Discovering the beauty in fragility

This year we decided to renew our commitment to work alongside B.Liver – an association of young people affected by serious chronic illnesses – to create Cicatrici (Scars), a project created in 2018 with the aim of making people reflect on the chronicity and fragility of life through an unexpected reinterpretation of the icons of classical beauty.

The 2021 edition – titled ‘The art of starting over’ – was, if possible, even more significant than previous editions because it took place at the end of a difficult and moving year for everyone: the year of the pandemic, which imposed isolation on us and disrupted our lives, leaving a collective scar, both physical and psychological. Reflecting on everyone’s experiences during the most difficult moments of the pandemic, the initiative aimed to talk about the scars that have remained not only on our skin, but particularly in our souls, trying to turn them into an engine of positive transformation for the future.

The idea behind the project is as simple as it is powerful. Through the reinterpretation of two of the most important classical icons of Western art – the Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s David – B.Liver have challenged the ideals of beauty in Greek art, which sought and idealised perfection through sculptures of athletic and harmonious bodies.

In Cicatrici the statues have been covered with marks, wounds and other imperfections, with the aim of helping us to overcome of a system of proportions and beauty stereotypes, to instead favour bodies that are ‘lived in’ and scarred, which represents the fragility of life. The work praises vulnerability and invites us not to hide our weaknesses for fear of being judged by others or feeling inadequate.

The 2021 edition of the project was carried out when we Janssen employees were gradually returning to our desks in the office to finally meet again, and in many cases see each other for the first time after long months away. On this occasion, all colleagues actively participated in order to find the strength together to start again and to reflect together on an ‘open’ and ‘human’ meaning of beauty, free from stereotypes, putting themselves out there and sharing their own scars on the sketches of the Venus de Milo and David.

The artwork has now become part of the collective work created during the project and exhibited at the Triennale di Milano. The people at the Bullone are a great and continuous source of inspiration for us. In spite of their difficulties, they have taught us not to be afraid to show ourselves as we are, but rather to share our suffering and to transform weaknesses into strengths.

The statues represent a humanity that makes us all equal – each of us has suffered – but which, at the same time, characterises us as individuals because only personal experiences, even if difficult, determine our uniqueness.

That’s the value of Cicatrici: emphasising rather than covering wounds, through the rejection of a false sense of perfection.

As Janssen, along with the B.Liver, we want to encourage an appreciation for the beauty of impermanence and imperfection: just as the muscles in our bodies adapt to become stronger when they heal after being damaged by physical exertion, so too do people become stronger when challenged or when circumstances change, and improve when exposed to a crisis. We must be aware that we are all participating in creating the beauty of our time. That is why it is our responsibility to build a future in which people can be empowered and proud to be themselves, without imperfections being a cause of shame.

The pandemic has left a deep wound in all of us.

Cicatrici demonstrated the need to address wounds, beginning with exposing them. Without shame, but with a spirit of enhancement to promote the positive transformation of the self and society, under the banner of the values of diversity, equity and inclusion that have always been part of Janssen’s DNA.

Because the well-being of each individual – which is at the heart of Janssen’s philosophy – starts with acceptance of what we are and what makes us unique, remembering that it is precisely the beauty and at the same time the fragility of life that makes life itself so precious.

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