PILLAR OF SHAME
- A Happening of Remembrance
The Theatre of Reality
Description of the Project:
Concept: a Sculptural Outcry
Debut in Hong Kong
Sites of the Next Sculptures
History of the Happening
Plans for the Future
Description of the Sculpture
The Technical Process
My name is Jens Galschiot. I'm a Danish artist born 1954. My new art happening the Pillar of Shame has just been launched, as the sculpture was displayed 4th June '97 in Hong Kong (see p.4). Over the next ten years the happening will spread over the Planet. The aim of this presentation is to apply for support for the happening. Support can be given in various ways:
donations or in kind or by purchasing model sculptures.
If you are prepared to give your support or know somebody who is, I should be pleased
to hear from you. If you need more documentation I readily send you some. More information
and a lot of photos can be found at the Internet address http://www.aidoh.dk
As a sculptor I have set up big art happenings before, such as my inner beast in '93 and my UN-happening during the UN's social summit in Copenhagen in '95. My aim was to highlight the ethical basis of our civilization.
I create my happenings independently of political, religious and economical interests. To me it is equally alarming whether it is Serbs who persecute Muslims or vice versa. The criterion for evaluating an atrocity is the same regardless of who is the perpetrator or who is the vic tim.
In my work with sculptures and happenings, I try to ask why and how our ethical and moral self understanding is connected to global and local reality. I leave it to the spectators to work out the answers for themselves. I create surreal pictures of reality, i.e. symbolically posed questions. It is my aim to show the grotesque and absurd in what we normally call reality.
A happening has a language of its own, consisting of simple non-verbal symbols, and is able to focus on complicated problems on different levels at the same time. The happening, as an art-form, is often provocative, but it is also an accepted one, especially in the cultural context of the west. It may, however, go beyond the limits of what is allowed and what is not.
In contrast to many other artists, my messages are not breaking or violating boundaries as understood in the traditional artistic sense; in fact they are in a sense 'conserving', aiming at the defence of the ethical foundations of our civilization. They question what the consequences will be for our culture will be when we suffer a decline in moral character and ethical behaviour. For example when racism increases, or when we allow a global imbalance, with thirteen million children dying every year.
My happenings function as gigantic theatrical productions. They take place not in the traditional theatre but in the open in the real world. My sculptures set the scene. Suddenly they turn up in the street and the play starts. Politicians, the media and the public are brought in as actors. Those involved adopt their new role with ease as the symbolism of the happenings is open for interpretation. They cannot avoid taking part no matter what they do. They contribute to the dynamics of the happening by constantly creating new symbols.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT:Background
Our world - and conscience - is becoming more and more influenced by the availability of information. The media have shown an amazing ability to bring directly into our living-rooms the news of a catastrophe, attack or event anywhere in the world, only hours after it has occurred.
The sheer volume of information makes it difficult for us to handle all these horrors
and events. Human rights violations happen all the time, and the media have to find and
choose the news in order to get a 'good story'. We blank out and forget in order to endure
the world. At the same time we are getting used to an absurd way of thinking which implies
that, when, for example, the atrocities in Rwanda are no longer broadcast, the stench of
corpses and death no longer exists either. The event has ceased to exist when the
spotlight has gone.
Over the next ten years, a Pillar of Shame will be mounted once or twice a year to remind us of a shameful event which must never reoccur. The Pillar is a dark obelisk-like sculpture, eight metres tall, consisting of people twisted in surreal grotesque positions. It is simultaneously beautiful and frightening. Each sculpture will be provided with a base to place it in the concrete local context.
It will thus be a reminder of the event that has occurred at that specific place, a reminder of history. The Pillar is to remind us:
that there are
considerable human consequen ces and costs when we choose to use violence to achieve our
The purpose is not necessarily to make one feel ashamed or to turn oneself into a judge, but to mark a dreadful event that has had painful consequences for the civilian population. It is up to the individual observer and the new 'owners' of the Pillar to decide who is to be blamed for the atrocity.
The Pillars of Shame, set up as 'markers' on the Earth, create a special sort of
continuity. In virtue of their special magnetism and location, the sculptures will be
connected to each other and this will endow each with a unique ability to make us
The Pillar of Shame is a sort of Art-happenings' Amnesty, but instead of writing letters, we set up sculptures at the scenes of crime against humanity. The symbolism of each sculpture will depend on the circumstances in which it is mounted, and what it is intended to mark. The symbolism works at different levels:
The torn and twisted
bodies of the sculpture symbolize the degradation, devaluation and lack of respect for the
In situations where the authorities have committed the atrocity, the sculpture (representing the victims) will be very difficult for them to move. Whatever their reaction might be, it will have a symbolic value. If they hide the Pillar away in a warehouse, they will be insulting the victims by sentencing them to oblivion. They will thus be adding to the power of a symbol that is meant to highlight the struggle of the bereaved for remembrance. If they blow it up, they are displaying brutality when they probably are more interested in keeping a low profile. They risk appearing extremely aggressive if they repeat their atrocities, this time against the symbol of the event. On the other hand, if they accept the sculpture, they accept a monument in memory of events that they probably would prefer to forget.
The Pillar of Shame represents a good deal of money: the only symbol which commands global respect. Monuments of this calibre are normally set up in memory of 'heroic' deeds. However, here the sculpture is mounted to serve as a continual reminder of a shameful act which must never reoccur. The Pillar of Shame is impossible to ignore as a symbol of an atrocity and its victims. It is a kind of Nobel Prize of Injustice.
Debut in Hong Kong
The first of the eight metre high original sculptures was presented to the world public in November '96. Exhibited on the NGO Forum of the FAO summit in Rome, Italy, the sculpture became a sort of symbol of the conference.
On 4th June 1997, the 8th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing, 55,000 people gathered in Victoria Park in Hong Kong for a solemn Candlelight Vigil in commemoration of the bloodshed. The Pillar of Shame was displayed as the focal point of this ceremony which was arranged by the democracy movement. Throughout the day thousands of people came to the park laying flowers. One can hardly imagine a more impressive inauguration of an art happening.
The Pillar has now been set up on the campus of Hong Kong University. After scuffles with the police and controversy with the leadership of the university, the students succeeded setting up the sculpture. The event was regarded as an important victory in the students' battle for freedom of expression. On 1st October, the anniversary of the People's Republic of China the Pillar will be displayed on the Chinese University. Later it will subsequently be exhibited on the other universities.
The Pillar of Shame caused a lot of upheaval in the world's media. In Hong Kong it fanned a heated debate about the limits of free speech. Even before the landing of the sculpture an opinion poll was made by the Hong Kong University telling that 41 per cent of the Hong Kong citizens disapprove Urban Council's ban on the Pillar while 32 per cent back the decision. Set up now, ahead of the reunification with China, the Pillar of Shame is a litmus test of the new and old authorities' guarantees for human rights and freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
No infringement, not even the destruction of the sculpture can obliterate the symbolism of the Pillar of Shame. No more than ruthless oppression has managed to stifle the spirit of Tiananmen. The symbolism of the first Pillar of Shame will be reinforced by the following sculptures placed around the world.
Sites of the Next Sculptures
Unfortunately, new macabre atrocities are coming up all the time, so there are plenty of proposals for suitable sites for mounting a Pillar of Shame. Which of them will be carried out and in which order depends on various practical and political circumstances. At the moment we are viewing the following possibilities:
As we were in Rome in November '96 to display the first Pillar of Shame we got many valuable contacts, among others to some landless peasants from Northern Brazil. They wanted to put up a Pillar of Shame to mark two massacres that toke place in '96. The anniversary of the last massacre, 18th April will probably be internationally acknowledged as landless peasants' day.
The peasants had set up a sculpture to mark the infringement. The landlords, seeing the sculpture as a defiance to their interests, blew up the symbol of the atrocity. If we put up another sculpture in the same place, it will be endowed with a very strong symbolism.
Other suitable locations might be:
Grozny, the capital of
Chechnya. Set up before the reconstruction, amidst the ruins, the sculpture will become a
poignant symbolism, a sort of national memorial of the war.
Locations should be chosen with care. Specific parameters need to be fulfilled for the sculpture to have optimal effect. In some situations it will have very little effect or no effect at all:
A cruel and reckless government will not be worried about its image. The authorities will not hesitate in destroying the sculpture and arresting the people who set it up. The resulting international outcry will hardly impress a regime which has no ambitions of being a democratic paragon of virtue. Examples here are the regimes of Iran and Burma.
Fundamentalist, orthodox Islamic movements strictly abide by the Koran, which forbids making sculptures of human beings. In such a culture, e.g. Saudi-Arabia, it would be a sacrilege to set up the sculpture. The focus would be directed away from the event to be commemorated towards a hopeless debate about Islamic exegesis of religion.
If the Pillar of Shame were set up during wartime, it would be too easy to blow it up and allege that that's what happens in a war. Examples here are former Yugoslavia and Chech nya.
Commemoration of events in such countries will have to be done differently. For example the Pillar could be placed at the frontier or in front of an important embassy of the country, and be looked after by an exile group until such times when it can be moved to its rightful place in the country.
On the other hand, the project will work in many other places, where the sculpture is likely to be accepted positively - even by the government. We will probably choose some of these places as our first locations. Once the Pillar of Shame has become an institution, our choice of location can become more daring.
It is important that the mounting of the sculpture will take place in collaboration with as many local people as possible. The local activists can help us evaluate the reaction of the government and the population and help point out a suitable place to set up the sculpture. They might also help with smuggling in the sculpture, equipment etc. Moreover it is important that there is somebody on the spot to take care of the sculpture and to follow up what happens to it (if it is moved etc.).
How the event will be publicised will vary consi derably according to circumstances. In some cases the sculpture will be smuggled in, put together in secrecy, and set up without the knowledge of the authorities. In other cases the sculpture will be set up with unacknowledged, or even acknowledged, official permission, for example in Sarajevo after the war.
In each case I will try to attract the attention of the national and international media, so that all reactions will figure in the news immediately. This is important, both for our own security and the proper functioning of the project. In addition to normal press coverage, I will have my own press group who will ensure publication of my version of the story.History
1993 We make some small models of the Pillar of Shame to get an impression of the radiation of the sculpture.
1994 A two-metre high model of the Pillar of Shame is built up in clay.
1995 The concept of the happening is developed and our homepage is established. The model is finished: cast in copper and polished. It is presented on the NGO-forum of the UN social summit in Copenhagen where we start an information campaign to create a worldwide network of supporters of the happening. Two full size basic models, a man and a woman, are made of clay. A cast is taken of the models and two moulds are made of plaster for the production of about 50 clay bodies. The Pillar of Shame is built up of these bodies (a total of 7 tonnes), fixed on an iron skeleton.
1996 The details are modelled so that the clay sculpture is finished. The first full size Pillar of Shame is cast in copper by an electroplating process. It is presented to the world public on the FAO summit in Rome in November.
Jan-Apr At the end of April the Pillar is exhibited in the park Munke Mose in our hometown Odense, where it will stay for four months. A new Pillar of Shame is cast in concrete. On 30th April it is shipped, bound for Hong Kong.
May We send out a press release to about 700 newspapers, broadcasting and tv-stations in more than 100 countries.
June On 4th June the Pillar is displayed in Victoria Park in Hong Kong as the focal point of a candlelight vigil in commemoration of the Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing '89. The ceremony is attended by 55,000 people. Hereafter the students succeed setting up the Pillar on the roof of the students' building at the Hong Kong University, after scuffles with the police and controversy with the leadership.
July On 1st July Hong Kong is reverted to China. The Pillar of Shame is now placed on the territory of the People's Republic of China. Due to comprehensive worldwide media coverage, the Pillar has already become a globally accepted symbol of an atrocity.
Aug-Sep On request of the Hong Kong Alliance we make a model of the Pillar, 30 cm high. We send the model to Hong Kong where the Alliance will make some small sculptures in dark porcelain to be sold in support of the democracy movement in China.
A ballet titled The Dance around the Pillar of Shame is performed 20-22 August. The site is the park Munke Mose in Odense where the sculpture is displayed. Maybe a similar performance will be staged when the Pillar is set up around the world. On 28th August the sculpture is moved to the Danish city of Middelfart where it is displayed for a month.
On 28th September, on the eve of 1st October, the anniversary of the People's Republic of China, the Hong Kong Pillar is moved to the Chinese University.
2nd Nov. The Pillar is transferred to Lingnan College.
1st Dec. The Pillar is transferred to Baptist University.
Plans for the Future
Hereafter the Pillar will subsequently be displayed on the campuses of the remaining three universities. On 4th June '98 the sculpture will once again be the focal point of the candlelight vigil in Victoria Park.
I shall try to find money to produce more Pillars of Shame, so that I will have a stock of several sculptures in my workshop. Simultaneously we shall extend the network to help with the mounting of the sculptures and to make the happening known to more people. It is my intention to set up one sculpture every year over the next ten years. See p.4 for possible sites for setting up the Pillar.
State of affairs December '97:
The happening has now been started. Even before the arrival of the sculpture in Hong Kong it provoked a lot of upheaval in the world media. The Urban Council in Hong Kong banned the display of the sculpture in public parks. This grotesque act of self censorship is a gloomy presage for freedom of expression in the future.
Until now we have made two Pillars. The first one was cast in copper and is used for exhibition purposes. The other one was cast in concrete and is set up in Hong Kong.
I have taken out a mortgage of 60,000 USD on my workshop. So the mounting of the next sculptures is guaranteed. But we still lack a lot of money to keep the happening going over the next ten years. Although it is difficult to find sponsors for the Pillar of Shame, we have already received a little support from foundations, trade unions and firms (see back pa- ge).The Network
In support of the happening we have establis hed:
- A homepage (http://www.aidoh) named AIDOH (Art In Defence Of Humanism), with the purpose of providing up-to-date information about the Pillar of Shame - where it has been set up and the reaction it has provoked. In the long term the homepage will also be a world wide forum for inspiration and coordination for artists who use their art in defence of humanism and Human Rights. To avoid excluding people who have no access to Internet, we'll also make a printed newsletter, that can be subscribed to.
- A network aiming to support the Pillar of Shame happening. We're making a card index, consisting of:
Activists ready to help with translation, organisation, transport, construction and setting up of the sculpture etc.
Journalists and lobbyists who are interested in getting informa tion, and can support the happening officially as well as unofficially.
Financial backers who believe the project to be relevant, and who will support the happening with sponsorships, transport, money or will be ready to purchase 'supporting sculp- tures'.
I possess the necessary equipment, such as rooms for production and administration, EDP, telephones, fax etc., which are all part of my workshop in Odense. A number of volunteers take part in the work. But such an extensive and long-term happening demands a good organisational apparatus. Therefore, if I can find the money I will engage an employed organizer to coordinate the project: to maintain a general overview, record experiences, ensure continuity, take care of the network and fundraising, and finally plan the mounting of the sculptures.
The sculptures are set up with the help of volunte ers, who will join in the project from time to time. I have had good experiences working with people that volunteer because they identify themselves with a cause.
The construction of the sculptures takes place at my workshop in Odense, as a collaboration between amateurs and professionals, and is organized and directed by me. This procedure is rooted in the tradition of the art shops of former times and opposes the contemporary all too vigorous focussing on the unique individual in art. Here a considerable number of people take part in the collective process of carving the sculpture. Everyone invests soul and heart in the process and thus contributes to the final radiance of the finished Pillar of Shame.
It is of paramount importance that many volunteers get involved. In this way we can emphasize that we all have a responsibility for the development of our planet, both ecologically and socially. We should not leave this responsibility exclusively to politicians, experts, artists etc.
Description of the sculpture
Dimensions: The sculpture is 8 metres high, with a base diameter of 2.1 metres. It is conical-shaped, obelisk-like, with a construction similar to a round miniature Eiffel Tower. To ease handling during transport and mounting, the sculpture consists of two sections. The total weight of the sculpture is two tons.
Base: The sculpture is placed on a one metre high base. Some texts are engraved, in English and the local language, telling about the Pillar of Shame happening and about the very infringement that the sculpture is due to mark. So it is embedded in the local context. The Hong Kong Pillar of Shame was set up to mark the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing '89. So on the base are engraved a concise history of the Tiananmen movement in Chinese and in English and some pictures of the Tiananmen events.
Materials: The sculpture is made of bronze, copper or concrete armoured with fibres, with an internal steel skeleton to stabilize the sculpture and to assemble the sections.
Figure: The sculpture is built up of distorted human bodies twisted in grotesque and painful curves up the sides of the obelisk, and is inspired by the traditional woodcutting of southern Africa. It is a hodgepodge of torsos and limbs, which are tied together with liana-like roots that, together with animal-like limbs, allow the sculpture to represent some sort of organic unity of pain and degradation. The sculpture is simultaneously beautiful and cruel, attractive and repulsive. The Pillar of Shame has a dark, glossy - almost unapproachable - radia- tion.
The Technical Process
The first Pillar of Shame that was exhibited in Rome was cast by an electroplating process in which the mould was covered with a layer of copper. The Pillar set up in Hong Kong was cast in concrete armoured with fibres. Maybe I will make some of the next sculptures by a traditional process of bronze casting. This is the process described below in order to make each entry of the budget intelligible. Readers familiar with the process may skip it.
1. Production of models
2. Construction of the claysculp ture
b) To improve working conditions - scaffolding and ladders were put up around the skeleton. A tent of plastic and canvas, and a sprinkling device and outlet were set up to keep the clay constantly humid.
c) The sculpture was built up of about 7 tonnes of clay.
3. Production of the casting moulds
b) A framework consisting of a steel skeleton covered by wire netting was built up around each section.
c) A tightening device was fixed to the skeleton, to be used later for joining the pieces of the mould together (see pt. 4a).
d) The cavity between the sculpture and the framework was filled up with plaster (c. 5 t). The plaster covered the framework entirely.
e) The plaster mould was separated and the silicone was drawn off the clay sculpture. The casting mould now consists of the soft silicone layer and the plaster mould which serves as a stabilizer.
The moulds will be used for casting each new Pillar.
b) The wax shell is cut into pieces of about 1 m2. Each piece is numbered and cast into a block consisting of plaster and granulate tile. The block is heated to 700 degrees centigrade for three days. The wax will evaporate leaving a cavity.
c) The bronze is poured into the cavity. The mould is separated and the bronze piece is taken out. Now the process can be repeated from pt. 4a, until all the bronze pieces have been made.
5. The sculpture is assembled
The numbered bronze pieces are welded together to make the final sculpture. It is polished until the surface is black and smooth.
Various possibilities can be foreseen to finance the project:
- I am making some models of the sculpture. The intention is to sell them in order to earn capital for the happening. I have already made contracts with a number of people ready to buy. Moreover I shall try to persuade galleries around the world to sell them without profit in order to support the happening. I will need money to cover just the material costs (30%), as the bronze casting is made by unsalaried volunteers. The rest (70%) will be deposited into an account for the Pillar of Shame. I shall make the sculptures in different sizes and various quantities of numbered copies:
30 cm high, 100 numbered copies at 1,000 USD (-30% for materials), a total of 70,000 USD.
60 cm high, 30 numbered copies at 2,700 USD (-30%), a total of 56,700 USD.
120 cm high, 10 numbered copies at 7,300 USD (-30%), a total of 51,100 USD.
200 cm high, 10 numbered copies at 36,000 USD (-30%), a total of 252,000 USD.
A full size Pillar of Shame can be bought with 360,000 USD.
It will take a number of years, of course, to sell so many sculptures.
- I have contacted some foundations and I intend to ask for their financial support. I aim to arrange a permanent contract with some of them, so that they will be ready to donate an amount of money every time a Pillar of Shame is mounted.
- Support from business and private persons, e.g. collections and the like.
- Support from sponsors abroad. Some firms might wish to be seen as promoters of the Human Rights issue. Maybe some will be ready to pay the full price (360,000 USD) for a Pillar of Shame to be set up in a specific location.
- An attempt might be made to persuade a museum or a collector to buy a full size Pillar of Shame.
- Finally, it would be possible to minimize expenses. Actually, that is the way I usually manage to carry out my happenings. But I would prefer to avoid this as I think the project is important, and a cutback would negatively affect working conditions. Minimizing costs can be achieved by:
- using scrap metal for the castings. That might yield a saving of 9,000 USD for each sculpture, but the casting will be weaker and more troublesome.
- using exclusively unsalaried working forces for the happening. That will produce a saving of 161,750 USD out of 248,320 USD in the start-up budget, and 101,880 USD out of 241,120 USD in the budgeted running costs.
- endeavouring to get free accommodation, tools and machinery etc.
Budget Main entries
Annual running costs with two mountings
Specification of the budget
Production of models
(A model in the scale of 1/3, 2 m high, is made 1.05.94 - 1.03.95)
Production of clay sculpture
Production of an original bronze sculpture and a casting mould USD
Production of copies
The total costs for production of 19 sculptures will be 19 x 63.600 = 1.208.400
Costs for transport etc. related to one mounting
This amount will vary considerably according to the elected site, e.g. Germany,
China or Mexico. The amounts below should be regarded as an average.
This budget of running costs is made on the assumption of an administration running
throughout the year with a salaried organizer who, cooperating with volunteers, plans
the mountings, takes care of fundraising and the network etc.