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Françoise SCHEIN – Ideoglyphe Européen

Françoise SCHEIN – Ideoglyphe Européen © SABAM Belgium 2018

Belgium, 1988

Rusted metal panel, 200 x 200 x 40 cm

Donated by Suzanne Delevoy in 1996

Françoise SCHEIN (Belgium) presents at the exhibition Art in democracy her artwork Ideoglyphe européen

For Ideoglyphe Européen, Francoise Schein draws inspiration from a map of Europe whose boundaries she makes out of contemporary materials, such as concrete and steel. Each country’s outline is cut out into individual metal blades which interweave and overlap with each other in a labyrinthine pattern. Through the superimposition of lines, an abstract composition is formed where the territories we know are no longer discernible; what remains fixed are the European capital cities positioned on the map of the continent, identified by the luminous electric bulbs dotted across the metal panel. The ensemble is crowned by a row of small clocks which indicate the various time zones.

This artwork is currently on display at the European Parliament as part of the exhibition Art in Democracy (23 October 2023 - 30 June 2024). The exhibition displays the critical and personal visions of the featured artists who, through their artistic production, have taken a clear position in favour of defending democracy. They contribute to reinforcing awareness of the need to stand up for democratic freedoms, pointing towards the duty to remain alert and participatory in processes as decisive as the European elections. In this connection, they remind us that European citizens have a crucial role to play in defending democracy by voting in the upcoming European elections in June 2024.


Entering the Contemporary Art Collection of the European Parliament

The sculpture was acquired by the European Parliament in 1997 from Suzanne Delevoy, ex-director of the Education Department at the Cinquantenaire Museums, Belgium. 

Photographs of the inaguration, held in 1997, of Schein's Ideoglyphe Européen at the European Parliament. Belgian artist Oliver Strebelle’s metal sculpture Confluences (1989) is visible in the first photograph.

At its inauguration, Schein defined the panel-relief as an “abstract work that deals in fact with the theme of European construction. Describing the borders of a continent in motion and in full swing, this work was conceived two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall [1989].” 

Premonitory of the establishment of the European Union on November 1st 1993, when the Maastricht Treaty came into force, Ideoglyphe Européen symbolizes the erasure of boundaries and the coming together of European countries and cultures: “…I made this sculpture after having lived in New York for ten years, a long period of absence and estrangement that undoubtedly allowed me to understand, thanks to that regard from the outside, the cohesion that exists among all the countries of Europe, cohesion created by a single people: the Europeans”. 

Formal references can be found in relation to the urban development plans of large modern cities or maps of infrastructure and communication routes, the lines of which seem to reproduce the itineraries of imagined trains or metros, a system of networks navigating within the united cultural richness of the continent. What is also interesting to note is that, among her correspondence with Delevoy, Schein includes a visual reference to the French philosopher and essayist Denis Diderot’s article ‘Anatomie’ in the general Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (published in France between 1751 and 1772, edited by Diderot in collaboration with French mathematician Jean le Rond d'Alembert). 

“Fragments for a History of the Human Body”, Part Three, Zone, Pg. 452, Fig.6 The Arteries From Diderot, 1765 (L’Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers).

A formal similarity is noted between Schein's cartographic diagram and the connective tissue of the body depicted in the anatomical drawing of Diderot’s article. The fibrous networks evoke the intersections between art, architecture, ethics and citizenships created in Schein’s artwork.    

International network of democracy

Schein defines the Ideoglyphe as the first amongst a long-lasting series of large-format works, reproducing at various scales the circuits on which European cities were constructed. The panel-relief is, furthermore, the conceptual starting point of a network of participatory installations that Schein presented in metro stations, parks and on city walls around the world. These international art projects are permanently integrated with the urban network and in locations with great public circulation. A common thread among these projects is the significant juxtaposition of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights text with images, philosophical and literary texts, as well as cartographies of the local culture and history. 

Together with the above, a pedagogical toolkit for school children was produced.

Pedagogical Kit

The network of public spaces dedicated to human rights, conceived by Schein, introduces a pedagogical kit to enable teachers and their students to gain awareness of the ever growing importance of Human Rights in the world in the twenty-first century and in their respective communities. Each project is singular and created in accordance with the community’s wishes. Her participatory methodology directly involves local residents in the production of her works. 

Artist of the Human Rights

At the time of the fall of the Berlin wall, Schein founded the Association INSCRIRE, an NGO dedicated to the dissemination of citizenships concepts and Human Rights through innovative participative artworks. Conceived as a positive action, INSCRIRE works with local populations in communities throughout the European Union and the world to create artistic works and events which highlight human rights principles and cultural diversity, and spark discussion and reflection about both.

American novelist and essayist, Siri Hustvedt, winner of the 2019 European Charles Veillon Essay Prize, describes Schein as an artist of “human space”. Schein reminds us of the fragility of democracies if they are not firmly committed to the protection of human rights. By defining herself as a “human rights artist” she believes in the constant reaffirmation of the fundamental base of democratic thoughts. 

More information

Françoise SCHEIN: Ideoglyphe Européen, 1988 - On display at the Parlamentarium, Brussels

Françoise SCHEIN – Ideoglyphe Européen

Françoise SCHEIN

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  • 1986

    Enlargement: Spain & Portugal

    Spain and Portugal join in the “Iberian enlargement”.

  • 1987

    Henry Plumb

    Henry Plumb, Baron Plumb served as President of the European Parliament from 1987 to 1989, the only Briton to hold the post.

    Single European Act

    The Single European Act formulates the objective of creating a single market by removing barriers and harmonising standards.

    It introduces the cooperation and assent procedures that for the first time give the EP a real say on legislation, and makes the name “European Parliament” official.

  • 1988

    Sakharov Prize

    The Parliament establishes the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to honour people and groups from all over the world fighting for human rights.

    South African anti-apartheid activist and future president Nelson Mandela and late Soviet dissident Anatoly Marchenko are the first laureates.

  • 1989

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    After weeks of civil unrest, the East German authorities open the crossing of the Berlin Wall in an act that symbolises the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe.

    Enrique Barón Crespo

    Enrique Barón Crespo served as President of the European Parliament from 1989 to 1992.

    3rd European elections

    In the third elections for the European Parliament a total of 518 MEPs from 12 countries are elected. The Socialists get more seats than anyone else (about 35%).

  • 1990

    Reunification of Germany

    East Germany is reunified with the Federal Republic of Germany. Parliament welcomes 18 non-voting observers to represent the new German provinces until elections in 1994.

    2nd round of acquisitions

    Continuation of the 2nd round of acquisitions: Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Greece.

  • 1991

    Wars in former Yugoslavia

    Slovenia and Croatia declare independence from Yugoslavia. Tensions between the nations that have been part of the collapsing federation lead to violent wars for much of the following decade despite peace-making efforts by Western powers.

    2nd round of acquisitions

    Continuation of the 2nd round of acquisitions: Greece and France.

  • 1992

    Egon A. Klepsch

    Egon A. Klepsch served as President of the European Parliament from 1992 to 1994.

    2nd round of acquisitions

    Continuation of the 2nd round of acquisitions: Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

  • 1993

    Maastricht Treaty

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    Continuation of the 2nd round of acquisitions: the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

  • 1994

    Klaus Hänsch

    Klaus Hänsch served as served as President of the European Parliament from 1994 to 1997.

    1994 European elections

    European elections are held for the fourth time. A total of 567 members of the European Parliament from 12 countries are elected with the Socialists forming the largest group (35%) ahead of the centre-right EPP (28%).

  • 1995


    Austria, Finland and Sweden join the EU bringing the number of member states to 15.

  • 1997

    José María Gil-Robles

    José María Gil-Robles served as President of the European Parliament from 1997 to 1999.

    Signature of Amsterdam Treaty

    Signing of the Amsterdam Treaty. The Treaties establishing the European Communities and a few related acts were signed in the presence of the President of the European Parliament, José María Gil-Robles.

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    The signing of the ‘Good Friday’ or ‘Belfast Agreement’ between the Irish and the British governments led to the end of 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland.

  • 1999

    1999 European elections

    Voters from 15 EU countries go to the polls to elect 626 MEPs. The centre-right EPP-ED becomes the largest political group for the first time.

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    The euro was introduced to world financial markets as an accounting currency on 1 January 1999, replacing the former European Currency Unit (ECU).

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    Article 13.
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    Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000/C 364/01)

    Acquisition programme

    3rd round of acquisitions with Austria, Finland and Sweden.

  • 2001

    National parliaments exhibiton in Brussels and Strasbourg. This exhibition was created at the initiative of President Gil Robles and was officially opened on 17 December 2001 by the then President Nicole Fontaine. It consists of works of art donated or loaned by 15 national parliaments.

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    Eastern enlargement

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  • 1996

    This year the artwork started to be part of the Parliament´s artwork collection, click on the blue dots to find out what happened in the European Union around this date