For Roman, the atomium could be taken as metaphor representing the European Union. The title of his artwork represents this idea, adding to the word “Atom” the suffix “EU” (European Union). The last two letters of the title (Us), also highlight that it is “us”, the people of the European Union what this community is made of – and should serve for.
With his artwork, Roman wants to express that in order to hold together, the European Union needs a certain structure. A secure static of this collective depends on reliable links between the different molecules. Roman used for instance two hands reaching out to each other which could stand for channels of communication and exchange between the different member states, serving as a prerequisite for friendship and peace between its people. Another link of the atomium is attributed to the “€”. However, at the same time this particular link is bent downwards by the “weight” of the common currency showing that it is of ambiguous character: on the one hand the “€” may contribute to the stability and identity of the collective – on the other hand, an unconditional protection of its concept may also endanger its very statics.
The links between the molecules of the atomium also guarantee a certain distance between the different members of the collective. This illustrates that despite their union it is also important not to eliminate but to protect their different identities. In the drawing this topic (and challenge!) is addressed by the coexisting symbols of different religions, exemplified by the cross of Christianity, the (Jewish) Star of David as well as the Hilal (crescent moon) with star as an Islamic emblem, all circling around a wind wheel.
Roman’s artwork also raises questions with respect to the concept of “European Citizenship”: High up on one of the molecules rises a white tower, with masses of people standing at its bottom looking up, a few ones trying to climb to its top, falling … This element could represent an “ivory tower” originating in the Biblical Song of Solomon. It has become a symbol used to designate an environment of intellectual pursuit disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life. Do the people of the European Union, with respect to their everyday needs and concerns, feel genuinely represented by the decision making of the European Union? While many of them do profit from the privilege of free travel of people and goods, what could be done to strengthen their identity when it comes to political decision making? The hierarchical structure of the ivory tower also addresses the issue of social cohesion within the European Union, for instance the growing gap between the rich and the poor. – The white building could also be taken as a reference to the “Tower of Babel”: A story, according to which God was concerned that humans had too much freedom to do as they wished. They had built a tower to reach the sky which angered the Lord of the Heavens who therefore destroyed the tower scattering its inhabitants and bringing into existence multiple languages. Is there an issue within the European Union that at least in some areas, in order to assure the common welfare, we may have to rethink accustomed freedoms, the free play of forces, for instance with respect to multinational cooperations but also individual rights?
The symbols of alternative energies in the drawing stand for a variety of researches presented at the Expo Science International 2015 in Brussels, where Roman led the pilot-workshop of “A pen for Europe”.
The light-bulb at the bottom the drawing, feeds the entire structure of the atomium with energy. It fulfills somewhat the same function as a root for a tree. In Roman’s illustration we can observe a trace leading from this bulb towards the right, showing that the entire drawing has been accomplished by a person pulling a pen. As the person does not bear any individualistic traits it could represent every single individual concerned by the European Union. This element could be taken as a call on every individual to be aware of the responsibility to take an active role within the collective and to contribute within his/her scope to the preservation and future development of the European Union. The collective needs to be continuously fed with new ideas in order to cope with the challenges in our fast moving times. The fact that the person is located outside of the atomium also highlights that we have to think beyond existing borders. The refugee boat sketched at the left border of the illustration exemplifies this challenge which depicts the EU as an “island” within a globalized world. How can the EU on the one hand fulfill its responsibilities towards its own citizens and at the same time meet universal values of humanity?