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In Copenhagen, you can ‘treasure hunt’ for giants hiding in the woods

They say giants don’t exist, but there are actually six living in Copenhagen. You just have to find them hiding in the forest!

In the past three years, Danish artist Thomas Dambo has been using reclaimed materials to create massive sculptures. His latest series, entitled The Six Forgotten Giants, features six huge characters constructed by the artist and his team from 600 wood pallets, an old fence, a shed, and other sources.

The giants – namely Little Tilde, Teddy Friendly, Thomas on the Mountain, Oscar under the Bridge, Hill Top Trine, and Sleeping Louis – are cleverly hidden in the woods just on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Each one can be found using a ‘treasure hunt’ map and even comes with clues that lead to the next discovery.

A giant

The sculptures are also interactive. For instance, Little Tilde contains 28 bird houses in its belly, while the rest can be climbed on to get a better view of the surrounding landscape.

According to Dambo, he started the project to encourage city dwellers to go out and explore nature, as well as make everyone see the beauty in recycling.

We recently caught up with Dambo and got to know more about The Six Forgotten Giants:

A kid playing with a giant

Why do you choose to use recycled materials/scrap wood to build your sculptures?

“I only work with recycled materials, I have done this since building tree top houses as a kid. Back then I didn’t have money and opportunity to transport stuff, so in order to make my big and creative dreams come true, I had to go scavenge it with a shopping cart, since driving to buy it was not an option.

“After doing this for 25 years I became an expert in it. And now it has become my work and mission to teach others. I believe we need to take better care of our planet and that being better at recycling is a big part of this. For me, it makes no sense to discard things that have value it is just plain stupid. So to put focus on this I make big, positive, fun, and interactive projects to show people that recycling can be much more than trash.”

A man sitting on a giant

What is your design process like?

“I start with the location and the materials and let it inspire me. If I find a lot of dark brown wood, maybe I will make a dark brown fur for the sculpture, if I find a bunch of tweaks maybe I’ll give the sculpture tweak hair on its head.

“I try to make the sculptures look alive by making them part of the environment. They grab the big trees, they lean their back on the hill, or sit on the ground. If I make a sculpture within driving distance of my workshop, I normally prepare some of the more detailed parts in my workshop, like the hands, feet, and face, then I drive this to the building site.

“I always have a group of volunteers that helps me taking pallets apart or cleaning old wood boards from nails and screws. It takes me and five to ten helpers around two weeks, to make a sculpture.”

A child and a giant

For the Six Forgotten Giants, why did you choose to make it a treasure hunt?

“I believe a lot of people have forgotten to be curious and explore the places they live. As we grow older we start living our life in a triangle between our house, our job, and our supermarket. And sadly many people think they have to go on an airplane for eight hours to experience something new, but the fact is that almost nobody knows what’s hiding in their own city.

“I have always been exploring for locations for art, for recycled materials, or just places to chill out with my friends. This has given me so many great experiences I would never miss. So by putting the sculptures in places people don’t know about and don’t normally go to, I both give them the experience of the sculpture but also the nature they pass through on the way there.

“I believe this gives them a much bigger experience than if the sculpture was in the middle of the city square where people would just give it a quick glance and then go on with their doings. It’s like home cooked food, it tastes better because you made it yourself, the same thing goes for self-found sculptures, it gives you a better experience if you put effort into finding them.

“I made it into a treasure hunt, to give the project some mystique and adventure, and also to gamify it, which makes it fun if you’re out searching with your kids. Also, I put a big stone next to each sculpture with a poem I wrote engraved, the poem gives hints on how to find the other sculptures. Here is the poem from the rock next to sleeping Louis translated to English:

I have been sleeping for a year, I wake up when I feel like it.

Crawl into my belly, and join me – but not if you snore

I’m from a big group of siblings, and we are hidden to humans

They call us the forgotten giants

you can find my sister little tilde in Advedøre (name of an area)

at the grassland, behind the hill filled with cows and sheep

A kid playing with a giant

Which one is your favourite giant?

“My favourite giant of the Six Forgotten Giants is the one called Teddy Friendly. I’m really happy with the location, it’s a little piece of wild and completely forgotten nature in West Copenhagen called Hakkemosen.

“I had never seen this magnificent place with some beautiful lakes and a little forest before and was really amazed that it existed. I made the sculpture next to a tiny stream and made the one arm reach to the other side of the stream, so it creates a bridge for the small humans to cross.

“I think it’s a nice little story that the giant helps us small humans. I named all my sculptures after the volunteers who helped out building them. Teddy was named after a super nice guy who helped me for a week building and pulling nails out of all the old pallets we used.”

A giant in the forest

How did you choose the spots for the giants?

“I biked around on my bicycle and location scouted for a full week, I spoke to a lot of people, and got help from my Facebook followers for green spots and then went and checked them out. Sometimes I and my girlfriend would look at some green spot in Google maps, and then bike there and check it out and have a little picnic. It was a really nice thing to do that I would recommend to everybody.”

A giant by the river

What do you hope for this treasure hunt to become or mean for people?

“I hope it will give people a good experience, remind them that it’s fun to go exploring and hopefully make them remember that their trash might have value for someone else before they send it with the garbage truck to be burned or buried on a beautiful piece of land.

“I think everybody knows the term ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,’ but sadly almost nobody understands the full meaning. It’s not only about what treasures you might find amongst other people’s trash. What is more important is what you put in your trash can that could have been a treasure for somebody else.

“What I mean is take responsibility for your own trash. Recycle it or give it to someone who needs it. If you put it in your trashcan, it will be burned or lost in a landfill.”

To find out more about Thomas Dambo and his work, head on over here.

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