Reading a Sculpture

Art interpretation and climate change.

Credit: AP photo/ Peter DejongCredit: AP photo/ Peter Dejong

Jens Galschiot’s Survival of the Fattest, displayed in Copenhagen Harbor during the global climate conference, features an obese Justitia on the shoulders of a frail African. There’s an inscription: “I’m sitting on the back of a man. He is sinking under the burden. I would do anything to help him. Except stepping down from his back.”

In an explanatory statement, Galschiot declared that “climate changes can only be stopped if the Western World starts massive investments in energy free of CO2 and sustainable production.” But you could easily find a different message in the figure, one that encapsulates the developing world’s objections to international climate controls. The statue shows a West that industrialized, grew rich and fat, then passed regulations that restrain everyone else. Message to the climate conference: Lay off.

That isn’t far from Galschiot’s original intent. When the statue was first unveiled, it was a protest against the West’s hypocritical trade rules. “Our chanted free trade is full of restrictions in defence of our privileges, while the third world is kept in misery,” the artist explained in 2004, adding that “European dairy cattle receive two dollars per day through subsidies while one fifth of the world’s population live from one dollar a day.” If Galschiot wants to reinterpret his work for the climate debate, that’s his right. But one rereading is as good as another. 

Jesse Walker (jwalker@reason.com) is managing editor of reason.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    It would have been a better, more hip statue if the skinny guy's head was facing the other way ...

  • PIRS||

    But it was not commissioned for the purpose of being displayed in an art museum in New York City.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    +1

  • BakedPenguin||

    Since the statue is now about climate change instead of trade policies, shouldn't fat ass be carrying a hockey stick instead of a walking stick?

  • Warty||

    Black dudes love fat white chicks. What's the problem?

  • ||

    ...and that's a win for Warty. You should leave now, Costanza-style, so that you go out on a high note.

  • Almanian||

    That is just digusting...but BEGS for a Caption Contest!

  • Almanian||

    "But, mo-o-o-o-o--o-o--o-o-m, it's my turn to get on your shoulders so I can see President Obama!!

  • ||

    "CHICKEN FIGHT!"

  • Jamie Kelly||

    "You need to gain a little weight there, darkie."

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    Feministing Porn

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    Then she shifted her weight and that was the last anyone saw of him.

  • Jamie Kelly||

    "Would you hurry the fuck up? The ship to America is leaving and these mosquitoes are milking all the blood out of my tits."

  • Old Mexican||

    In an explanatory statement, Galschiot declared that “climate changes can only be stopped if the Western World starts massive investments in energy free of CO2 and sustainable production.”

    We're off to a bad start when he spews the phrase "sustainable production". Why would you want that? For example, why make the production of Leisure Suits sustainable? Or of pet rocks? Or The Rocky Horror Show?

    When the statue was first unveiled, it was a protest against the West’s hypocritical trade rules.

    Yes, but possibly somebody told Galschiot that he better change his tune lest he is barred from the hip scenes.

  • ||

    I dunno, I thought that inexpensive and easily exploited carbon-based energy had made possible and sustained a very nice standard of living for quite some time now.

    “climate changes can only be stopped if the Western World starts massive investments in energy free of CO2 and sustainable production.”

    That has such a Veruca Salt vibe to it.

  • Jamie Kelly||

    you want it WHEN, Veruca? ... Where do you want me to stick it?

  • ||

    Which investments, of course will be funded by governments, which are funded by inflation, which punishes the savers and rewards spenders.

    Everyone wins!

  • Xeones||

    I think i used to work with that woman.

  • ||

    Sadly, she was killed on vacation. The picture of her with her murderer is here.

  • ||

    Hah...you got nuthin.....I used to be married to her!

  • ¢||

    An evolution-chart series of "before" sculptures where that little sissy guy struggles to find a fulcrum on the Butch Granny of Justice would be sweet.

  • ||

    WTF does that even mean?

  • Almanian||

    I dunno, but I like it

  • ||

    Kudos for the "Pecker" ref, if intented.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    It means that it would be amusing to see a series of sculptures depicting the skinny guy attempting to actually get the fat woman on his shoulders.

  • ||

    “Our chanted free trade is full of restrictions in defence of our privileges, while the third world is kept in misery,” the artist explained in 2004, adding that “European dairy cattle receive two dollars per day through subsidies while one fifth of the world’s population live from one dollar a day.”

    You know, I won't argue with eliminating subsidies isn't a good thing, but a betting man would place the bulk of wagers on the 3rd world kleptocracies (and well-intentioned nitwits like Bono and Geldolf) as to why the 3rd world is in the state that it is.

    And WTF is "chanted" free trade?

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Out of curiosity, why do you think there are so many Third World kleptocracies?

  • ||

    Definitionally null question. Poor non-kleptocracies are just called the Second World.

  • wackyjack||

    “European dairy cattle receive two dollars per day through subsidies while one fifth of the world’s population live from one dollar a day.”

    In terms of ROI, the cow's still a better deal.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    +2

  • Xeones||

    And WTF is "chanted" free trade?

    I know, right? Also, note that this dumbass thinks lavish subsidies are part of "free trade."

  • American Dairy Farmer||

    Lavish subsidies aren't part of free trade?

  • Jesse Walker||

    He means that western governments are chanting "free trade" while practicing protectionism. The subsidies are an example of the hypocrisy, not an example of free trade.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I dunno, it reads to me more like he thinks third world farmers should get those same subsidies.

  • ||

    Arizona Pulls Out of Western Climate Initiative

    From the Arizona Republic:

    Arizona will no longer participate in a groundbreaking attempt to limit greenhouse-gas emissions across the West, a change in policy by Gov. Jan Brewer that will include a review of all the state's efforts to combat climate change.

    Brewer stopped short of pulling Arizona out of the multistate coalition that plans to regulate greenhouse gases starting in 2012. But she made it clear in an executive order that Arizona will not endorse the emission-control plan or any program that could raise costs for consumers and businesses.

    The governor's order is another blow to the Western Climate Initiative, a group of seven states and four Canadian provinces that joined forces in 2007 after growing impatient with the federal government to address climate change

    The coalition agreed to implement a regional "cap and trade" system, which limits how much pollution companies can emit, then allows them to buy and sell pollution credits.

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/.....r0211.html

  • pmains||

    Wow. Of all the things that our accidental governor has done, I think that that's the first one that I've approved of.

  • ||

    Sounds like he's fine with saddling the taxpayers with the much greater costs of Climate Change Adaptation then.

  • ||

    This is the visual-art equivalent of complaint-rock, right?

  • Xeones||

    He means that western governments are chanting "free trade" while practicing protectionism. The subsidies are an example of the hypocrisy, not an example of free trade.

    That makes sense, then.

  • ||

    The lavish subsides make sense? Heretic!

  • Xeones||

    The lavish subsides make sense? Heretic!

    Fool, Jesse's explanation made the meaning of the artist's statement more clear. Why you got to be ignorant all your life?

  • ||

    That makes sense, then.

  • PR||

    it looks like Ralphie May

  • ||

    I like the way that, with every step, the occipital ridge of his skull would stimulate her otherwise gunt-smothered clitoris.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    You would.

  • ||

    Ribbed for her pleasure.

  • The Gobbler||

    I think the next condom Trojan comes up with should be named The Trojan Rawdawg.

  • ||

    I would have titled the piece Labia Earmuffs.

  • T||

    otherwise gunt-smothered clitoris

    As much as I like this phrase, I don't think I can work it into conversation anytime soon. Pity.

  • ||

    She ain't heavy, she's my mother.

  • ||

    Shorter Sullum:
    There's never been a better time to start using smack.

  • ||

    Oops Wrong thread.
    Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • T||

    Quit shooting up so much and you might keep the threads straight, Warren.

  • Nitori Kawashiro||

    Who says smug, spoiled, Western leftards don't understand irony?

  • LibertyGal||

    Someone needs to erect a statue of the carbon credit trading instigators/perpretators/financial beneficiaries of the climate change hoax (Strong, de Rothschild, Paulsen, Geithner, Bernanke, Brown)of an American taxpaying laborer with the above worms on his shoulders and with the Federal Reserve as a background.

  • ||

    I want a sculpture of Al Gore's Limo being pulled by hippies in shackles.

    Utah passed resolution condemning climate alarmism: http://motls.blogspot.com/2010.....mists.html

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  • رش مبيدات||

    In an explanatory statement, Galschiot declared that “climate changes can only be stopped if the Western World starts massive investments in energy free of CO2 and sustainable production.” شركة تنظيف شقق بالرياض
    We're off to a bad start when he spews the phrase "sustainable production". Why would you want that? For example, why make the production of Leisure Suits sustainable? Or of pet rocks? Or The Rocky Horror Show?

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