Catherine Burer, Head of Collections, pays tribute to the “Petrified Ones”, the ten sculptures by Carl Bucher that have welcomed our visitors for more than 30 years. These sculptures are now leaving the atrium to return to the calm of the museum’s collections and benefit from preventive conservation actions, which have become necessary in order to preserve their integrity.
We are standing here, standing still, and we are facing you. We see nothing, we hear nothing, we cannot speak, our face is covered with a veil and our hands are tied behind our back. Our entire body, from head to toe, is wrapped in a cloth that prevents us from moving. Even breathing is difficult for us. We are in the atrium of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, and this space provides us with protection. We are the symbols of the violation of human rights and our place in the museum is a guarantee for our safety. Visitors are often surprised, challenged and show their compassion when they discover us. They talk to us, put their arm on our shoulder, sneak in between us and have their picture taken with us. In summer the carefree birds land on our heads and soften the sadness of our condition. In winter the snow sometimes builds us a protective hat that brightens our dark appearance.
“The Petrified Ones” is a work by the Swiss artist Carl Bucher (1935-2015), created in 1979 and exhibited in the Museum’s atrium since its opening in 1988. This artist was inhabited by an ideal, humanism. He was revolted by injustice. To be petrified means “to be transformed into a mineral body”, “covered with a layer of stone”, it also means to be terrified. This condition is unbearable for him and he expresses it through these ten life-size sculptures made of polyester covered with quartz sand. With this group of figures the artist intended to create a memorial in honour of all the defenceless victims, a work that shakes up the visitor’s indifference and forces him/her to question himself/herself about the human condition. These sculptures are now leaving the atrium to return to the calm of the museum’s collections and benefit from preventive conservation actions, which have become necessary in order to preserve their integrity.