You're gonna need a bigger boat, enseigne du Plaza, Christian Robert-Tissot, photo Raphaelle Mueller



A series of art installations by Christian Robert-Tissot on the historical sign of the cinema

While waiting for the reopening of the Plaza, Christian Robert-Tissot has been asked to display a series of texts, four times a year, on the historical sign of the cinema. Words in black or red could be titles of films, or not. For the artist, who is well-known for his site-specific artworks, it is important that the sentences or statements can be understood in different ways by the public.

Enseigne lumineuse du Plaza: Bonbons, caramels, esquimaux, chocolats, Entracte

Bonbons, caramels, esquimaux, chocolats
Entracte – 
March 2023

Bonbons, caramels, esquimaux, chocolats, that’s what the ushers were offering at the intermission at the cinema. This mantra was echoed at the same period, in 1953, by the singer, music-hall star and actress Annie Cordy. In Parole Parole in 1973, the French-Egyptian singer Dalida, in a duet with Alain Delon, refuses these sweets, meaning to the actor – who was also her lover – that she has no faith in him.

With these words – and more directly with the word “ENTRACTE” (intermission) – Christian Robert-Tissot announces a pause, that of the renovation of the building, but also that of the short period of time when the sign is moved for repair work, before it returns to its initial place on the edge of the marquee.

Text based on the article by Claude-Hubert Tatot for the quarterly journal La Couleur des Jours.


“We are in a silent movie”

For this new winter term, an anonymous and brief statement informs us that we are in a silent movie. This mirrored statement is active both on the side of the movie theater and in real life. We can’t fully understand the story that is playing out in front of us.

Nous sommes dans un film muet, Christian Robert-Tissot, photo de Raphaëlle Mueller
Deuxième étoile à droite, Peter Pan, Enseigne de Christian Robert-Tissot

Deuxième étoile à droite – September 2022

In search of his lost shadow, Peter Pan, the immortal child, enters the home of the Darling children who, in their quiet turn-of-the-century lives, dream of adventure and freedom. Accompanied by his inseparable Tinkerbell, Peter Pan teaches the Darling children how to fly. Soon, they are all off to Neverland.

In chapter 4 of the book, The Flight, Peter shows Wendy the way to Neverland: Second star to the right and straight on till morning. Neverland is located in outer space. There, Captain Hook and his crew of ugly pirates, the lost children, Tic Tac the crocodile, as well as Indians, fairies and mermaids are waiting for them.

Peter Pan is a character created by author J. M. Barrie, who appeared in the play Peter and Wendy (1904), better known as Peter Pan, which was published as a novel in 1911. The character and the book were later adapted for the stage and the screen.

la dolce vita – June 2022

Film directed by Federico Fellini (1960), with Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Yvonne Furneaux, Alain Cuny, Annibale Ninchi, Walter Santesso, Magali Noël, Adriano Celentano…

Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) is a columnist for a tabloid newspaper. He makes the rounds of the places where he is likely to get scoops.  Sylvia, a big Hollywood star, arrives in Rome… Anita Ekberg plays this actress, adored by Marcello’s character who follows her everywhere. Both end up sharing a sensual bath in the Trevi Fountain.

If the scene is now a cult and tourists try every day to imitate the actress, the film caused a scandal when it was released. The aristocratic and religious circles were shocked by her exuberance and sensuality. The Vatican even threatened the Italian spectators with excommunication. However, a few months later, the film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Marcello, where are you? asks Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) before entering the Trevi Fountain.

Casting – March 2022

The backlit sign returns to its original function: to announce the title of the film being shown in the Plaza and the names of the main actors and actresses. As if by oversight or lack of space, the title of the film does not show on the sign. The presence of the names suggests that these actors are the headliners of the same film, probably ordered according to their degree of notoriety. One is reminded that there can be a film without actors, but actors or actresses, in general, do not exist without a film. But what about this case?

Some people will be able to identify the title of the film instantly. Others will have to search for the answer. For each and every one of us, at the moment the title appears, it is not yet a film, but only a title. That’s what’s interesting: the title exists by itself before being a movie.  APOCALYPSE NOW.

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was produced in 1979, based on Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel Heart of Darkness. In 2000, the National Film Registry decided to preserve it in the U.S. Library of Congress for its “cultural, historical and aesthetic importance”.


Here we enter the world of blockbusters. In 1975, Steven Spielberg adapted the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley for the cinema. Very quickly, the film established itself as the first blockbuster in the history of American cinema.

The sentence on the illuminated sign was uttered by the technical crew on the set of Jaws while they were having stability problems on the water, working on a boat that was much too small for the swell off the East Coast of the United States…

The line spread quickly around the set and was adopted by all the technicians who used it whenever they encountered a problem. Spielberg then absolutely wanted to place it in one of the lines of the film. Thus, while on board the patrol boat, Martin Brody (Roy Schneider) who has just seen the enormous shark for the first time, shouts: “You’re going to need a bigger boat”.

The line has become famous all around the world and has been translated or adapted in many ways. Here, the artist is proposing a statement to the public. Faced with the present times, the sentence evokes a situation that the whole world must face…


This sentence, displayed at the end of the summer, is a fragment of the opening scene of Le Mépris, where Camille (Brigitte Bardot), lying on her stomach, lists her body parts and asks Paul:

Do you see my feet in the mirror? Yes. Do you find them pretty? Yes, very. And my ankles, do you like them? Yes. Do you like my knees too? Yes, I like your knees very much. And my thighs? Also. Can you see my butt in the mirror? Yes. Do you think my butt is nice? Yes, very much so. Shall I sit on my knees? No, you don’t have to. And my breasts, do you like them? Yes, very much.

Le Mépris, 1963, is a film by Jean-Luc Godard adapted from Alberto Moravia’s novel written in 1954.

The story of the film can be told in a few lines. Paul, Michel Piccoli, is married to Camille, Brigitte Bardot. He is the screenwriter of a film adapted from The Odyssey, directed by Fritz Lang. The producer of this film, Jeremiah Prokosch, Jack Palance, is courting Camille and Paul lets it happen. Camille begins to despise Paul for his cowardice… Le Mépris tells the story of the end of a couple.


For this third appearance, Christian Robert-Tissot presents the rhythmic excerpt of a song written in 1927 by H. Johnson, B. Moll, R. King, interpreted by the Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians that became mythical in a scene of the movie Down by Law, by Jim Jarmusch, in 1986.

Roberto (Roberto Benigni), Jack (John Lurie) and Zack (Tom Waits) share a prison cell and play cards. Roberto speaks English very poorly and pulls out his little vocabulary notebook about the word “scream”. What follows is a hilarious scene where he recites “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream”  that becomes a refrain. He shouts at the top of his lungs, leading his companions in. The three mates stand up and sing the song while doing a little circle dance in their cell. Soon the inmates of the whole prison are heard joining in, in a sound of chaos close to riot.

Le PLAZA Genève

ATMOSPHERE – March 2021

Atmosphere, definitions:

  1. Layer of gas that surrounds the earth.
  2. The part of the earth’s atmosphere closest to the ground where clouds, rain and snow appear. Study of the atmosphere. ➙ meteorology.
  3. Air that one breathes in a place. A suffocating atmosphere.
  4. Environment in which one lives, influence it exerts. ➙ atmosphere, climate. A working atmosphere. Familiar: To change atmosphere.
  5. Science: Unit of measurement of gas pressure.

In 1938, Marcel Carné adapted Eugène Dabit’s novel to the screen Hôtel du Nord. Eighty-three years later, Arletty’s famous line still rings true : « Atmosphère, atmosphère,… est-ce que j’ai une gueule d’atmosphère ?!» (Atmosphere, atmosphere,… do I have an atmosphere face?!)

Greta Thunberg, born January 3, 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden, is an environmental activist committed to the fight against global warming. She protested in the summer of 2018 in front of the Swedish Parliament, at the age of 15, against the lack of action towards climate change.

On the Plaza sign, the word ATMOSPHERE repeated 6 times neutralizes the illuminated sign. The space made available is saturated. Like a historical, social and climatic echo addressed to the largest audience.


Christian Robert-Tissot presents the statement VOUS ME REMERCIEREZ PLUS TARD (you shall thank me later), on the two lines of the sign, once in French and once in English, referring to the subtitled VO of the films.

The phrase VOUS ME REMERCIEREZ PLUS TARD had been the subject of a silkscreen print by the artist a few years ago, distributed confidentially in the context of contemporary art circles. The statement was waiting for a new situation to resurface in the eyes of a much larger and anonymous public. Here, it is The Plaza, its architect, its defenders and supporters who speak: it is the historical voice of the theater.

Le PLAZA Genève

The miraculously preserved sign of the Plaza Cinema immediately appeared to me as the first “space” to inhabit, because of the historical resonance it creates and its emblematic character. To install a site-specific artwork on it is almost a tribute to the object itself.
One could indeed imagine that, if this sign had not been preserved, the memory of the Plaza cinema could have faded more easily in the public eye. In any case, its preservation has acted, I believe, as a sign of a possible survival or rebirth of the movie theatre. Through the work of Christian Robert-Tissot, it is therefore a question of acknowledging this symbolic function, which we know, when it is strong, to be fully operational
explains Jean-Pierre Greff, President of the Fondation Plaza.