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Artist Tomaz Schlegl on His (Trump-like) Statue of Liberty

The artist behind the new media sensation, the Statue of Liberty built by villagers in Sela pri Kamniku, is a friend of mine, architect and artist Tomaz Schlegl. He was very surprised at the media avalanche that hit on 28 August and continues, with major media outlets from around the world writing about his creation. I interviewed him this morning for a feature in The Observer, which will come out shortly. To date, he has not given any interview on the record, and this statement from him about the statue is the first (the translations from Slovenian are mine).




“The idea came all of a sudden, inspired by the world around me. There’s so much populism in the world today. The new type of politics of the 21st century, which has its roots in Mussolini and Hitler, but it really emerged with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It rose with Milosevic and Berlusconi. Politicians that say whatever they think the majority of the population wants to hear, but behind the scenes they are at work only for egotistical, personal motives.”


“The time of the millennials on, the world has run on sensationalism. The idea of a Statue of Liberty has collapsed. This statue is the 12th Statue of Liberty in Europe, but people are not interested in the symbolism.”


“If people interpret it to be about Trump, if they see him in it, that’s up to them. Trump is the personification of total liberty, because he has shown that he can do and say whatever he wants, and he won’t be held accountable. He can still be president. But I leave all that interpretation to the public.”


“The plan was for this to be an interesting point of discussion, as an art installation, and that it would be a tourist destination in our little village. That was the thinking of the village culture society that decided to put up the statue. It was a collective enterprise, but not all the villagers are happy with it, and a group of them are vehemently against having it here. I certainly do not want to upset people. For this reason, we’ve decided to try to save it by moving it elsewhere. Just today we’ve decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to save this Statue of Liberty. If there is enough interest in preserving it, then we will move it to a new, permanent location where it can remain and be visited by anyone who wishes to see it.”


“The statue is also not yet finished. We plan to develop its interior, where we will install sculptures representing the internal organs of the contemporary idea of Liberty: the brain, heart, stomach, bladder, liver. Visitors will be able to climb inside. The point of entry will be through the rear end. There will also be a special beer on tap, made by a local craft brewer, with the tap in the groin (the keg emerging from the bladder of the statue inside). So visitors will be able to enter the statue and explore it more deeply, as well as pour themselves a pint of Freedom Beer. We’ve come a long way downhill from the idea of a Statue of Liberty that welcomes ‘the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ I hope that this statue will add to the commentary on this important contemporary issue. And I hope there will be enough interest to save it.”


“We will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to save the statue, but the idea just came about today, and so we need a few days to get the campaign page up and running. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in supporting it, they can email kipsvobode1@gmail.com and I will inform them when the campaign is up and running.”