Inventor of the Wall and collector of "I Love You".
Since 1992 Frederic
has collected more than 1,000 I Love Yous written in more than 300
languages and different dialects. It is in the streets of Paris that he
made his tour of the world. In 1998 he wrote "The Book
of I Love Yous
and distributed 50,000 free copies in France. A musician, he also
recorded the magic phrase as spoken by most of the men, women and
children he met. Author and composer, Frédéric Baron made
his first record when he was 17 years of age, "The Key of the Sun".
Since then he has written 40 love
In Montmartre he made his first appearances as a pianist at "Chez
Ginette", "Au Tir Bouchon", and "Au Piano Bar", and it was there as
well that he presented a song tour. Therefore, it is in Montmartre
where he chose to create The Wall .
An "I Love You" which says everything.
took a long time to say Je t'aime. It was easier to say "ti amo" " te
quiero". "Je t'aime", but no, I was blocked. Today, I still need the
intermediary of writing or music, which is why I compose love songs:
"Je t'aime to Destruction", "Dare to Say Je t'aime", "Never Two Without
You". I dream of a real "I love you" which says all, which transgresses
the wall of misunderstandings, which abolishes the border of
It is in this vein that I began to collect I Love
Yous in the original version. It was not just a collector's hobby. It
was rather a way to go around the world without leaving Paris and its
suburbs. The refusals were a rarity. The sheet of paper on which my
interlocutor wrote his phrase was always the same size, 21 x 29.7 cm.
However, it was he who chose the colour: blue, green, red,
black… Under the original I noted the country from which it
came, the language, its pronunciation and its transcription into French.
I now have a thousand pages: my world tour is contained in three files.
go among others and ask them to write "I love you" is to create a
passport which erases borders and opens hearts. I took note of it, but
I understood at the same time, that it was not only a question of words
and that love is subject to other laws. One day a civil servant from an
Embassy of an African country told me: "you Westerners say I love you
right away. In our country, a woman serves the best piece of meat on
the plate to her man and that becomes a declaration of love". Cocteau
also said, "there is no love, there is only proof of love".
does not play with love. It is a serious affair. Even without knowing
what I wanted to do with them, the "I love yous" took me a long way.
They forced me to treat them like a real job. Please understand, I
certainly do not pretend to have accomplished a scientific work: on the
contrary, if this venture has succeeded it is because it has conserved
its romantic side, its original purity. Men and women of all races and
all walks of life have left their trace on paper like a gift fallen
from heaven. A free gesture.
Little by little as I advanced in
my study, I surrounded myself with garanties. I did research at the
Musée de l'Homme, at UNESCO, and in collaboration with the
language laboratory of CNRS. I submitted my texts to linguists at
INALCO for proofreading.
Thus, I measured the complexity of each
language. For the Maghreb alone, I collected six Arabic versions of I
love you. Whether it is written in Latin or in Cyrillic, "Volim te" is
written in the same way.
I would not be disappointed if a
spelling error slipped through the controls. What is important to me is
the grammar of the heart.
training in various approaches to Western Art, Claire Kito studied
Chinese calligraphy and Far Eastern painting at the Cernuschi Museum
with the Korean master, Ung-no Lee.
Since 1990 she has run the
Chinese calligraphy workshop at the ADAC (Association for the
Development of Cultural Activities) of the city of Paris.
exhibited her work in several group calligraphy shows. Her pictorial
art is nurtured jointly by her experience of all manner of brush stroke
and by her study of signs.
With Hand on Heart
Frédéric Baron in Spring 1997 when he showed me his
collection of specimens of the words "I love you" handwritten in
various languages and dialects from around the World. The mere idea of
bringing together all these words of love in a gigantic fresco struck
me as a wonderful project for a calligrapher!
All the "I love
you's" collected affectionately by Frédéric Baron
immediately fascinated me, standing as they do for both letters and for
This project lined up well with my own approach
as an artist: in painting I trace human figures as if they were
writing, paying most attention to the space which unites them,
separates them, brings them closer, or superposes them one on another.
The relationship with the "I love you's" was obvious: the specimens of
handwritten words were themselves graphic elements which I would need
to connect in one single calligraphy.
In Chinese calligraphy the
hand is guided by the heart, when you copy a calligraphy, you feel the
spirit of the person who wrote it (in Chinese, the character "Xin"
means both heart and spirit). Without ranking the samples esthetically,
I considered each a complete work of its own: as I re-worked them, I
preserved their rhythms and graphic characteristics, by respecting the
strokes themselves whether fine or trembling, expansive or constricted.
all these short breaths had to be federated, setting forth their many
personalities as naturally as possible, while safeguarding their
This was marvelous research into what amounts to listening to gestures.
sat on the floor of my studio surrounded by all of these words of love.
My hand took up an "I love you", a "Yiku zolélé", a "Te
quiero", my choice directed by the softness or strength of the
handwriting. The "I love you's" formed something of a giant puzzle. My
only concern was that they hook together harmoniously to become the
stones of one wall cemented by love.
Our hope that "Le mur des je t'aime" be a garden surrounded by greenery
has come to be.
I trust that it will be a place for dreaming and for all people to open
up to one another.
Interview by Mr. François Jaquemont
Translated from French by King's Fountain.