David Černý has both a good sense of humor and lot of anger. The Czech artist began his career by painting a Soviet tank, which had been placed to commemorate Soviet glory in communist Prague, completely pink. Recently, his activism and strong opinions have anything but slowed down.
In 2009, the tortured sculptor unveiled his work commissioned by the European Union called Entropa. As far as the EU was concerned, David Černý was creating a work to commemorate the Czech Republic’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, a position held for six months at a time. Instead of unveiling a positive ode to European political cooperation, Černý took a jab at the continent itself.
Entropa is a 54-by-54-foot square made of plastic and steel that features a multimedia display depicting negative stereotypes of all 27 EU member states. Each country is carefully constructed to resemble the actual borders and feature displays ranging from harmless fun to overt sexual innuendo. Despite the humorous content, the controversy surrounding the piece was immense immediately after its unveiling.
Dozens of European dignitaries called for censorship of the work, along with Černý’s head on a platter. Every country was appalled by his depiction of their people. Aside from the massive size and controversy of Entropa, the work of art is a spectacle simply because of the ways Černý constructed the stereotypes of the nations.
The Czech Republic portion shows a rolling script of controversial quotes from the former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. Still other parts light up and flash, emit steam and even play music from bagpipes. Others are much more overtly offensive, such as the depiction of only squat toilets across Bulgaria and a Dracula theme park in Romania.
Although many of the stereotypes no doubt hit too close to home for members of the EU, some could interpret Černý’s satirical art as nothing short of brilliant and challenging. Entropa is a sensorial attack and observers can easily spend hours watching the artwork move and change as it portrays the EU. There is no art like it based simply on size, scope, and medium alone.
While the EU distanced itself from Entropa after its unveiling, it has been housed in a number of galleries since its creation and now resides in the Techmania building in Plzeň (Pilsen), Czechia. It is part of an interactive exhibit on the EU and can be seen in its entirety.
Curiously, the space which was supposed to be occupied by Britain has been empty, even before Brexit.