Friday, December 2, 2011

Atomium : 21st Century Atomic Girls

Ted Benoit, a herald of the return of “clear line”, enjoys composing images that have a certain human presence. Creatively empowered by the expanded horizons of the “Atomium 1958-2008” collection, he has set the cult monument of Expo ´58 in a setting that is as futuristic as it is fascinating.

The creator of Ray Banana came to know the Atomium, through photographs, from 1958 and finally came to visit it in 1982. “It was one of the very first things that I saw on my first visit to Brussels. I even bought one or two of the souvenirs of the time, one of which was a spring-loaded thing, a little helicopter that circled the Atomium; the whole contraption had its own special round box covered in plaid.” Seeing the monument as it really was could only modify one’s perception of it. “Actually, it was great to go down through the tube-shaped struts on foot because, from the inside, it was more like something from Jules Verne than Sputnik.”

For the artist behind two magnificent Blake et Mortimer albums, the Atomium is not inextricably linked to Expo ´58. “Yes of course, and not because it has survived whereas the Expo has not, which gives it an entirely different significance. The Expo only existed in the present; the structure is also part of the past, much as is the remnant of the Statue of Liberty that Charlton Heston discovers emerging from the sands at the end of “Planet of the Apes.” That scene was one of the many starting-points of the “21st Century Atomic Girls”screenprint (along with, among others, an “anodyne” photo of two young girls visiting the Expo, the architectural form of one of the pavilions, and the statuary that was an integral part of the Expo ´58 site)". For the author of Vers la ligne claire, paying homage to the Atomium is not a difficult task, “because the dreams and illusions it symbolised are quite touching. Moreover, as the Atomium is a hollow structure, it chimes with the notion of space which itself is a very interesting concept to draw.”

It is often said that a good image cannot content itself with being merely seductive; it must recount a story or suggest its own unmistakeable melody. “That’s not something that I should explain” says Ted Benoit. “Here’s one approach: the title is a paraphrase of an old King Crimson song – I don’t like it that much, but I was very taken by the use of another track from that album in the film Le fils de l’homme by Alfonso Cuaron. What is conveyed in that film (one of the most fascinating films of recent times) strikes me as being very apt in understanding the years to come. The Atomium is the twentieth century; we are now in the twenty-first century. It helped us to understand the new era, that’s all. Why feature little girls? No idea. That’s its unmistakeable melody.”