Controversial “religious” art exhibition opens at EU Parliament

h_53575398-1Brussels-based newspaper New Europe reports that a controversial exhibition, “The Pillars of Scriptures”, by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt opened at the European Parliament in Brussels on 10 July. The eight sculptures show the darkest and brightest quotes from the Quran, the Bible, and the Torah.

Hundreds of the darkest and brightest quotes from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy scriptures can be seen on Galschiøt’s sculptures, exhibited centrally inside the Parliament’s Brussels headquarters. The sculptures are two meters tall, weigh about two tonnes and display the religious quotes in nine languages.

The EU exhibit is a part of the art and dialogue project The Children of Abraham, which the artist claims uses visual art to build a bridge between Christianity, Islam and Judaism. When displayed in Denmark, the exhibitions have started dialogues where people spoke to each other without prejudice about the influence of religion, cultural identity, and personal similarities and differences. Libraries have held debates and over 100 schools and high school classrooms in Denmark have used it in their lessons.

Asked by New Europe about his exhibition at the EU Parliament, the artist explained: “Religion scares me. Every time artists are trying to do something about religion, especially about Islam and Christianity and Judaism, people go completely mad. You publish some cartoons and then you see embassies burning. Many right wing people tell me: Oh you don’t touch Islam because you are afraid. I tell them: No, I am not afraid of Muslims. I am afraid of you, right wing people. I am afraid that the Right would use my art against Muslims.”

The project’s main sculpture, Fundamentalism, is 3½ meters tall, 9 meters wide, and weighs 28 tonnes. Mr Galschiøt  told his interviewer: “I put all religions on the same level, the Koran, the Bible and the Torah. I took out of each one of the them the most beautiful quotes, then I chose the most hateful ones. 100 of the best and 100 of the worst. And I placed them on these big constructions. And something strange happened: the result was the very definition of fundamentalism. One pillar shows only the Jewish quotations from the Torah; another one from the New Testament etc. And people are enchanted: Oh, this is beautiful. Many are surprised that quotations from the Koran can be so lovely.”

“But when you go inside the circle of pillars, you can see the opposite. All the hateful quotations. You read about pouring meting metal in the mouths of sinners. After that you see how the Bible tells us to burn women, or how homosexuals have to be stoned. Awful things in all three books. Every religion has two sides. A lovely one and a hateful one. All this discussion in Europe about religion is not about the nature of the books, it is about which side of the book you choose. This is all the meaning of my construction.”