Art@Site Jens Galschiot Pillar of Shame

Jens Galschiot


Pillar of Shame

Campus at the Hong Kong University
The Pillar of Shame, a statue erected to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on the campus at the Hong Kong University. Students in Hong Kong vowed yesterday to continue to fight for freedom and democracy after condemning Beijing's deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations 20 years ago. Around 1,800, or 93 per cent, of votes cast in a poll held by the University of Hong Kong's students' union supported the motion calling for Beijing to"rectify" its position that the 1989 protests were counter-revolutionary. Only 79 students were against the motion, the union said in a statement. The statement said the results of the three-day poll which ended Thursday were a"momentous landmark" in the history of the students' union."The outcome of the general polling truly reflected the will of the students and the spirit of democracy was displayed by each and every vote cast, " it said."Twenty years on from Tiananmen, the students of the University of Hong Kong have not forgotten. The torch has been passed to us and we shall continue this fight for freedom and democracy." Hundreds - if not thousands - of people were killed as soldiers from the People's Liberation Army marched into central Beijing on June 4, 1989, to end the weeks-long demonstrations. The subject remains taboo in mainland China and human rights groups and activists have said the government this year is making huge efforts to ensure the next few weeks before the 20th anniversary pass smoothly. Hong Kong, a former British colony, is the only Chinese city where protests against the crackdown are tolerated, and is the location of an annual candlelight vigil attended by thousands of residents. The sentiment among many Hong Kong undergraduates towards the June 4 crackdown has toned down in recent years. University of Hong Kong students' union president Ayo Chan said last week - to the surprise of other committee members - that the military suppression could have been avoided had the students dispersed peacefully from Tiananmen Square, reports said. And a so-called"democracy wall" used to raise awareness of June 4 through photographs, essays and posters at the University of Hong Kong was recently vandalised, according to the newspaper The Standard.
The Pillar of Shame painted Orange. The eight meter tall sculpture The Pillar of Shame was today painted orange by the Chinese Democracy Movement. We have just received photos and uploaded them to the internet at:
The authorities had tried to obstruct the painting of the sculpture by denying the Danish artist Jens Galschiot and his staff access to Hong Kong as they landed in the airport on April 26. The expulsion has caused wide discussions in Hong Kong about whether China is now introducing their own visa rules and censorship on to Hong Kong. The Danish artist has been in Hong Kong several times before and is known for making peaceful art installations. He has put up The Pillar of Shame which has become a renowned memorial about the massacre on the Tiananmen square in Beijing 1989. The Chinese Democracy Movement decided to paint the sculpture orange by themselves to put focus on Human Rights in China and show support to the world wide project TheColorOrange about using Orange in connection to the Olympic Games 2008 to boost the awareness about the Human Rights violations in China. The painting of the sculpture was made by students from the University of Hong Kong and by Chinese members of the Democracy Movement which has its base in Hong Kong. Amongst others the Movement counts the chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Union, Cheuk Yan Lee, the poet Szeto Wah, the Human Rights lawyer Albert Ho, the activist and artist Longhair, and several Hong Kong MPs.The painting of the sculpture was covered by TV channels and newspapers from all over the world as many had come to Hong Kong to cover the arrival of the Olympic Torch on Chinese ground (Hong Kong) on 2nd May. So they used the opportunity to cover also the painting of The Pillar of Shame, an event with the purpose of focusing the Olympic Games 2008. But the media’s attention had also increased dramatically due to the expulsion of the Danes. So it seems that the Hong Kong authorities have shot themselves in the foot. Jens Galschiot declares from his workshop in Denmark: 'It’s amazing to see the photos from Hong Kong knowing that my TheColorOrange has got its own life and is spreading independently of me. This is ideal from my view as an artist. It is a testimony that the campaign has become a cornerstone in the debates about the OG2008. It will be a manifest way of saying that China does not comply with its human rights obligations.' Jens Galschiot is today a happy artist.
A Pillar of Shame was set up in Hong Kong on 4th June 1997. This event marked the initiation of an art happening that will spread over the Planet over the next ten years. Once a year, a Pillar of Shame will be mounted as a memorial of a severe infringement against humanity. The Pillar which is an original dark sculpture eight metres in height depicting more than 50 painfully twisted human bodies. The Pillar of Shame represents a good deal of money: the only symbol which really commands global respect. Monuments of this calibre are normally set up in memory of 'heroic' deeds. However, here the sculpture will be mounted to serve as a continual reminder of a shameful act which must never reoccur. The Pillar of Shame is a kind of Nobel Prize of Injustice.
Our memories become ever shorter because our consciousness is overburdened by the media's continuous stream of information. The smell of decomposing corpses and death vanishes as soon as the pictures fade from the screen. It is the aim of the Pillar of Shame to perpetuate the memory of the atrocity and its victims - to serve as a reminder in history. The symbolic value of the sculpture is enforced by the reactions of the authorities, whether they destroy it, brush it aside or allow it to stand. In all circumstances it will have a symbolic value enforced by the fact of being a part of a global network of similar sculptures.
The first Pillar of Shame was presented to the world public in November '96. Exhibited on the NGO Forum of the FAO summit in Rome, Italy, the sculpture became a sort of symbol of the conference. On 4th June '97 the happening was started when 55,000 people gathered in Victoria Park in Hong Kong for a solemn candlelight vigil to commemorate the bloodshed 1989 in Beijing. The Pillar of Shame was displayed as the focal point of the ceremony. Hereafter it is displayed in turn on all the seven universities in Hong Kong until 4th June '98 when the Pillar once again took centre stage at the ceremony in Victoria Park.
The Hong Kong University Students' Union (Abbreviation: HKUSU; Traditional Chinese: 香港大學學生會) is one of the two officially recognised student organisations in the University of Hong Kong, alongside with HKU Postgraduate Students Association.