We hade promised to write a journal every day, that was not to be the case, so that is why we now make a summary on of how the rest of the time in Hong Kong went from 12th until we left towards Denmark on Wednesday 21st Dec.
Tuesday 13th Dec.
The two sculptures are now surrounded by a fence of the size of a football field. All over there are signs hung up saying that the sculptures are not safety approved by a Chinese constructor and therefore it is forbidden and highly dangerous to move around inside the closure.
At 12 o’clock a constructor comes and he authorizes as expected. However, he considers that a fence is to be put up around Survival of the Fattest, because some people may climb up and if 10-12 men attempt pushing and lifting it, then it might tip over. We accept his suggestion, they are obviously very careful here in Hong Kong.
We participate together with 6 – 8,000 people in the big demonstration at 2 pm with our Hunger Boys mounted on the trolleys. Our colleges from the Danish MS have arrived, disguised as subsidized EU cows. The cows as well as the Hunger Boys create great attention and many photos are taken. The demonstration reached its destination near the official congress centre of the WTO, a big venue at the water. The congress centre was clearly visible. Korean farmers put on life jackets and jumped into the water. They started swimming towards the centre, a peaceful manifestation that created big attention and cheering. But also a manifestation showing how small we are in comparison to the big centre and the great number of police boats and photographers, but that does not stop us from receiving the swimmers as heroes when they return to the demonstration.
After a few more hours of speeches we leave with most of the other demonstrators. The Hunger Boys lead the way towards Victoria park. Some Koreans remain to push a bit with the police. But it never turns out to be a violent confrontation, even though the newspapers are filled with photos of demonstrators getting pepper spray in their eyes, as they are pushing against the police chains. A close look at the photos reveals that there are just as many people from the press as there are demonstrators. So actually a peaceful manifestation.
We get up somewhat late and go to Victoria Park. They have now moved the fence around the sculptures, but it is still the size of a half football field and not just 2 metres around the sculptures but at least 10 metres! We give up and accept it as it is. New signs have been hung up saying that one is not allowed to climb up the sculptures. A grotesque expression of the Hong Kong security mania.
Most of the time we are just standing at the sculptures making lots of interviews with hundreds of journalists and answering questions from passers-by. Undoubtedly we have to do with the most photographed sculptures in HK. The press makes extensive use of the sculptures as illustration of the WTO issues. CNN brings three interviews with Galschiot throughout the WTO conference.
In the evening we upload the photos of the day and make some more interviews with journalists.
Some of the demonstrators in Victoria Park are in doubt about the symbolism of the sculptures and ask for an explanation. We hand out a sheet in Chinese. Fortunately the Koreans find an interpreter to translate what Galschiot is saying to them. As they now understand the symbolism they hang up their big Picasso photostat and their banner near the sculptures. The banner was formed as a big flower carpet on which was written with big flower letters `Dawn Dawn WTO`. So the area around the sculptures became a sort art centre.
We have made a workshop with MS about art as a means of communication. It evolves a bit funny because we chose to put up the chairs outside the tent, and so we held an open meeting. MS told about their cow happening in Denmark and Galschiot made a presentation of his many projects. The audience asked a few questions.
Does the artist think that art can change world? – Galschiot answered that art should not claim to change the world, but may change people’s conception. So not the art, but the beholder can make some change. The role of the artist is just to fan the debate.
An American lawyer asked Jens whether the WTO could be a means to brake down the trade barriers. A poet from South African poet, answered the question and soon an animate discussion was going among the bystanders. Galschiot took the megaphone and became the microphone holder of the debate in which a lot of serous and interesting views were uttered about the WTO, trade barriers and protectionism. The debate continued many hours and became in that way a formidable example of how art can release a fruitful discussion. Many people remained until late in the evening, as the debate had split into a Chinese and an English debate group. Galschiot was impressed of the need to debate and is now considering developing a concept in which a debate is released with a sculpture construction, some speakers and a microphone as take-off. Augusto Boal has launched a similar concept.
Sunday 18th Dec.
Last day in Victoria Park. MS had planed an exiting action where they disguised as cows would come out of the official centre where the WTO meeting was held. They changed their clothes on the toilets and the human cows made their way through all the suites and attracted a lot of attention. They came out to the waiting limo that we had hired for the occasion and rode through Hong Kong to Victoria Park where the final demonstration was just gathering. The limo created a sensation as it stopped in the middle of the crowd. 5 cows got out to the waiting Hunger Boys. The cows praised the WTO and EU for letting them keep the subsidies, and to underline the happy message there was champagne for all.
The demonstration was gathering and the Hunger March was taking the lead. We were about 10,000 participants. Most speakers emphasized the claim to release the about 1,000 Koreans that had been arrested at some smaller demonstrations on Friday. To focus on the abuse of migrant workers as cheap labour force, Philippino and Indonesian girl demonstrators had dressed up in cardboard boxes stamped ‘For Export’. Once more the colourful variety of the demonstrations made the impression that all cultures of the world had sent a delegation to show their face. The peaceful demonstration returned to Victoria Park for the final celebration. We did not participate as we had enough to do with packing all the sculptures and load them in to the container together with the Chinese crane workers. As everything was well packed the container was brought to the harbour to be sent home to Denmark.
We visited the Pillar of Shame on the campus of the university. It was standing properly on the place in front of the students’ building. A section was defected. Unfortunately we did not know, as we left Denmark. Otherwise we coul have brought some repairing outfits. Nevertheless we enjoyed seeing the sculpture again after so many years. The students and the democracy movement have put up plates, indicating all the sites where it had been used for memorial ceremonies of the Tiananmen massacre on 4th June. The anniversary of the carnage is marked in Hong Kong every year.
Margaret, a friend of ours since 1997 had invited us to a dinner in a technical college for chefs and waiters. The students were keen to get exercise so they treated us with almost exaggerated correctness. They even took care that we did not get lost in the lift. It goes without saying the meal was of superb quality. We can certainly recommend these conscientious students to any future employer.
At the dinner we met a catholic priest from the democracy movement in China. As an archivist he has been engaged in collecting all relevant documentation on the Tiananmen massacre. Galschiot accepted to take the whole documentation with him home and scan it in order to make available on the Internet to anybody interested in the issue. Maybe even in the Mainland where the massacre is not generally known some could find the documentation in spite of the censorship. For Chinese students in Denmark and Europe the website could be a valuable source for the study of China’s recent history. So from our humble workshop in Odense we can possibly help the democracy movement to remember the dissidents from the Tiananmen massacre, and who knows maybe plant some new democratic seeds in the flowering Chinese youth.
After a day of shopping and relax we had a farewell dinner with some Chinese friends. We left early Wednesday morning for our return to Denmark.
|2005.12.12: Sculptures finally put up||2005: Mad Cow Disease in Hong Kong
2005: Diary from Hong Kong