The Earth is Poison

2500 Statements about Pollution


For two days a major art installation covering 15,000 m2 and consisting of 2.500 white crosses had trans­formed one of Denmark’s most beautiful parks into a thought-provoking visualisation of the pollu­tion of the Earth. The initiator of the project is the Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot in coope­ra­tion with 500 gymna­si­um students.

On 10th November 1997 in the morning 500 students from Tornbjerg Gymnasium began setting up the 1 m. high wooden crosses. The crosses were set up in one of the most popular parks of Odense, a place called ‘the Meadow’ in the suburb Fruens Bøge. The previous week the students had been busy writing their ‘feelings about pollution’ on the crosses. The cross park was a sort of time barometer for how a certain group of young people view one of our civilisation’s biggest challenges.


The crosses were planned to stay until 20th November, but they were displayed only two days, until a group of vandals in the dead of the night took up all the crosses and collected them in four heaps. Until now, nobody has claimed the res­pon­si­bi­li­ty of the act, so the motives of the vandalism are unknown. The pulling up of 2500 crosses, hammered into the ground, is undoubtedly a big and hard job. So the perpetrators must have been a rather numerous group.

Crusade to the Town Hall

The vandalism caused a deep feeling of frustration and powerlessness among the students. They saw it as an attempt on their freedom of expression. As an act of protest they arranged a ‘crusade’ through the City. Each student was wearing a cross in a procession from the railway station to the town hall. On the Town Hall Square a meeting was held where three candidates from political parties expressed their views on ecology and pollution. This happened on the eve of the municipal  elections.


The crosses were set up in straight lines with 2.5 m. gaps between them covering approximately 15,000 m2. Put up this way the installation was almost identical to the big memorials for victims of  the second world war in France. In addition to the ‘graveyard-feeling’, the observer could con­tem­plate some beautiful diagonal patterns appearing when the rows were viewed from different angles.

About the symbolism of the installation Jens Galschiot pronounces:

“An art installation is characteristic by its openness for interpretation. The symbolism will therefore func­tion at many different levels, all dependent on who’s looking at it. E.g. the amount of crosses may visualize the extent of pollution, among other things the 3,500 poisoned plots in Denmark or the 100,000 chemical substances that are being marketed without any investigation of their harm­ful effects”.

“But who can survey the impact of 100,000 different substances on the environment?

The cross symbolizes the hope that the nature will survive. Simultaneously the cross symbo­lizes death, the destruction of the earth as a lifegiving element, transformed into an unhealthy area. Many people will recognize the cross-park as a symbol of the great world wars. Here it becomes the symbol of the human chemical and biological warfare against nature, the victims of which will eventually be the human race itself.”

2500 Statements about Pollution

The cross-happening is a part of Tornbjerg gymnasium’s topic year, called The Earth is Poison. Students and teachers will integrate the debate on pollution into the curriculum for the rest of the year. Each of the 500 students has received 5 crosses on which they have written their personal point of view, concerning these 5 topics:

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    1997: The Earth is Poisonous
    Additional Information:
    Categories: 1997: The Earth is Poisonous | Happenings and Art Installations | Activities related to environment and climate
    Themes: Ecology - sustainable development | Schools involved
    Sculptures: The Earth is Poisonous
    Type: Concepts
    Dates: November 1997
    Locations: Odense, Denmark
    Co-operators and Helpers: Christian Lohse, lektor | Knud Erik Langsgård, Sognepræst i Mariager | Margrethe Auken
    Partners: Gunna Larsen | Tornbjerg Gymnasium
    Sponsors: Den Grønne Fond | Kulturfonden