Press release 16.03.2000
Today Thursday the controversial Danish artist Jens Galschiot is sending out one more Pillar of Shame. This time the destination is Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The 8 metres high sculpture has by the world press often been dubbed an ‘art missile’, due to the heated debate about human rights and free speech that it has fanned in the countries where it has been set up.
The sculpture will be shipped from Hamburg on 23. March and is expected to arrive in Rio on 8. April. It will be set up to mark the International Day against Impunity. The latter evil has been difficult to eradicate for the young democracy established after a quarter of a century of military dictatorship.
Impunity is a huge problem because of the immense power of the local landlords. They are possessing extensive areas remaining uselessly uncultivated. They spare no means to prevent landless peasants and other democratic forces from carrying out land reforms for the benefit of the indigent part of the population. They have a strong impact on the local courts, police and military. So they have virtually free hands to get rid of rural workers and others who are struggling for a just distribution of the land and a fair judicial system with guaranties of the public security of the citizens. The fee for having a murder committed by a corruptible policeman is about 1,000 $.
The Danish Pillar of Shame will drop down in the very core of this conflict like an elephant in a china shop. In December 1999 Jens Galschiot donated the piece of art to the Brazilian parliament. By this donation the artist is compelling each of the 700 MPs to take a stance to the issue of rule of law in Brazil. The initiative has already caused some turmoil in political circles, and various MPs have already individually expressed their support without having the previous authorization from their parties. A remarkable backing has come from the big workers’ party, PT that has sent out an official declaration of support that can be found on the website of the party: www.informes.org.br. In addition, a lot of NGOs, trade unions, bishops, etc. have expressed their support, regardless of the decision that might eventually be taken by the parliament.
In any case the Pillar of Shame will be set up in Brazil. One of the most progressive mayors of Latin America has assigned a public square in the metropolis of Belem in northern Brazil where the sculpture will be mounted if the parliament should not accept it in the capital.
It is still uncertain what will happen to the controversial sculpture when it arrives in Rio, but the MST, the landless peasants’ movement is planning some kind of event to mark the landing of the Pillar on Brazilian soil.
The Pillar of Shame is a part of a global network of 10 sculptures that are being set up all over the world to highlight serious violations of the human rights. The first Pillar was mounted in Hong Kong in 1997, where it fanned a heated debate and a lot of turmoil about the issue of free speech. The second Pillar was set up in Mexico in 1999 in cooperation with the Indian council as a symbol of the encroachments on the indigenous population. The Mexican government reciprocated by expelling the Danish artist. After the mounting of the sculpture in Brazil, another Pillar of Shame will be set up in Berlin on 9. November 2000 in cooperation with thousands of former concentration camps prisoners, as a monument for the industrial mass extermination of the Nazi regime.
More information and photos that can be used free of charge are available on the website of Jens Galschiot: www.aidoh.dk.
A direct link to the Brazilian project is: www.aidoh.dk/art_and_events/pos/brazil/ukposbrazil-index.htm, and
pictures of the sculpture can be found at: www.aidoh.dk/photos/photoposbrazil-index.htm