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The 'fourth chair'

Interview: Gabriel Borrud
May 1, 2015

What would you say to the world if you could? This is the question posed by a sculpture on Berlin's Alexanderplatz. It's called: Anything to say? And, according to its creator, it's inspired by those who certainly did.

Deutschland Mai Snowden Tag Statue
Image: Picture-Alliance/AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Amidst the vociferous May Day demonstrations going on in the German capital and around the country this Friday, a sculpture was unveiled, dedicated to Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, that isn't looking for much noise at all, just an answer to one simple question: Anything to say? The sculptor is the Italian artist Davide Dormino.

DW: What is the atmosphere at Alexanderplatz right now, Mr. Dormino?

Davide Dormino: There are hundreds of people lined up here waiting to stand up on this fourth chair to say something. Anything.

What fourth chair?

Next to Snowden, Assange and Manning, who are all sculpted on chairs, there is a fourth one open to anyone here in Berlin who wants to get up and say anything they want. And it is fantastic. There are people getting up here and actually doing what we imagined when this idea came to being…

What are they saying?

Many different things. From politics to babbling to silence, from people who desperately are wanting to help Julian, Bradley and Edward to people who have no idea who they are, this chair is, I guess, a place of free speech.

In honor of those three people standing next to them who are no longer physically free?

Yes. Absolutely. But it doesn't mean that you have to stand up and give thanks to them. It doesn't matter what you say. You can say whatever you want, anything you want. Children are even standing up here.

Davide Dormino Ausschnitt
Davide Dormino says he pursues the politics of noise with his sculpturesImage: http://anythingtosay.com/content/

For you personally, as the sculptor, what is the link between free speech and art?

Well, it is very important. This sculpture is a kind of bridge between politics and people. Public art, as this has been called, has a great chance to speak to everyone. My idea was: When people can stand up on the empty chair, they can ask a question to themselves about their life. Why am I standing up here right now? Public art has this great power. Free speech is one of the most important human rights. So, that's it…

So are you personally making a statement with this sculpture? Who is it directed towards?

I don't have a personal message, if that's what you are asking. This is a monument for all, for everyone. I chose these three icons because they have lost their freedom to tell us how important it is to know the truth. They chose the chair of courage. And now the chair is for the people…

Is there a particular significance, setting up these chairs here at Alexanderplatz?

You mean East Germany?

Your next stop is Dresden…

Oh, for sure, of course. And this is an important day, May Day! All across the world, definitely, but especially Berlin - It was a very big honor for Berlin of all places to have been the first city to ask us to come here. Just think about the significance of this city when it comes to standing up to think about things: When I stood up on the chair to make my speech this afternoon [at the sculpture's unveiling], I tried to imagine those times long ago, when the Berlin Wall as there, how hard it was to imagine seeing over that wall, to a better view, to share the courage of looking over to a better side. That's it.

What better side would you like to have seen now?

It's almost about reflecting on the meaning of the chair. What does it mean to change your point of view? How hard is it to get up on this chair? For every different person, these questions are answered in a different way. And that's what our fourth chair is all about. It's not just about getting up to say something for Edward Snowden.