On 30th April Jens Galschiot
makes the following declaration on the mounting of the Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong:
Set up a few weeks before the handover to China, the Pillar of Shame will be a test of
the validity of the new authorities' guarantees for human rights and freedom of expression
in Hong Kong. In this regard many feel rather uneasy. Maybe this year's June 4th
demonstration will be the last one in foreseeable future. Also the fate of the Pillar of
Shame, as a symbol of the demonstration, is uncertain. Perhaps the new authorities will
brush it away or even destroy it.
However, I do not lose any sleep over these prospects. The assault on the sculpture,
would just display the contempt of the authorities for the human rights and the freedom of
expression in Hong Kong. Even the destruction of the sculpture cannot rub out the symbolic
value of the Pillar of Shame, no more than the ruthless oppression has been capable of
choking the spirit of Tiananmen. Inevitably, the site where the first Pillar of Shame was
set up will be saturated with a symbolic value that will be reinforced by the following 19
sculptures placed around the world.
In Denmark and in Europe I am known as an artist with a humanistic approach to the
creation of sculptures. On the World Exhibition Expo '92 in Seville I made a big sculpture
group for the Danish exhibition in the Art Pavilion in cooperation with a group of young
unemployed people. They had received a submarine as a gift from Gorbatjev with the aim of
establishing a peace project.
In '93 I carried out the happening My
Inner Beast. In twenty European cities a sculpture of a pig in human clothes was set
up as a symbol of the increasing racism and intolerance. I fear that this development will
pave the way for a new wave of fascism in Europe.
During UN's social summit in Copenhagen '95 I carried out the UN-happening. 750 figures of 3-9 years
old children (a total of 15 tons) were fettered to benches, lamp posts etc. all over the
City. They symbolized the 35,000 who die every day, because of hunger and lack of
medicine. In addition 13,000,000 certificates, one for each child doomed to die in 1995,
were distributed. My aim was to highlight the hypocrisy of the West towards the problems
of the poor countries. patronizingly we're trying to teach the rest of the world about
ethics, but when it comes to the point we are flot ready to give up our privileges to
promote a better global balance.
My happenings were widely covered by the world's media. Even the official TV of China
transmitted a laudatory on-the-spot report from the happening in Copenhagen. Especially
the media of the poor countries took considerable interest in the event.
Art in Defence of Humanism
In most circles I'm certainly regarded as a lefi-wing artist. My sculptures and my
happenings, e.g. My Inner Beast, have
predominantly been aggressed by the extreme right-wing in Europe. But now I'm facing a new
situation in connection with the mounting of the Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong in support
of the democracy movement and the human rights issue in China. Some declared 'leftists'
still view the Beijing regime as communist and left wing. So, according to a banal logic,
they regard my overt attack of the Chinese regime as a 'right wing' act.
In a sense my art cannot be placed within the traditional framework of right and left.
It is aiming at the promotion of a humane ethics that should be shared by all civilized
people. On the other hand, I do support ideals that are traditionally ranged as left-wing.
I support the endeavour of the farmers' and workers' movement for a just social
distribution of the resources of the society and I support a social structure aiming at
the care for the underprivileged. I oppose the neoliberalistic trends propagating the
savage Jungle Law as the basis of our societies, locally as well as globally. At the same
time I support the basic humanistic ideals of Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood.
These ideals are the very source of propulsion for my artistic activities. Without the
liberty to criticize, equality before the law and brotherhood to care for each other, the
society will slide into a sink of corruption, abuse of power and eruel oppression of the
This is why I'm supporting the memorial of the Beijing massacre. The Pillar of Shame is
a sculptural outcry from an artist with the right to say what he likes, to people who risk
their lives for making use of the same right.