European artwork that (I think) I understand

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/15/world/europe/15mosaic.html?_r=2&scp=2&sq=cerny&st=cse

In honor of the Czech Republic gaining the presidency of the European Union, they decided to commission and donate a sculpture to adorn the European Council Building.

The new art work (entitled Entropa) is a giant grid sectioned into areas depicting each member of the European Union.

For example, Italy is shown covered by a giant football (er… soccer) field, complete with soccer players.

Romania:  a giant castle with Dracula’s face on it.

France:  the outline of a nation with an “Gréve” banner (which, according to the article roughly translates to “On Strike”. (forgiveness on the inflection mark).

Lithuania:  some soldiers urinating on Russia (complete with yellow fiber optcis).

Belgium: a partially eaten box of chocolates.

Luxembourg:  a (tiny) lump of gold with a “For Sale” sign.

Denmark: a human face made from LEGOs.

Finland:  a man sleeping on a wooden floor clutching a rifle while dreaming of various animals.

Netherlands:  the entire nation underwater, save for the tops of some minarets.

Spain:  the nation is covered in concrete, with a concrete mixer located in the Basque region

Sweden:  a box of prefabricated furniture.

There is a blank spot in the upper left of the grid, apparently representing the United Kingdom’s long held skepticism of an united Europe.

Then it gets more interessting:

Bulgaria:  several Turkish (in-floor) toilets.

Poland: several priests raising a rainbow flag.

Germany:  sections of highway in a shape that with a small amount of imagination resembles a swastika.

 

The perfect symbol for a Europe without borders! (no!)

To say the least, there are a few people who are taking a little offense at the nation being stereotyped in such a way.  The Bulgarian government went as far as to call in the Czech ambassador to file a protest.

The artist responsible is David Cerny, a Czech sculptor with a reputation.  Among his other works:  a sculpture of a man dangling by one hand from a horizontal pole, which was displayed over a public street, and the repainting of a tank which was part of a memorial to Soviet soldiers in Prague, pink (in 1991).

While there is some outrage, there are also people who seem to be questioning what the Czech government was expecting in hiring an artists with a history for left field thinking and controversy.

The artists claims he wanted to see if Europe could laugh at itself.  Certainly, poking fun at stereotypes themselves can be a liberating (this is essentially what Mel Brooks did in Blazing Saddles, and what Sasha Baron Cohen did with Borat.  A stereotype has power over people as long as it is allowed to.  Reduce those who stereotype to absurdity, and they and their stereotypes lose their power.

Granted, that is easy to say and do provided you are not particularly being skewered by one.  I am partially German, and Nazism is the darkest hour in Germany’s not always bright history.  I cringed a bit seeing that depiction.  Of course, I’m not actually German, so I don’t find myself in the position to tell German people “laugh at it, its not what you are anymore”.

At any rate, it is a little humorous, and at least a bit thought provoking.

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