In October 2003, I asked Maurice Benayoun, internationally renowned artist and dear supporter of our work, to develop visual representations of the struggle of breaking cycles of humiliation.
My question to him was: How do you visually express the strenuous effort people have to invest when trying to liberate themselves from oppressive cycles of humiliation?
One of my aims for having an artistic approach was to develop a logo; however, the point was not only that. The aim was to altogether work on artistic expressions of the struggle with cycles of humiliation.
In June 2003, I searched for a graphical idea that could symbolize the movement of breaking out of cycles of humiliation. I thought that the cycle of humiliation could perhaps be represented by an open circle, and the liberation movement as an upward flesh. I found a symbol in Wingdings 3,
I flipped it and coloured it red:
Then worked on it in and arrived at this:
Evelin’s attempt of a graphical expression in June 2003
Maurice started working from my idea. He wrote to me on 30th September, 2003, “The stark red gives the feeling to be vanishing in the screen. The red is too commercial and aggressive. I have tried another colour … I join an interpretation of your concept, but I don’t consider it as totally acceptable as it looks probably too sophisticated, delicate for your project.”
See what Maurice developed, Form 1:
Form 1: Maurice’s first interpretation of Evelin’s idea
I thought that in Form 1, the struggle entailed in breaking cycles of humiliation was not sufficiently expressed. I wrote to Maurice, “I like your logo a lot. It is extremely aesthetic, beautiful and elegant. Yet, I am unsure whether people understand the symbolism? The logo is meant to somehow illustrate how people get out of cycles of humiliation. Perhaps this is not clear? I took the sentence ‘Breaking the cycle of humiliation’ which in the beginning was a little different, namely ‘breaking OUT of the cycle of humiliation’ and then I thought of how I could make this ‘breaking out movement’ visual. Is the new logo making this symbolism clear? What is your view?”
Thus, Maurice developed new forms, see Form 2:
Form 2: Maurice’s second creation
However, still the shape seemed to “kind,” too elegant, as if breaking cycles of humiliation is an easy thing to do. How can one express the struggle?
I wrote to Maurice, “When I worked on the logo, I thought it should express the force that is needed to get out of cycles of humiliation, because cycles of humiliation can be so compelling and keep people caught. Just see Israel and Palestine. Therefore I introduced those flashes. However, your proposal expresses much more dynamism and force, even though you do not use flashes. Yet, perhaps now the decisive direction is unclear? You are right, getting out of cycles of humiliation is a complicated movement, and the logo you made now depicts that. However, is not this too convoluted? Sorry for being so searching! I must say, I liked your first logo extremely well, because it is so simple and elegant. Yet, do people understand its message?”
I also wrote, “Somehow the first interpretation you created was the simplest and very elegant in its simplicity. My worry is whether the breaking out movement and its directionality is strong enough, and whether people would understand and see that! We do not want to be within cycles, we somehow need to get a new movement in addition, a breakout movement. There should perhaps be two movements, first the cycle movement, and secondly the breaking out movement? What is your view? Like a fight between two forces. The cycle wanting to keep people in the cycle, and some other strong force breaking out of the first one.”
Maurice set out to develop Form 3, see here:
Form 3: Maurice’s third interpretation
I responded to Maurice’s third interpretation, Form 3, as follows, “What you did now has so much elegance and simplicity! It is just beautiful! … Would it be possible to have two strokes? Now it is one line that swings around. Could there be two lines, like in my original logo, where I tried to depict the struggle between two forces, first the cycle of humiliation that keeps people caught, and second another force that tries to get out of the cycle? Could there be a struggle between these two lines? So that you feel the fight and effort that is necessary to get out of cycles of humiliation? When you see the anger and suffering on the faces of Israelis and Palestinians: somehow it is not a smooth thing to do, to get out of the cycle of humiliation, but a very hard one...”
Maurice developed his fourth creation, Form 4:
Form 4: Maurice’s fourth creation
I reacted to Maurice’s fourth interpretation, Form 4, thus: “Wow, yes! There is the dark cycle of humiliation and then there is the difficult struggle to get out of it! Yes!
I don’t know, could the dark cycle be depicted more dark, I mean more threatening and ugly? And the way out more shining, in a way? Now the dark cycle still looks quite pleasant and elegant, not really bad. I don’t know, I am just reflecting! The question is of how it is possible to depict hatred and violence in a simple cycle? And the way out as liberation? .... Different colours and textures perhaps?”
So, Maurice created a new form, and wrote to me, “I know this one is not the right one, but I would like to know if you agree on this direction…”
Form 5: Maurice’s fifth creation
I reacted to Maurice’s fifth interpretation, Form 5, as follows: “Dear Maurice! So lovely that you do not give up thinking and playing with the logo! Thank you so much! I like the new interpretation a lot. The large black cycle of humiliation at the bottom indeed gives the impression that it is difficult to get out from it. And the thin red spiral that points outwards visualises how difficult it is to get out. I like the black part a lot. The red one somehow, I feel, does not yet express the intention to get out of cycles of humiliation. It is true that getting out often is a convoluted process, however, perhaps we want to stress that a lot of force and dedication is necessary to get out. The red part in the current version looks a little too playful to me, or too thin, or lacking direction. In the graphics that I made initially, I used a single flesh that points outwards to show that a clear and forceful determination is necessary to get out. And the direction is clear, marked by the top of the flesh. The aim is not to go just anywhere after leaving cycles of humiliation, but to have a clear vision of how a peaceful world has to be shaped. I would want the logo to speak to people and call for determined visions for a better world. Perhaps you can play a little with the red part? This would be wonderful!”
At this point, I began to ask our team to give their opinions. Their opinions were extremely divided. The black form was not appreciated; it was felt to be too aggressive. However, Maurice’s third interpretation was warmly appreciated by a number of people. Maurice thus adapted it. In his third figure, the liberation movement is a clear force, strong, and upward orientated. He changed the colour at the tip to indicate the beginning of a new future for people who succeed in exiting from cycles of humiliation.
Form 6: Maurice’s adaptation of his third interpretation,
resulting in his sixth proposal
From here the development went fast. The internet site for Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies was in the process of being developed. Maurice recognised that his third interpretation, the one we had chosen for the site, did not figure well on the grey background that we initially had selected for the top of the site.
On 15th January, 2004, Maurice and I sat together. He worked on his third proposal and developed it further. He advised us to use a white background for it. Form 7 that you see further down was the result.
Form 7 entails an ambiguity that Maurice cherishes. He explained to me that the previous versions of the logo were open to relatively straight-forward semiotic interpretations, however, that the last version by being more inaccessible is infused with a special energy. Maurice writes later to me, “It has to do with poetry, like when an assembly of words sounds powerful even if it resists crystal clear interpretation.”
Form 7: Maurice’s seventh and final proposal
I was extremely impressed by the way Maurice’s figures where not just two-dimensional objects, but three-dimensional forms. When sitting in front of his computer and watching his figures turning and twisting, I felt enriched by an immense artistic impression of the struggle of breaking out of cycles of humiliation.
Maurice agreed, viewing the turning of the shapes indeed gives a very special impression of the hardship and at the same time the beauty of liberating movements that are at the core.
I asked Maurice, if he could animate the objects for the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies site and give our site-visitors and viewers the opportunity to share the artistic experience that I so cherished, the experience of how it feels to exit from cycles of humiliation. Perhaps, I suggested, viewing these animations could give hope to people who are caught in cycles of humiliation and feel pessimistic and helpless? Art often is hope-inducing. How could one otherwise understand that people forced to subsist in the most inhuman circumstances crave for art?
So, please click on Maurice’s visual expressions of how to break out of cycles of humiliation and I hope that this experience will give you a space for reflection, meditation, and perhaps even be hope-inducing! [Animations coming soon]
Evelin, 19th January 2004, Paris