Thursday, January 15, 2009

Awesome Art Rocks EU


Move over, Brooklyn Bridge waterfall dealie! Earlier today, 2009’s most awesome piece of original artwork so far was officially unveiled in the European Council building in Brussels. The Entropa art installation was commissioned by the Czech Republic to usher in its 6-month term as president of the EU. The original idea was for the project to be overseen by Czech artist David Černý with contributions from 27 artists representing each of the EU’s member states. In reality, however, Černý put the whole thing together himself with the help of a couple of his artist friends.

Entropa depicts the 27 EU States held together by a plastic frame like pieces in a model airplane kit. The installation cost EUR 375,000 to create and weighs 8 metric tons.

The controversy engendered by this work of art is twofold: first of all, Černý misled officials into believing Entropa was indeed created by 27 artists from the different European countries, even drawing up a pamphlet which is a brilliant piece of satire in and of itself (read it here). Secondly, some people objected to their countries’ depictions which were based on national stereotypes and which some deemed offensive or tasteless.

The artist himself described the piece as showing a Czech’s general associations for each of the European nations. Černý also stated that he knew from the start his hoax would be found out, but in the meantime he wanted to see if Europe could laugh at itself.

Here’s my summary of how each nation is depicted:

AUSTRIA is a green meadow with 4 nuclear cooling towers (which is ironic because it only has one nuclear plant which was never operational);

BELGIUM is a box of chocolates;

BULGARIA is covered with squat toilets;

CYPRUS is depicted with the Northern and Southern parts of the country split apart and joined by a hinge like an open door;

the CZECH REPUBLIC has an LED screen presenting a constant stream of “brilliant” quotes by President Václav Klaus (The pamphlet says about Klaus: “He’s not just a skier, he’s a great guy!");

DENMARK is constructed of Legos and resembles the satirical cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad;

ESTONIA features a power-tool hammer and sickle;

FINLAND has like a pink elephant and hippo along with a man lying prone with a rifle (I have no idea!);

FRANCE features an outline of the country draped with a banner which reads “GRÈVE!” (“On Strike!”);

GERMANY is covered by a congested autobahn system which looks suspiciously like a swastika;

the entirety of GREECE is on fire;

HUNGARY holds an Atomium composed of melons and spicy Csabai sausages;

IRELAND is a set of furry bagpipes;

ITALY is one big soccer field with goofy little soccer players;

LATVIA is covered with mountains. The illustration in the pamphlet, ostensibly drawn by the Latvian artist, is hilariously captioned “IF WE HAVE MOUNTAINS” (note that Latvia doesn’t have mountains);

LITHUANIA features soldiers pissing along the country's eastern border (shared with Russia). The pamphlet suggests it’s an homage to Belgium’s Mannekin Pis statue (OMG, you need to check out that website!) and that it was meant to be an alternative monument to Lithuanian independence;

LUXEMBOURG is a gold nugget with a FOR SALE sign;

MALTA contains a dwarf elephant;

the NETHERLANDS is completely flooded with only a few minarets visible above the waves;

POLAND supports a quartet of Catholic priests raising a rainbow flag;

PORTUGAL is a cutting board with pieces of meat in the shape of its former colonies;

ROMANIA is Dracula Land;

SLOVAKIA is covered in cloth and twine. Apparently, it’s supposed to look like a Hungarian sausage, thus highlighting Slovakia’s large Hungarian minority and its rocky diplomatic relations with its neighbor to the South;

SLOVENIA bears the inscription “First tourists came here in 1213” (a reference to a graffito found in the Postojna caves);

SPAIN is a concrete construction site with what looks like a bomb planted in the Basque region;

SWEDEN is still wrapped up in its IKEA box awaiting assembly;

and, finally, the euro-skeptic UNITED KINGDOM decided not to participate and is conspicuously absent from the installation.

Those who were not amused by Černý's prank included EU and Czech officials, as well as the government of Bulgaria which summoned the Czech ambassador in order to lodge a formal complain regarding its depiction. Other than that, most people seem to think that it is funny or they at least give it credit for getting people talking about the boring old EU. I think that Entropa's France, Sweden, UK and the Netherlands are especially brilliant.

Judge for yourself, here's a video which shows you the entire installation:

The BBC has a video interview with the artist and Der Spiegel has a slidehow with more photos of Entropa. Moreover, here's a link to the official statement by the Czech EU presidency and by the artist himself.

David Černý

The 41-year-old scupltor behind Entropa is no stranger to controversy. In 1991, he was briefly arrested after painting the Soviet tank which serves as Prague's WWII memorial pink. And, in 2005, he created a work called "Shark" which depicted former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein suspended in a formaldehyde tank (parodying this sculpture by Damien Hirst) and which would be banned by a town in Belgium and Poland. Here's a link to his website and to a series of photographs showing some of his works publically displayed around the city of Prague.

Images: Entropa and Shark by David


Neil Fulwood said...

Great post, Meeg. What a fantastic bit of satire - an inspired joke at the expense of all of Europe and the name of art.

(The Mannekin-Pis website is ever so slightly worrying, btw.)

nola32 said...

i love this piece. i saw from the first pic that it said, 'greve' over france and i was instantly smitten. i also love that the uk isn't there (although i think that given thought he might have been able to come up with something very biting and clever about them being one foot in).

Magdalena said...

I think you need to be distanced to be able to laugh at it.