Showing posts with label CZ presidency of the EU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CZ presidency of the EU. Show all posts

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bravo David Černý! You Have Europe Giggling Again. This time with your Red London Double Decker Bus doing pushups!

Longtime readers of the Empty Nest Expat blog know I am a huge fan of Czech artist David Černý and his very Czech brand of irreverance and black humor. His sculpture created to see if Europe could laugh at itself, "Entropa," certainly provided entertainment for me and my Czech friends when he created it in 2009.

"Entropa" was the official art chosen by the Czech Republic to represent itself when the Czech Republic held the Presidency of the European Union. It seemed only Czechs got the humor. I loved it.  I was so grateful to have seen it myself in the flesh when I went back to Prague a second time. By then it had been moved from Brussells to DOX Contemporary Art Museum in Prague.You can read more of my posts about him here.

This time I don't see how he can fail to make the whole world smile. Look at what he has created for the London Olympics: a bright red London double decker bus doing push-ups!
How can we not smile?
Iconic bus doing iconic exercises!
No, it really does do the exercises!
Černý built in hydraulics to make it happen.

I love seeing tiny Czech Republic,
with a mere 10 million citizens
represent itself so above 'its weight class'
at the Olympic games
with their irreverant humor.
I believe Černý's bus will delight worldwide!

What do you think of David Černý's bus
named "London Boosted?"
Does it make you smile?

Is there an artist you have discovered in your travels
you think the whole world should know about?
Who is it?

Click on this wonderful Daily Mail article to see more photos of David Černý
assembling his bus and to see the video of it in action!

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Sizzling Critique of Czech Political Leadership

Will he or won't he?
Vaclav Klaus loves to 'keep them guessing'
when it comes to his endorsement
of the Lisbon Treaty.

Ouch! This New York Times article has nothing nice to say about Czech political leadership during the EU presidency. My own observation is that Czechs are used to being governed and not yet so used to governing themselves. It's their first generation of really running their own show. The people haven't quite discovered their power yet and the quality of politics in the C.R. reflect that. You can read the article by clicking on my title.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I sooooo don't understand parlimentary politics

Mirek Topolanek, Czech Prime Minister
speaking at the EU today

Yesterday, the Czech government "fell" in a vote of no confidence. The vote was 101-96. As I understand it, what that does is make the prime minister a "lame duck" without any visible replacement. In other words, it robs him of legitimacy governing yet no one else has been given some.

Yikes! To an American used to a Presidential system that sounds like no one is in charge. And it seems even weirder when the Czechs are in charge of the EU yet the party in power representing the Czech government doesn't have "the confidence" of the people of the Czech Republic according to their representatives. How is the EU supposed to have confidence in the Czechs then?

A friend schooled in the way of European systems calmly shrugged and said "it's usually some sort of blackmail when this happens. That's how people get what they want in parliamentary systems. They trade stuff." Now that's a system I'm familiar with. It sounds an awfully lot like "Yes, I'll vote for your multi-trillion dollar (Iraq war/stimulus package/insert anything else here) if you give me my $5 million earmark so I can prove to my district back home that I"m looking out for their interests and bringing home the bacon."

But it all seems weird if you want the American President to listen to you and he's coming in two weeks but you have no confidence in the guy who's supposed to be listening. Please Czech people, explain this all to me! Why would you lessen the power of the person representing you right before company comes?

And then when it comes to the EU, who is supposed to be listening? Sometimes I see the Prime Minister representing the EU Presidency, sometimes the foreign minister, sometimes a different minister, yet another time the Czech President. Who exactly is the "face" of the EU Czech Presidency? I don't get it. I am a willing student so please explain away.

Today, the prime minister went before the EU and said "the United States stimulus is 'the road to hell.' Uhhh, OK. Gee, welcome to Prague, Mr. Obama.

Click on my title to read the full story.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's David Cerny Appreciation Week

It's David Cerny Appreciation Week here at the Empty Nest Expat Blog. David Cerny is a delightfully provocative artist native to the Czech Republic. He has just spent the last week amusing or embarrassing the entire Czech nation (according to one's view) with his sculpture celebrating the Czech Presidency of the European Union. First, some background on his past politically artistic acts.

According to Radio Praha:
Prague's Kinsky Square was for many decades called The Square of Soviet Tank Crews. It was because a huge Soviet tank, a memorial to the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, used to stand there on a 5-metre pedestal, its barrel menacingly pointing at a tram stop. Until one morning, in the spring of 1991, locals woke up and could not believe their eyes. The tank had turned pink overnight.

The Radio Station described that David Cerny, was only 23 when he covered the green tank in pink paint making it look rather like piece of candy. But his act was seen by many as an outrage against the Soviet liberators of Prague.

More than a symbol of the liberation of Prague by the Red Army in May 1945, for many Czechs the tank became a reminder of the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

"Having to pass this symbol of the Russian dictatorship which was here since I was born, I did not take the tank as a symbol of freedom - the end of the Second World War."

Of course, the Czechoslovak Army would have no such nonsense as a pink tank, so three days later soldiers arrived with buckets of paint and gave the tank a new green coat. Ten days after that a group of parliament deputies repainted it pink again in support of David Cerny's act."

I often pass the pink tank spot from the tram and, of course, enjoy it's symbolism. The authorities hauled away the original pink tank to be politically correct but a new one has replaced it.

He also decorated a Soviet-era TV Tower with little black babies that climb up the tower.

And then, of course, there is perhaps his most famous work after the pink tank. His pissing sculpture which shows two men pissing on a map of the Czech Republic. Now anyone who could create that is surely not a man who takes himself or his country too seriously. Lighten up, he seems to be saying.

'Entropa' created by artist David Cerny

This week, the sculpture that the Czech nation had commissioned him to do celebrating the Czech presidency of the EU was to be unveiled. Cerny and a couple friends put the whole scupture together themselves even though they presented a document listing 27 fictitious artists from all the member nations as participants. What fun they must have had dreaming this up!

I officially declare it David Cerny Appreciation Week at Empty Nest Expat Blog because I have had so much fun with my English Language students discussing news articles about this sculpture. Cerny said it was created to see if "Europe could laugh at itself." I loved asking my classes if Czech people should be proud their famous humor was on display. What do you think, gentle blog readers? Or should Czechs be embarrassed a few countries aren't displaying any humor in return about their own depiction?

Radio Netherlands Worldwide explains:

The map of France is emblazoned with the word greve, which is French for strike. Sweden is represented as a piece of flatpack furniture, Britain does not appear at all and Bulgaria is the floor of a toilet [actually, it's the floor of a Turkish toilet which consists of two shoe marks and a hole in the ground. One of my students felt that was a comment on whether Bulgaria really fit in with the rest of 'civilized Europe' since they haven't yet availed themselves of Western plumbing]. Romania is a Dracula theme park and Poland, one of the most conservative countries in the EU, has priests waving a rainbow flag, a symbol used by gay and lesbian activists. Denmark has been made entirely from Legos and the Netherlands is represented as a sea with minarets rising from the waves.

Cerny explains his depiction of the Czech Republic:

"Let the head of state have his say! A constant stream of brilliant Václav Klaus quotes. Words of wisdom that deserve to be etched in stone. The President’s sublime, pertinent comments about the whole world, and especially the EU, whizzing across a three-line alphanumeric LED display. He is OUR president, we elected him, so let’s show him off to the world with joy in our hearts. He’s not just a skier, he’s a great guy!"

Thank you David Cerny for accomplishing exactly what you set out to do. Europe is laughing. Maybe it's howling too, but for the most part, it's laughing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Bipolar Society

Last month I happened to be having dinner with a Czech politico who's political abilities were as apparent as Arnold Schwarzenegger's ability to do a bicep curl. "How come you're not serving in elected office?" I asked.

"This is a bipolar society right now. I have perfectly capable friends who have run for office and lost. It's better to be in an appointed position until the country sorts out which direction it's taking."

I was fascinated by this observation and have since seen he's right. This is an exciting time politically in the Czech Republic because the country is assuming presidency of the European Union for the next six months. The presidency rotates among member nations.

Czechs are proud to be only the second post-totalitarian country to have this honor. I see pride among people as they imagine how their politicians should solve EU problems (the Russian gas crisis, the European position on Isreal and Gaza) while their country is in charge. It makes me wonder if more stuff will get done because every country faces an arbitrary six-month deadline with which to make it's mark.

Yet the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, is the one who creates either enthusiastic yeas or equally enthusiastic denunciations of embaressment among Czechs.

I've heard people appreciate him for saying what he believes regardless of result. One friend mentioned how much he appreciated how hard-working Vaclav Klaus was. "Vaclav Havel just let all the prisoners go when communism was over. Some of those people were real criminals, not just political prisoners. Vaclav Klaus reads every single file to see if the person locked up is a political prisoner who deserves a pardon and release or a real criminal. That's hard-working."

Yet other Czechs are deeply embarrassed that Vaclav Klaus wouldn't show up for a artistic performance celebrating the Czech takeover of the European Union, that he considers global warming a fraud, that he makes such a point of letting everyone know he thinks he's the smartest guy in the room. According to the New York Times, even communist secret agents were struck by Klaus's arrogance when they infiltrated his classes:

“His behavior and attitudes reveal that he feels like a rejected genius,” the agent noted in his report, which has since been made public. “He shows that whoever does not agree with his views is stupid and incompetent.”

It will be interesting to watch how these six months unfold for the Czechs. It's a wonderful feeling to be detached from their politics and not have strong feelings. As an American, I'm just getting used to the idea that I can relax a bit about my own country's politics. Someone I approve of is in charge. That is such a great feeling.

Link to the title to read the entire New York Times article about President Klaus.
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