Art in Defense of Humanism:

Danny Yeager Interviews Danish Sculptor Jens Galschiot


Y: Jens, first of all, would you tell us a little more about yourself personally?


G: Yes, I'm a Danish artist.  I make sculpture -- but my sculpture's really special.  I make a lot of art about making defense of humanism, about a discussion about how the world goes around, about what happens in the world and things like this.


Y: Jens, I first became aware of your work when one day at the annual Aarhus Festival in early September I saw a large light blue sculpture of the statue of liberty with smoke coming out of one of its arms.  Would you give us a better description and tell us what it symbolizes?


G: This is a six meters high copy of the Statue of Liberty in plastic, blue plastic.  There is a lot of smoke coming out of the arms.  It is a statement against the United States’ way of polluting.  It's called The Freedom to Pollute.  It's a statement against the arrogant way that the American President has said to the meeting in Johannesburg in South Africa, "O.K. I don't even come to this meeting to discuss our environment.  I don't think it's a big problem and the American way of living to not open for discussion with anybody."  This is a way we will make a statement against the United States when we make this kind of sculpture.


Y: Your web site is titled Art in Defense of Humanism (AIDOH).  What's that all about?


G: It's about all my projects because when I'm making my sculptures I'm making kind of a theater play.  I make a sculpture and then wait for the audience to react to it.  It generates a lot of support by explaining what I'm doing.  I have this web site with a lot of pictures of my happenings and pictures of my sculpture. Journalists from throughout the world can take information and pictures down from my web site.


Y: Why is this centered in Odense, Denmark -- a picturesque town of about 200,000 --people best known as the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen?


G: Because I'm living here.  I have my children here and my wife is here.  I like to stay here. I was not born here.  I was educated in the shipyards from the beginning as a blacksmith.  As it is now, I am a silversmith and I'm making sculpture.  Now I'm here in Odense.  I'll stay here forever I think.


Y: Your first project for AIDOH was The Pillar of Shame.  Would you first describe physically what this sculpture looks like?


G: It's an eight meter high sculpture with about fifty bodies twisted like an obelisk form together.  These are living people.  It's an ordinary old style of sculpturing.  It looks like a tower of people I think -- maybe a high tower of people.


Y: What does this rather large sculpture represent?


G: It represents a lot of victims.  It represents the victims from catastrophes, from massacres, from something that has happened.  This is the meaning of this sculpture When you see this sculpture you think there must have been something terrible here in this place because this must be the reason there is such a kind of sculpture here.  This is the way of thinking when you see it I think.


Y: My understanding is that the display of The Pillar of Shame is really as "art happening".  Why is that?  What happens?


G: My meaning is to make ten of these big sculptures -- all the same, ten copies of it -- and then I will put them all around the world like a kind of needle in the globe and say that in all these places something terrible has happened.  Kind of a Nobel Prize of injustice.  The first one I put in Hong Kong together with the Chinese democracy movement just three weeks before the Chinese took over Hong Kong.  I made a statement about Tiananmen, the massacre of the students in Beijing.  That made a really lot of noise.  We split the parliament.  They sent the police and the military against us.  We made a lot of fight together with about 55,000 students and people who wanted to make a statement about the students on the Tiananmen Square.


Y: The Pillar of Shame has been erected in several cities including at one permanent location in Brazil.  What are the cities and why were they chosen?


G: The next one was in Mexico.  It was chosen because of the massacre of indigenous people.  Now it's standing up in Acteal in Chiapas in the south of Mexico.  They threw me out of Mexico for that.  The next one was set up in Northern Brazil to mark once again the International day against Impunity and to commemorate a massacre of landless peasants.


Y: I see on the AIDOH web site that you've got something called My Inner Beast Intelligence Service.  Before I ask you what that is, would you tell us what is your sculpture My Inner Beast -- describe it physically and tell us what it represents.


G: My Inner Beast is a 2-1/2 meter high sculpture.  Its weight is about one ton.  It has a pig's head and a human's body.  It represents -- it's very difficult to explain -- it's called "Mein innerer Schweinehund" in German.  It's this kind of demon who takes over people, who transform people to be a kind of demon.  This way you're going from being an ordinary German man to being a leader of a concentration camp.  This way is called my inner beast way.  My inner beast is this demon taking you over and making you do such a kind of thing.


Y: On the web site you state that My Inner Beast was an art happening in 1993.  Tell us about that.


G: Yes, we put twenty of these pigs everywhere in Europe -- the best place in Paris, the best place in Barcelona, the best place in Copenhagen, and so on.  We made a lot of noise in the whole of Europe about that.  In two days we put twenty tons of these pigs out.  What was the meaning?  It was to make a statement about racism and that we're getting more and more racism.  It is not the foreigners who are being a threat about our civilization.  It is our way to react to the foreigners.  This is the problem.  If we are fascists who put the foreigners out of our country, we are going to destroy this civilization we say we want to protect.  I'm saying that it is absurd what we're doing.


Y: Now I'll ask the question -- what is the My Inner Beast Intelligence Service?


G: This is because I've sold one of these pigs for 250,000 Danish kroner - a lot of money.  Now that we have the money and now we're trying to find what happened in 1993, what happened after 1993, because in some places in Europe this big sculpture became a part of the museums and collections and in other places in Europe they disappeared completely.  You don't know where it is.  It is strange that you have such a sculpture with such a special kind of story everywhere.  Now we're trying to make this M.I.B. Intelligence Service to see what happened everywhere.


Y: Another happening that unfortunately I missed was the Hunger March.  That happened at Aarhus University where I'm currently on leave from Texas A&M.  Tell us about that happening.


G: The Hunger March is twenty five copper sculptures, each a skinny boy.  This was to cause a discussion in Denmark about what they were doing with all this help to the third world because they have taken a lot of [our aid] money from the third world and given it to our hospitals.  I think it's kind of a crime that they've taken this and given it to some of the richest people in the world.  The fact is that there are 35,000 children who are dying each day of hunger.


Y: You just had an art happening titled "The Nightmare" at the Roskilde rock festival.  That doesn't seem like the ideal setting for a serious art happening.  Tell us about it.


G: Ah yes, it was a real big art installation where I had my sculpture called the Pillar of Shame in the middle, at each of the four corners was My Inner Beast sculpture and then there are a lot of Fenris wolves from the Norse mythology. From inside each of the ten wolves come flames up to 6 meters high.  There was an actor making a speech from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" but the opposite.  I had a dream about fascism.  I had a dream that everything was going the right way and you must do the same thing and that it was a white country, and so on.  It was a statement about fascism, a statement about what happens if people don't say "We don't want to live this kind of way.  We will have more balance in the world."


Y: Can you tell us some about what you have coming up?


G: I think I must earn a lot of money now because the last three art happenings have cost a lot of money.  I have my Freedom to Pollute sculpture of the Statue of Liberty going around in Germany.  Maybe it will go to Australia. I will also make a campaign about how we support our own farmers and to keep the African farmers out of our markets.


Y: I see that AIDOH has an electronic newsletter.  What's the focus of it and how can people subscribe?


G: We have an electronic newsletter but it doesn't come very often - it comes every two or three months if I do something.  My web site is normally used by journalists.  They can go there and download all the photos and descriptions.  I get a lot of hits on my web site because this is a web site that describes something that happens and not a web site that describes a lot of crap.  There are lots of people who use it to get experience about what they can do themselves.


Y: According to your web site, people can join AIDOH on several different levels.  What do these entail?


G: Yes, for example, we have a sculpture called The Pillar of Shame.  I've put one in Hong Kong, one in Mexico, one in Brazil, and I'm making one to put in Berlin now.  When I do that I use a lot of volunteers to help me.  For example, in Mexico when we put one there we needed a lot of volunteers to put it up and make discussions about it.  This is what we use the volunteers for.  Sometimes there come a lot of people from the States -- from everywhere -- to work in the workshop for free, to be here.  We have no money for salary.  We have some space and people are living here and work for me.


Y: Thanks, Jens.


[For more information on the Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot see and the Art in Defense of Humanism web site  His email address is and his phone number is (+45) 6618 4058.]

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Writings about Jens Galschiot
Additional Information:
Categories: Writings about Jens Galschiot | About Jens Galschiot
Themes: Arts debate | Criticism of governments | Development aid | Ecology - sustainable development | Human rights | Hunger and malnutrition | Imbalanced wealth distribution | Massacres | Racism
Sculptures: Freedom to Pollute | Hunger Boys | My inner Beast - concrete | Pillar of Shame
Type: Reviews
Dates: 7th November 2002
Related Persons and Entities: Danny Yeager | George W. Bush, US President