David Černý's Metalmorphosis – Charlotte, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura

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David Černý's Metalmorphosis

A psychological self-portrait in the form of a giant, segmented head. 


Controversial Czech artist David Černý isn’t afraid of pissing people off. He jumpstarted his anti-government notoriety in 1991 by painting a Soviet tank in a Prague war memorial pink. The act scandalized Czech society.

Not easily tamed, Černý followed up his insertion into the public consciousness with large-scale sculptures of, for example, two massive, naked backsides. Černý almost always encourages his viewers to interact with the art, and, in this piece, the observer can climb a ladder and stick his or her head inside the sculpture’s erm…back entrances. Another famous Černý sculpture is of two men urinating famous sayings from Prague residents into a small pond. Viewers can interact with this piece by texting their own messages for the figures to memorialize in a very special way.

In comparison with his other works, Metalmorphosis, a mirrored sculpture housed in the Whitehall Technology Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, is tame and seemingly apolitical. The creation consists of nearly 40 steel pieces grouped into 7 segments which independently rotate 360 degrees. The mouth spits water into a surrounding pool. When the segments are aligned, the sculpture appears to be a giant, silver head with all of the usual fixtures in their regular places.

When the motorized, internet-controlled segments are rotating, the result is an oddly mesmerizing perpetually moving showpiece which alternately looks like a human head—with disturbing, gaping holes where the mouth or eyes should be—or, alternately, like nothing replicated in the physical world. The reflecting pool beneath the sculpture creates an even more muddled reflection.

Perhaps drawing on the quickly-shifting and revolving literary universe of fellow Czech artist, Franz Kafka, Černý notes the Metalmorphosis as something of a self-portrait of his own psyche. Maybe. Part of Černý’s rebellious artistic temperament includes creating a falsified biography of himself for the media. Whether or not it’s absolutely true, regarding the piece, Černý said,” This is how I feel; it is a mental self-portrait.”

Appropriate for a technology park and perhaps a dig at the constant surveillance of modern times, you can watch the head rotate—all day, every day—on a webcam feed.

Update as of January 2020: The Metalmorphosis is temporarily absent as it is currently undergoing routine maintenance. 

Update as of December 2020: Metalmorphosis is back.

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