600 religious quotes and the sculpture 'Fundamentalism', are the means by which artist Jens Galschiot seek to launch an including dialog process between the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This dialogue includes the religions’ believers and practitioners, as well as those who only feel culturally attached to the religions or have prejudices about them.
The sculpture Fundamentalism is build of 8,000 Torahs, Bibles and Qurans - that is; molded copper models of the scriptures. It weighs 30 tons and consists of 3.5 meters tall letters which create the word ‘FUNDAMENTALISM’ placed in a Stonehenge-like circle.
600 religious quotations from the Torah, the Bible and the Quran are shown on screens on the plinth of the sculpture. The quotations chosen are the 100 ‘brightest’ (i.e. humane, compassionate positions) from each book and the 100 ‘darkest’ (i.e. inhumane, cruel positions) from each book.
Dialogue tools. Apart from the exhibition of the sculpture, 10 minor Pillars of Scriptures-sculptures make room for satellite exhibitions and multi lingual dialogue tool like quiz on quotes, and online quote presentation, makes it possible to take part in the project and dialogue all over the world. So far schools all over the country use the project to discuss religion and religious prejudices.
The sculpture installation 'Fundamentalism'
The Fundamentalism-sculpture is built of 8000 cobber books that are stacked to make 14 separate letters, forming the word “FUNDAMENTALISM”. The letters are placed on a circle shaped plinth which has a diameter of 9 meters. The grand size of the sculpture, gives it a monumental appearance.
The sculptures’ letters are divided between the religions. 4 letters are made of copper Bibles, 4 of copper Qurans and 3 are made of Torahs. In respect of the religions’ Holy Scriptures, the books are modeled by hand in wax. They were never real Torahs, Bibles or Qurans.
On the outside of the circle 14 screens are mounted. Around the clock they display the ‘brightest’ quotations from the Torah, Bible and Quran. On the inside of the sculpture 14 screens display the religions’ ‘darkest’ quotations.
There is only one entrance to the interior of the installation: a small corridor in the plinth by the letter ‘F’. One can only exit the installation through the same corridor, but by the way out a sign says 'NO EXIT'.
The brightest and darkest religious quotes
The three religions are often called “the people of the book” as they all acknowledge Abraham as their joint forefather. So one could say that the disagreements between these religions are some kind of family disputes between “The children of Abraham”.
600 quotations from the Torah, the Bible and the Quran has been selected for the project. The quotations chosen are the 100 ‘brightest’ (i.e. humane, compassionate positions) from each book and the 100 ‘darkest’ (i.e. inhumane, cruel positions) from each book. Artist Jens Galschiot says:
"I have worked concentrated for 4 years creating this project. I want to use this piece of art to stage what I think is the essence of the three religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is to be a platform on which to start a balanced dialogue between people, who attach to the three religions culturally and religiously.”
Pillars of scriptures
Galschiøt has created ’The Pillars of Scriptures’, 10 cobber sculptures that can be exhibited indoor and make basis for starting the dialogue elsewhere. The sculptures are one meter broad and two meters high. They are very beautiful and have a kind of meditative appearance as they recite the quotations endlessly on the screens. These ‘Pillars of Scriptures’ are exhibited separately or as a part of larger exhibitions with the big Fundamentalism-sculpture.
Interactive dialogue tools
Though the sculptures are central to the project we have done an effort to present the dialogue and debate online. In this way people can participate in the project in their living rooms all over the world. All the tools are presented in 8 languages. They are:
Dialogue, information and breaking down prejudies.
The sculpture is staging all three books - the Torah, Bible and Koran contain so many beautiful and bright statements that one can build a very beautiful, harmonious and benevolent society on the basis of each individual book. But on the opposite hand, each of them (the Torah, the Bible and the Quran) contains so many inhuman and totalitarian statements that one can build a totalitarian society from each book.
The sculpture functions as a kind of educational project about religions. And it initiates a dialogue that can help to break down a lot of prejudices about each other.
The artist himself has experienced this degradation of prejudices in connection with his work on the sculpture. "I, myself, was very surprised at how hard Christianity is on the female sex. And how relatively gentle the Quran is toward women. I actually thought that it was the opposite" says Jens Galschiøt and continues "It is my impression that it is not the religious scriptures, that are basis for how people act. It is more of a question of who interprets the books and which position the individual human chooses: the ‘dark’ or the ‘bright’ side of their religion"
Is this an anti-religious project?
About the reason for creating the sculpture installation Galschiøt explains: This project is not anti-religious. I think religion is basically humanity's attempt to understand the meaning of one’s life and existence. Religions are not fundamentally bad for humanity. All of the monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have, at times had positive societal impacts. Especially regarding compassion for the poor and other basic guidelines to promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
But there are, as well, a large number of outdated and insensitive rules, which belong to a surpassed way of life and culture in an inhumane civilization. If one take every part of the religious writings literally and obey their every word, people and society alike risk ending up being insensitive, uncaring and callous.
For me, it is important to create a dialogue on the premises that the books are not essentially the culprits when wrong is done in their names. It is the fundamentalists who use the books without regard for the progress of civilization and without a tolerant, humane attitude towards other people. One can easily read and interpret the books in humane ways if one takes that standpoint. It is equally feasible to defend an inhuman interpretation of the same books. This is the essential point of the art project ‘The Children of Abraham’”.
The Art Directors view on the project.
By Iben From, director, MSC mag. art history and religion, master of museology.
Art Installation With Meaning
The Work of Art: In the art installation The Children of Abraham 3 religions dark and bright sides are placed across from one another, but also together. The spectator is challenged simultaneously by the immense physical dimensions of the work and its presence and at the same time by the powerful message: no religious text of any monotheistic religion is completely free of dimensions that are incompatible with humanism and modern democracy. The work has very powerful contemporary dimensions that comment on society. Children of Abraham is a work of art that utilizes the textural and communicative possibilities of art to put focus on the subject matter and set the scene for it. The message is intensified, and the work of art is provocative. This means that the work of art places itself in art history's category of works and artists that want their art to be provocative, give rise to debate, comment on society, and change contemporary society.Read full review
About the Artist Jens Galschiøt
By Bruun Rasmussen, Scandinavia's largest auction of fine Arts.
"Internationally, Galschiot could be characterized as one of the most significant Danish artists of late modernity (after 1980). His artistic production covers a wide field of expression; from jewellery and small dainty figures to gigantic, politically emphatic sculptures.
He is among the best-known Danish artists abroad. His reputation extends from Hong Kong, and Mexico to Germany, Spain, and the U.S.A. Apart from clothing sculptures Jens Galschiot creates international happenings to highlight the present imbalance of the world".