On 16th October the Danish artist Jens Galschiot set up the installation Young People in Glass Tubes on the Town Hall Square of Copenhagen. The aim of the installation was to fan the debate of young people's living conditions in a modern city, as an introduction to the Youth Conference 13:24 on 25th October. After the conference the installation was dismantled.
Six glass tubes similar to specimen tubes with naturalistic copses of yong people 'preserved in spirits' were set up. The installation was thought as an invitation to an open debate about the essential conditions of being young here and now. The aim was to attract the attention of young and old to the scope of the main issues of the conference, to highlight the state of health, physically and mentally, of young people of today.
The embryo-like irradiation of the installation will induce the spectator to reflection over life, and to a sense of commitment.
The preservation 'in spirits' in 'specimen tubes' is an expression of extreme objectification of each young individual. An almost physical dialogue is established between the body in the glass and the pad displaying the environmental context, e.g. ads, newspaper clippings and statements of young people.
The objectification and isolation of each figure in its own glass tube symbolises the loneliness and the alienation of the personal problems of the individual. Preserved 'in spirits' the body is surrounded by an insurmountable distance. Simultaneously, due to its macabre eradiation, it is imbued with an importunate presence.
The intensity of the installation was reinforced by a piece of music especially created for the occasion by the young composer Nicky Bendix. The music was played as a constant accompaniment of the installation.
Participation of the Public
Everybody was invited to take part in the debate on the Town Hall Square. The artist and his helpers were ready with paper, pens and lamination machine to make it possible for the public to write down their comments and fix them onto the wall journal, the seventh element of the installation.
The Six Figures
The six glass tubes set up on the Town Hall Square were similar to specimen tubes, well known from laboratories and biology classrooms. They were three metres high with a diameter of 70 cm. In each of the tubes a naturalistic model of a young person was placed in a yellowish liquid, like 'in spirits'.
The figures depicted different types of young people expressing their search and their vulnerability. On the bases of the tubes some texts were fixed with factual information of the group of young people concerned. Inside each base was placed a projector to illuminate the tube from beneath. The projectors, somewhat similar to street lamps, reinforced the sensation of distortion of reality, collection of curios, and the large city as a biological experiment.
Each tube with its base was placed on a pad with plenty of documentation showing how young people view themselves and each other and the manifold influence they're exposed to from the surrounding society. The pads display also the attempts of advertising to reach the very group of young people represented by the figure in each tube. The documentation on the pads has been collected in cooperation with the groups of young people depicted by the installation and grownups occupied with young people.
The six figures in the tubes represent the following groups of young people:
An 'unspecified' young person
How are the living conditions for young people in today's Copenhagen? How are the possibilities to realize own wishes and ambitions? Do young people view themselves as active participants in the society with a responsibility for the society of tomorrow? What are the ideals of young people? What do they expect of life?
What is the impact of the surrounding society and of the ads?
What is the ideal of a personality? As a young person, how do you have to look like? Which qualities are esteemed? How deeply should you care about the 'world situation'? What is needed to get success in life? What is called for to move our society in a humane direction?
The bulimi woman
What are the reasons that so many young women suffer disturbances of nutrition? Maybe a wish to be perfect - to exert control... An ambition of an ideal life. The 'Barbie syndrome'!
When they cannot live up to their own expectations, they punish their body. This is also a way to shrink from the grownup's responsibility.
How are the conditions of being young in Copenhagen with a different cultural background? How are the expectations of loyalty from family, pals, and the Danish society? How are 'the new Danes' met by the surrounding society and by other young people?
Subcultures and grassroots
The skater is an example of the many young people in Copenhagen who display their attitude and their outlook in groups deviating from mainstream culture.
The grassroots are groups of young people with an active commitment to the quality of life, the structure of society, and the problems of young people.
What is abuse? Many young people think that in addition to the well known abuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, abuse comprises also pollution of the air, the water, the nutrition, and the 'Word'. Where is the border between use and abuse? What can be done to get rid of an abuse?
On 20th and 24th October UFO (Youth Forum) performed the happening George and Ahmed Looking for a Job, inspired of the installation.
Throughout the period a number of lectures were held by members of CMS (Centre for People with Disturbances of Nutrition).
The Theatre of Reality
As a sculptor I have set up big art happenings, such as My Inner Beast in '93 and my UN-happening during the UN's social summit in Copenhagen in '95. My new art happening the Pillar of Shame has just been launched, as the sculpture was displayed 4th June '97 in Hong Kong. Over the next ten years the happening will spread over the Planet. The aim of my happenings is to highlight the ethical basis of our civilization.
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.
Artist: Jens Galschiot Christophersen - Banevaenget 22 - DK-5270
Odense N - Denmark
Composer: Nicky Bendix - Tel.: (+45) 6611 4664
Photos and further information: http://www.aidoh.dk