David Cerny – Czech Republic

Linked with Entropa: art of politics, heart of a nation, and with About the State, the State-owned and the Non-state Owned Cultural Sector in Bulgaria.

David Černý (born December 15, 1967 in Prague) is a Czech sculptor whose works can be seen in many locations in Prague. His works tend to be controversial. He gained notoriety in 1991 by painting a Soviet tank pink that served as a war memorial in central Prague. As the Monument to Soviet tank crews was still a national cultural monument at that time, his act of civil disobedience was considered “hooliganism” and he was briefly arrested. Another of Černý’s conspicuous contributions to Prague is “Tower Babies,” a series of cast figures of crawling infants attached to Žižkov Television Tower. In 2005, Černý created Shark, an image of Saddam Hussein in a tank of formaldehyde. The work was presented at the Prague Biennale 2 that same year. The work is a direct parody of a 1991 work by Damien Hirst, the Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. In 2006, the work was banned twice, first in Middelkerke, Belgium, then in Bielsko-Biała, Poland. With respect to the Belgian situation, the mayor of that town, Michel Landuyt, admitted that he was worried about the potential of offending Muslims in a year already marred by tensions associated with Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed … (full text).

His (english) CV on his website (click on the red face).

The Czech Republic’s David Cerny is one of the country’s most original but also most provocative visual artists. His work includes the giant black babies that crawl up Prague’s Zizkov TV tower and the famous Pink Tank – the Soviet tank, a memorial to the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, which David Cerny painted pink overnight. But this time, it is David Cerny’s sculpture called “Shark”, which caught the attention of the citizens of the Belgian town of Middelkerke. It features a life-size Saddam Hussein in underpants with his hands tied behind his back, floating in a large glass tank filled with the embalming fluid formaldehyde. The sculpture was supposed to be exhibited on one of the town squares as part of this April’s Beaufort 2006 Modern Arts Festival … (full text).

His personal Website: the Bulgarian Homepage; the english Homepage.

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David Cerny – Czech Republic

Watch these videos:

entropa vs. the muhammad cartoons, January 16, 2009: it appears that Europe can laugh at the gods but not at itself. let this be a lesson: don’t ever underestimate the power of cheap patriotism. (a comment on stephanides).

It seemed like such a good idea at the time: what better way to celebrate the Czech Republic’s presidency of the European Union than a giant art installation, with input from every member state, showing what we really feel about our place in Europe? Eccentric sculptor David Černy was charged with the task of sourcing contributions from up and coming artists from the various countries … (full text, January 14, 2009).

… The problem is, it seems, Europe doesn’t see the joke. The Bulgarian government has summoned the Czech ambassador to Sofia for an explanation, and more protests could follow. That leaves the Czech government in a awkward position – deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra is due to switch on the 16 square meter work at Thursday’s official launch; he must now decide whether the giant-sized model kit shouldn’t be put back in its box. (full text).

Entropa: Fake artists and offense… Brilliant! January 14, 2009.

… Cerny is an artist that enjoys getting a reaction from his audience. He is famous for works like his “Shark” sculpture, where a model of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Husseim is suspended in a glass box filled with formaldehyde. It’s a tribute to everyone’s favorite bad boy, Damien Hirst and his “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” work … (full text, June 13, 2007).

David Cerny on Gargantuan Media.

… Now, I love big elaborate instillation that cause controversy. One of my earliest museum memories is of the Sensation Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. I consider the Atheist Bus Campaign as a great example of a provacative instillation. There are parts of Entropa I like. France with a huge “Strike” sign? Sure. Romania as a vampire fun house? Hell year.  Italy as a eternal soccer match? Sounds about right. But Bulgaria, represented by overlapping squat toilets, really got reamed. I’m not Bulgarian, and I thought it was crossed a line … (full text, January 16, 2009).

Art Installation at Franz Kafka Museum: Sculpture, by David Černý.

… It was several days, however, before anyone complained and the EU began to smell a rat. Only when Bulgaria – depicted as a Turkish lavatory – objected did the Czechs start to question the organiser of the project, the artist David Cerny. Yesterday Mr Cerny admitted that the whole thing had been a hoax, and that he had created all the sculptures himself and invented the names of the “up-and-coming” artists from the 27 member states … (full text, Jan 16, 2009).

… If you find Frankie Boyle offensive then stop watching Mock the Week, it’s as simple as that. We don’t need to have a ban on edgy humour just because some people don’t like it … (full text, 15 January, 2009).

Challenging censorship – or just censorship?

… Cerný shudders at the idea of being called an artist and sees himself as a simple sculptor, whose main motivator is an incessant and all-encompassing sense of anger. His public image is that of a rebel, whose sole intention is to shock. However Cerný’s works are important in their own right, aiming for the head as much as the heart. The sculptor’s most visible works include surreal model babies crawling up Prague’s Communist-era television tower, an upside-down rendering of Prague’s sacred statue of King Wenceslas, and a model of a human behind inside of which lies a television screen showing a picture of the Czech President. Cerný is unmistakably a political artist. His uncompromising attitude towards today’s Czech communists, and Czech politicians in general, has made him many enemies and, most recently, lost him a prestigious commission to create a WWII war memorial. But Cerný is unapologetic, lashing out at today’s hypocrisies both artistically and verbally … (full text).

Find him and his publications on flickr; on his website /artwork; on wikipedia /Gallery; on Google Video-search; on Google News-results; on Google Images-results; on Google Book-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

… Cerny also had the following to say on his website in defence of his work: The original intention was indeed to ask 27 European artists for participation. But it became apparent that this plan cannot be realised, due to time, production, and financial constraints. The team therefore, without the knowledge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, decided to create fictitious artists who would represent various European national and artistic stereotypes. We apologise to Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and their departments that we did not inform them of the true state of affairs and thus misguided them. We did not want them to bear the responsibility for this kind of politically incorrect satire. We knew the truth would come out. But before that we wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself … (full text).

Artist poking fun at EU.

… Czech artist David Cerny — previously best known for his parody of Damien Hirst, in which he pickled what appeared to be a body of Saddam Hussein — has been forced to apologize for a satirical stunt that caused embarrassment for his home country as it takes over presidency of the European Union. Cerny’s work, Entropa, is a large-scale public sculpture installed at the EU’s Brussels headquarters, featuring representations of each of the Union’s member states, supposedly contributions from 27 different artists. Shortly after Entropa’s unveiling, the unflattering imagery used to depict the countries started raising eyebrows … (full text, Jan. 15, 2009).

Better than Airfix: Černý comedy and British art-ignorance.

… A Danish photographer Erik Luntang has before and after tampering photographs that are set to appear in one of his country’s newspapers tomorrow. I have seen them and it does look rather as if someone has added some lego bricks to break a resemblance which, according to the clip above, seems to be there. It is all a bit “face of Jesus found in miracle courgette” territory for me, I’m afraid. The Danish cartoon caricatures of the founder of Islam led to riots and violent protests across the Muslim world, people died so any reference in the Entropa art work would really stir it up. The pictures will be out and about on Friday, I will update then. I am unable to get any comment from the Czechs for now, a Danish colleague tells me it is denied. Perhaps people are getting a little hysterical about Entropamania. We will see. David Černý, the artist behind the whole thing, spoke to me about the EU’s (or should it be the EUSSR) sense of humour failure). “If we are not able to look at ourselves with fun or taking ourselves so seriously then we going back to the past of the Iron Curtain again, not being able to speak or have freedom. During Communism the only thing that was really forbidden by the state, bureaucracy and government was humour. If we unable to have fun about ourselves, you could Europe is going back to that” … (full text).

links:

Controversy over Abortion Art;

Danger Room 1/15/09;

For Wyeth, Both Praise and Doubt;

Censorship and Controversy in Contemporary Art, by Sara Harrison, June 2002;

10 Controversial Art Pieces, May 5, 2008;

Outrage and Controversy at NY Museum Art Show Depicting Police Brutality;

Certified User’s Guide to make Cartoons (sichere Anleitung zum herstellen von Cartoons);

Gedankenfetzen zur öffentlichen Meinung;

Machtverteilung im Mittelalter;

Vom Beleidigen und von Macht;

Categories on wikipedia: Jewish sculptors; Czech sculptors; Contemporary sculptors.

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