The Czech government, who currently hold the rotating presidency of the European Union, selected artist David Cerny to produce an artwork symbolizing European unity and cooperation that would be displayed at the European Council's office building in Brussels. One could have expected that Cerny, who recently courted controversy with his Damien Hirst-inspired "Saddam Hussein in formaldehyde" (which was pulled from a Belgian museum when city officials worried it might "offend Muslims") and called, in a brilliant Matt Welch impression, Czech President Vaclav Klaus "a dick," would have tried to piss a few people off with a piece on national stereotypes in EU member countries. As Sarah Lyall writes in the Times, Cerny didn't disappoint, submitting a massive sculpture titled "Entropa":
But wait. Here is Bulgaria, represented as a series of crude, hole-in-the-floor toilets. Here is the Netherlands, subsumed by floods, with only a few minarets peeping out from the water. Luxembourg is depicted as a tiny lump of gold marked by a "for sale" sign, while five Lithuanian soldiers are apparently urinating on Russia.
France? On strike.
In the case of "Entropa," Mr. Cerny presented the piece as the work of 27 artists, one from each country. But it was all a huge hoax.
After being challenged by reporters this week, Mr. Cerny admitted that he and two of his friends constructed the whole thing themselves, making up the names of artists, giving some of them Web sites and writing pretentious, absurd statements to go with their supposed contributions.
The Czech government has apologized to the EU, though it has yet to remove the Entropa catalogue, including all the fake artist bios and closeup photos of each work, from its website. A particular favorite was this entry, from the fake Portuguese representative "Carla de Miranda":
I don't like fat and I don't like colonialism. Empire-building, the influence of colonisation on post-colonial history, economy, science and culture, the cultural output of colonised societies, feminism and post-colonialism, the state of post-colonialism in a contemporary economic and cultural context - all these are some of the general themes in this field. What were the experiences of the colonised and the colonisers?
Bonus quote, shorn of context, from a Cerny interview with Czech radio: "For me [the Communists] ruined the country not only economically but most problematic thing was that they ruined the country mentally. Leaders in this country, after the election of Vaclav Klaus begin to accept the communists as regular political partners. This is something that Vaclav Havel, the whole time he was at the Castle, refused. He set a definite example 'Hey guys, I don't want to speak with you. You are democratically elected, but for me you are not a democratic party. And I think it was a great statement…" Me too.
And then there is this: "And that's why I joined the activity against the Communists. It's called 'Normal People Don't Speak with Communists.'"
Update: By a matter of minutes, Reason science correspondent and art critic Ron Bailey beat me to this story. He has photos from the piece here.