By Abby Zimet
A women delivers a speech as she stands on a chair of the public art project “Anything to Say?” at the Alexander Square in Berlin, Germany, Friday, May 1, 2015. The sculpture of the Italian artist Davide Dormino shows the whistleblowers Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, from right, to honor their courage. (Photo/AP. Photo on front by Michael Sohn/AP)
May Day saw the Berlin unveiling of Anything To Say?, a public art project and “monument to courage” featuring life-size bronze statues of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, all of whom have “lost their freedom for the truth.” The installation in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, a project conceived by American journalist Charles Glass and created by Italian sculptor Davide Dormino, features the three whistleblowers upright on chairs, with a fourth empty chair inviting passersby to express their solidarity or their views, to “stand up, get a better view and share their courageous stance.” Says Dormino, “It is for you.”
An advocate of public art, Dormino says each chair offers a dual meaning: “It can be comfortable, but it can also be a pedestal to rise higher, to get a better view, to learn more. They all chose to get up on the chairs of courage. They made their move in spite of becoming visible, and thus judged. You need courage to act, to stand up on that empty chair even if it hurts.” For Glass, the sculpture “pays homage to three who said no to war, to the lies that lead to war, and to the intrusion into private life that helps to perpetuate war. Manning, Assange and Snowden accepted their loss of freedom. While you remain free, thank them by erecting this reminder that we can refuse to collaborate with unaccountable power.” The two men argue that “the sculpture does not endorse any specific political ideals…neither does it belong to any specific country – courage is for all.” In that spirit, the installation will travel after Berlin to Dresden, then Switzerland, then Paris and hopefully beyond. It remains unclear if it would be welcomed in this country, which alas has proven kinda ambivalent on the whole freedom and courage thing.Φ
Abby Zimet is a staff writer for Common Dreams.