artistic duo Benoit + Bo was inaugurated on May 3rd in Brussels’ Royal Galleries of Saint Hubert and will stay on display for one month.
The idea behind the flags project has its roots back in 2019, when the artists worked on preparing a public art installation in Hong Kong to show their support to the people protesting for democracy and share the message “You are not alone, we are with you”. The installation never took place because of the pandemic but troubles for democracy and peace didn’t stop, as we all know what’s happening in Ukraine during this time. Flags for Democracy and Peace is Benoit + Bo’s artistic answer to Volodymyr Zelensky’s solemn appeal to the art world gathered for the opening of the Venice Biennale: « Support our fight with your art! ».
The use of flags as a medium of artistic expression in contemporary art practices has gained important recognition in these past years; see for example Filippo Minelli’s installation Across Borders during Manifesta 18 or Marinella Senatore’s Protest Forms: Memory and Celebration.
Flags are usually used during rallies, marches and protests to visually convey an idea, a message, to express belonging to a cause, a cry for help. As this project was initially conceived for display in Hong Kong, they had to elaborate a way to avoid censorship, that is why they brilliantly used the international maritime language by incorporating into their installation flags which signified «We are in distress – We have received your distress message» and «bon voyage». By mixing a very specific language with universal symbols, like those of love and peace, they are making their own visual syntax of consolation and support, highlighting the urgency of the situation, in Ukraine and elsewhere.
« We are touched by these images of people asking people like us, on this side of Europe where we still have this freedom, not to forget them. We feel the urgency to convey this message of solidarity, of fraternity»: these are the words from the two artists who react to these events in the way that is peculiar to them, their art. They have also chosen a meaningful date to launch the project as May 3rd is in fact the World Press Freedom Day.
Benoit + Bo are very well known for their very colorful installations and their Big Head masks that, perhaps, you have seen in the past wandering around Brussels. Their artist sodality is the result of their combined heritage, knowledge and worldview allowing them to create hybrid, contemporary visions, a mix of Asia and Europe. Their work is a unique mix of popular symbols from far-flung cultures and images of our living environments, universal themes that resonate with our everyday life.