Journalist Aphrodite Politi (AP) from the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia
has made this interview with Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot (JG):


AP: Did you attend the demonstration in Athens?

JG: I did not participate myself. But I sent a staff of ten people to pull my sculptures in the demonstration and to hand out high quality leaflets that in fact were posters.


AP: Did you get any feedback from the people at the forum or/and at the demo? What did they think of the sculptures?

JG: The AIDOH girls tell me that people were eager to get the posters and that the sculptures ignited heated discussion.  Some said that the sculptures were beautiful and that the idea was very powerful. I think these sculptures really were able to provoke thought and feeling in people.  Art can be used as an international language, and visual images are able to remain in the minds of many different people.  


AP: Your sculptures have travelled in many places. Do people react different in different parts of the globe?

JG: Actually, I can use an example from the ESF in Athens.  There were some people that were highly offended that only one woman (a fat, over-consuming, greedy depiction) was represented in the group of sculptures, while all of the other starving people were depicted as men.  “Where are the starving women who are suffering throughout the world?”  There is a point to that criticism and I do not mean to offend anyone.  I am aware of the fact that women do bear the brunt of suffering and injustice in this world.  This woman is a woman because she represents, Justitia, the goddess of justice.  She is holding a small set of scales representing balance, but this goddess, along with this symbol, may not be recognizable by everyone.  A piece of art can be interpreted in various ways, especially if the symbolism used is not universally known.


AP: Your organization is called ‘Art In Defence of Humanism’. What is the philosophy behind that?

JG: The idea originated on the occasion of the 1995 UN social summit in Copenhagen.  We wanted to create a movement, gathering artists from all over the world with motivation to gear their artistic power toward social change.  The idea of AIDOH as a formal network has not happened, due to the lack of time and resources.  However, AIDOH does exist as a type of informal network of artists and people who strive for common goals.  It has become the brand of the projects of the workshop here in Odense, Denmark, engaging thousands of enthusiastic volunteers all over the world.

For some years I have been considering the idea of launching a manifesto joining artists with a societal commitment, aimed at the defence of the ethical foundations of our civilization, artists who counter the traditional elitist concepts of ‘the fine arts’– a far cry from everyday life and people’s concerns.  Art for its own sake is revered, while art with a societal commitment and an intelligible expression is not appreciated by the pundits of the Parnassus.  The motto “Art for social change” might be a corner stone of our Manifesto.


AP: Do you think art can change the world? Some people claim it's not enough.

JG: I don’t think art can save the world. It is people who change the world.  Art can be used as a tool to initiate thought, but it cannot change the world alone.  Art enables people to see issues in a new angle, with a different perspective, giving sight to a new reality.  These images may also be interesting to the media. When they cover big international events they can choose to show some demonstrators or to show my sculptures that depict the world’s imbalance. They appear on the front pages. I’m giving people the opportunity to see through my eyes and am using art as a tool for communication and discussion.


AP: I read the reports of the ‘AIDOH girls’. They were pretty enthusiastic. Are they volunteers? Activists? Artists? Both?

JG: Yes, they are volunteers, a mix of activists and artists.  We have many people who come to the workshop and want to be involved.  People often come and go quite often. 


AP: Did you write the ‘Athens Aphorisms’ especially for the Athens Social Forum? What inspired you to write this piece?

JG: I have been thinking of these paradoxes for several years. But I have shaped the text especially for the ESF. Most of all I have taken inspiration in the civil war in former Yugoslavia and the ‘wall’ that we are building up around Europe in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall.


AP: Apart from sculptures do you engage in other forms of art?

JG: I have made some performances and a few scenographies. But in fact they are also a sort of a sculptural expression.


AP: Some people claim that the slogan ‘Another world is possible’ is kind of a reformist utopia. Can we make capitalism better?

JG: I definitely believe that another world is possible; however, I do not believe that we need to break the whole system down. We need a strong movement to keep capitalism down.  Capitalism is focused too much on development and growth, and this is very dangerous.  We need to step away from this and focus on the people and the environment.  Of course, there are many things within the capitalist system that need to be changed and that could be better. 

When I was young I saw myself as a revolutionary socialist. But now I essentially see myself as a reformist. I think that the Scandinavian social democrat model is probably the social order seen until now, that is most suitable for the protection of human rights. Moreover, it has also proved its capability to secure a minimum of social justice.


AP: One of the AIDOH girls at the demo wore a Christiania t-shirt. What do you think of Christiania? Can it be saved or does it belong to the past?

JG: I think that it is very important to maintain Christiania, as it is important to maintain diversity in this world.  We are all different.  We do not have to normalize everything.  The acceptance of diversity within Christiania is very important. 

Christiania has been under attack on various occasions, but has survived so far. I hope that despite the plans for ‘normalisation’, the alternative spirit of Christiania will be maintained – as a hallmark of a tolerant society where diversity is appreciated. But I will not conceal my misgivings. In the later years we are witnessing serious setbacks concerning our tolerance and humanity. In the public debate inhumane views are flaunted that would have been unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago. In our eager to defend our privileges we are adapting a mindset that may eat up our humanity.



Level Up

Writings by Jens Galschiot
2006: European Social Forum, Athens
Additional Information:
Categories: Writings by Jens Galschiot | About Jens Galschiot | 2006: European Social Forum, Athens | 2006: International projects | Social Forums
Themes: Agricultural subsidies | Arts debate | Criticism of governments | Ecology - sustainable development | Globalisation | Hunger and malnutrition | Imbalanced wealth distribution | NGO activities | World trade
Sculptures: Balancing Act | Hunger Boys | Survival of the Fattest
Type: Articles
Dates: 4th May 2006
Locations: Athens, Greece
Co-operators and Helpers: Camilla Nielsen-Englyst | Jennifer Barron, USA | Krakagården | Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Greece
Sponsors: BUPL | FTF / Civil Servants´ and Salaried Employees´ Confederation | LO - Association of Danish Trade Unions | Stilladsarbejdernes Landsklub