Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Pranksters
Czech Artist Apologizes for Hoax
January 15, 2009
Czech artist David Cerny — previously best known for his parody of Damien Hirst, in which he pickled what appeared to be a body of Saddam Hussein — has been forced to apologize for a satirical stunt that caused embarrassment for his home country as it takes over presidency of the European Union. Cerny’s work, Entropa, is a large-scale public sculpture installed at the EU’s Brussels headquarters, featuring representations of each of the Union’s member states, supposedly contributions from 27 different artists. Shortly after Entropa’s unveiling, the unflattering imagery used to depict the countries started raising eyebrows.
When Bulgaria — depicted as a “Turkish lavatory” — objected, the hoax came undone.
In a statement posted on his website, Cerny called the work a “playful analysis of national stereotypes,” but went on to apologize to Czech government officials for the deception: “We did not want them to bear the responsibility for this kind of politically incorrect satire. We knew the truth would come out. But before that we wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself.” Cerny states that the commission began as a sincere effort to collaborate with other EU artists but that this was impossible “due to time, production, and financial constraints,” leading him and collaborators Kristof Kintera and Tomas Pospiszyl to fabricate names, and in some cases websites, for the fake EU artists.
“We have information about some states, we only know various tourist clichés about others. We know basically nothing about several of them,” Cerny admits, adding that Entropa shows “how difficult and fragmented Europe as a whole can seem from the perspective of the Czech Republic.”
The prank is having serious political repercussions. European parliament was already embroiled in considerable debate about the Czechs taking the reins of the presidency, in part because the country opposes the Lisbon Treaty, seen by many as indispensible to the further integration of Europe. According to the Guardian, “the [Entropa] incident has further undermined confidence in the Government’s abilities, coming, as it does, after a faltering start to the EU presidency” (And after all, couldn’t someone in the Czech government have guessed that something was afoot, based on the piece’s title alone?)
So what did Cerny’s parody actually look like? The Financial Times has a good slideshow of the work, showing the specific elements: an outline of France with a banner that says “Strike!” on it; Germany with a swastika-like formation of autobahns; Italy as completely taken over by a soccer field; Luxemburg as a gold nugget affixed with a “For Sale” sign; the Netherlands completely flooded; Poland depicting a group of Catholic priests planting a rainbow gay pride flag in the earth; Romania as a Dracula theme park, with a giant fanged portal; and Spain as a barren building site, apparently a reference to its disastrously collapsing property market. Great Britain is illustrated by leaving a gap, riffing on the fact that it refuses to fully become part of the Union.
images: Financial Times