Can Europe laugh at itself?

A new art installation unveiled at the European Council building in Brussels has angered several EU members with its attack of national stereotypes.

The work – entitled “Entropa: Stereotypes are Barriers to be Demolished” – depicts Bulgaria as a toilet, Romania as a Dracula theme park and France as a country on strike.

The Czech Republic government thought it had commissioned work from 27 artists from all over Europe to mark the start of its 6-month EU Presidency, but it turned out to have been entirely the work of enfant terrible of the Czech art scene David Cerny, and two of his fellow artists.

The 8-tonne mosaic is held together by a framework of snap-out plastic parts reminiscent of those used in modelling kits.

Other EU member states did not escape rough treatment – While the instantly recognisable “Hexagone” of France is covered with a banner, reading “Strike!”,Germany is shown as a network of motorways in the vague shape of a swastika, while the UK – often seen as one of EU’s most eurosceptic members – is absent from Europe altogether, the artist deliberately leaving an empty space.

Belgium is a giant case of chocolates; Italy is a football pitch, in which each players holds a football in front of his loins; Luxemburg is a nugget of gold overshadowed by a “For Sale” sign; Spain is covered all over with concrete; Poland is represented as a huddle of Catholic monks erecting the rainbow flag of the gay community; and all that is left of the Netherlands above the sea level are several minarets – most likely a reference to the nation’s simmering religious tensions.

Czech government officials feel misled, as they were under the  impression that a collective of artists from different European nations would produce the work.

Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Alexandr Vondra, who was only informed on Monday that the work had actually been done by Czerny and his pals, condemned Mr Cerny and said the Czech EU presidency was considering what action it should take before Thursday’s official launch.

David Cerny, the ringleader of the three artists responsible for the installation justified their work, saying: “We wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself.” He added that Entropa “lampoons the socially activist art that balances on the verge between would-be controversial attacks on national character and undisturbing decoration of an official space”.

 

Elena Zhelepova explains the project in the booklet she has written for the official launch: “Our project is dedicated to fake patriotism. I aim at creating debates and scandal. This is a gesture of punk, deliberately primitive, vulgar and teenager.”

Cerny is certainly no stranger to controversy – in the early 1990s he painted a Second World War memorial in Prague bright pink. It happened to be a Soviet Tank.

Picture credits: AFP

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