As you probably know by now, the Czech presidency of the EU is blushing and fuming with anger ever since it transpired that artistic instalation Entropa was not a collaborative effort by 27 artistist from 27 member states and that it does not exactly extol the virtues of being one big happy European family.
Slovenia, the birthplace of tourism
In fact, the entire instalation was made by David Černý and two associates and rather than singing the song of European happiness, it cinycally takes it apart, selects and exaggerates a particular – mostly well chosen – national stereotype. On top of that, all the sculptures are put in a plastic frame often found in scale kit models, suggesting that Europe is a product rather than an idea. And to top it all there’s the name: Entropa, combination of Europe and entropy.
It could be brushed off as yet another prank by the enfant terrible of the Czech art world. But apparently it hit too close to home for some people. The following is taken from the relevant Wikipedia entry:
* Austria, a known opponent of atomic energy, is a green field dominted by nuclear power plant cooling towers
* Belgium is presented as a half-full box of half-eaten Praline chocolates
* Bulgaria is depicted by a series of connected “Turkish” squat toilets
* Cyprus is jigsawed (cut) in half
* The Czech Republic’s own piece is an LED display, which will flash controversial quotations by Czech President Václav Klaus after the sculpture’s activation
* Denmark is a face depicted in Lego bricks, reminiscent of the cartoon controversy
* Estonia is presented with a hammer and sickle-styled power tools, the country has considered a ban on Communist symbols
* Finland is depicted as a wooden floor and an [apparently drunk] male with a rifle, imagining various animals
* France is draped in a “GR?VE!” (“STRIKE!”) banner
* Germany is a series of interlocking autobahns, described as “somewhat resembling a swastika”, though that is not universally accepted. Upon activation, the cars are supposed to start moving.
* Greece is depicted as a forest that is entirely burned
* Hungary features an Atomium made of its common agricultural products melons and Hungarian sausages, based on a floor of peppers
* Ireland is depicted as a brown bog with bagpipes protruding from Northern Ireland; upon activation, the bagpipes are expected to play music every five minutes
* Italy is depicted as a football pitch with the players holding balls in the “strategic position”
* Latvia is shown as covered with mountains, in contrast to its actual flat landscape
* Lithuanian soldiers are depicted urinating on Russia
* Luxembourg is displayed as a gold nugget with “For Sale” tag
* Malta is a tiny island with its prehistoric dwarf elephant as its only decoration
* The Netherlands has disappeared under the sea with only a several minarets still visible; upon activation, this piece is supposed to emit the singing of muezzins
* Poland has a piece with priests erecting the rainbow flag of the Gay rights movement, in the style of the U.S. soldiers raising the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima.
* Portugal is shown as a wooden cutting board with three pieces of meat in the shape of its former colonies of Brazil, Angola, and Mozambique
* Romania is a Dracula-style theme park
* Slovakia is depicted as a Hungarian sausage (or a human body tighten by Hungarian tricolour)
* Slovenia is shown as a rock engraved with the words first tourists came here 1213
* Spain is covered entirely in concrete, with a concrete mixer situated near the Basque country
* Sweden does not have an outline, but is represented as large Ikea-style self-assembly furniture, containing Gripen fighter planes
* The United Kingdom, known for its Euroscepticism and relative isolation from the Continent, is “included” as missing piece (an empty space) at the top-left of the work
Personally, I think this is a lovely provocation, not unlike what Slovenian designers did with The Youth Relay twenty years ago. It says more about the object of the mockery (in this case member states) as it does of the object of the art. In case of Slovenia it takes apart this country’s totally unfounded conviction that it is the centre of the world and that all great things somehow started here. Even tourism, for crying out loud! So in the instalation the rock that is Slovenia states that “the first tourists came here in 1213”. Gotta love it! (Full text of descriptions can be found here)
But in this particular case the fool in the room turned out to be the Czech presidency which (not unlike Slovenian presidency a year ago) was trying to come across as more European than Europe itself. Thus, the point of Entropa has been proven by the very people who aimed to discredit it. The fact that Černý made up 26 other artists, their biographies and even accompanying texts, only further shows that the European idea is artificial at least in part. That in itself if not necesarily bad as it does help to be reminded of that every once in a while. Just so we don’t get carried away.