A tour of David Cerny’s Prague
The guy has a name! He once pissed off the whole European Union with Entropa a piece in which the EU is represented as a sum of nationalisms anticipating by years the divisions highlighted by the global financial crisis. In Entropa Italy is depicted as a country of footballers, France is on strike and the United Kingdom is completely missing because of its euroscepticism.
A sculptor throughout most of his career David Cerny’s art is animated by rage mixed with irreverence, a healthy dose of anarchy and a good sense of humor that is a bit of a national trait and that could be traced back to the likes of Hasek’s Svejk. His claim of fame was when he took a national monument, a Soviet tank, and painted it pink, leaving his signature on the base of its pedestal. You gotta give it to him: at an age at which artistically inclined people were probably littering walls with spray cans he was already showing a close keenship with the dadaist, famous for their ready-made pieces. Cerny was arrested for this performance that graduated him into stardom and later was to admit that he did it to attract a Slovak girls’ attention.
The man doesn’t like to explain his work so we’ll do our best to try offer an interpretation of his pieces scattered around the center of Prague.
Between a web of narrow alleys not far from Narodni is a statue of a man hanging from a pole. The man is Sigmund Freud the father of psychoanalysis and the sculpture represents the role of intellectuals in the twenty-first century. Psychoanalysis, together with Einstein’s relativity, were the main traits of the past century and this piece might suggest that we’re attached to reality by a very weak thread and that the border between normality and insanity is very thin? An man like Cerny must know this thin grey area really well as it’s here that he thrives and meets the demons he convoys into his art.
Location: Husova street, near the top on Betlemske namesti’s side
“Flies on a penis” this is how the artist himself explained the ten fiberglass babies installation on Zizkov’s tower. First installed in New York the project was originally commissioned by the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art but didn’t go through as the organizers run out of money printing the exhibition’s catalogue. Eventually the city of Prague showed interest in occasion of the European Culture Capital of the Year 2000 and, after a long fight with the local Kafkian bureaucracy, the babies were installed on the Zizkov TV tower.
Location: Zikov TV Tower and Kampa Park.
Four giant guns laid out as a cross. The guns shoot the sounds of slamming doors, flushing toilets and brakes and maybe stand as a metaphor for that domestic violence that kills more on the inside than the actual guns bullets do physically.
Location: AMoYA Artbanka Museum of Young Art at the end of Karlova street, just opposite Charles Bridge
In a pool filled with a green substance Saddam Hussein is handcuffed on his back and naked. Poking fun at the shark in formaldehyde by Damien Hirst titled “The Phisical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, the piece is signed by Mohammed and was created one year before Saddam’s execution.
St Vitus rides an upside-down dead horse. To put it into context the equestrian statue of St Vitus at the top of Wenceslas Square is probably the national symbol. Not only it was the witness of many epic events such as the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution but it is, to this day, the place where first dates meet. Is this version by David Cerny the national symbol of irreverence? Originally intended to be installed in the main hall of the post office in Jindrisska its director unsurprisingly decided it wasn’t a good fit for the place and was so installed in the Lucerna passage owned by Havel’s family. Vaclav Havel, a national symbol himself, probably decided he could deal with the embarrassment.
Location: Lucerna Pasaz, just off Wenceslaw square.
Two giant statues installed next to each other with stairs going up to their bum. Inside their body is a video representing the current Czech President Vaclav Klaus and the head of the National Gallery Milan Knizak spoon-feed each other. This installation is a metaphor of Czech politics but maybe also attempts to make fun of the voyeur citizen that watches the worst of politics take place without taking action or even being disturbed by the smell. It might also be that, growing up in a communist country, politics greatly stimulate the artist’s bowel movements. This project has a striking similarity with Peter Brueghel’s “The Flatterers”.
Location: Futura Art Gallery
Two bronze naked mannequins that move at their hips stand in a pool shaped like Czech Republic writing quotes by famous Prague residents in the water with their pee. The statue accepts SMS messages at a number written next to the statue. The two pissing men will then spell in the water whatever message is sent them later resuming their normal operation. This piece generates great hilarity among the tourist that pass by it and maybe also pokes a little fun at those that merely enjoy the superficial part of Prague like if it were an older Disneyland.
Location: Hergetova Cihelna, Kafka Museum
Installed on the side of Divadlo na Zabradli this represents a fetus going through a drain-pipe. Is this perhaps how art pieces are born and a representation of how artists and art find it hard to fit in the this narrow-minded world?
Location: Divadlo na Zabradli
If you grew in a Communist country you’d probably call this a “trabi”. Quo Vadis, from the latin “where are you going?“, is a bronze statue of a Trabant car on legs: a tribute to the four thousand East Germans who occupied the garden and the halls of the then West German embassy during the summer of 1989. From here came the first push to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Hans Genscher, the West Germany Foreign Minister at the time, negotiated their safe exit to West Germany by train and these people had to leave their cars behind clogging up the streets and probably inadvertently giving birth to that florid industry that is Prague car towing.
Fast Tuned Skull
A giant red skull attached to a crane revolves on the roof of the Dox Contemporary Art Museum in Prague 7.
Location: Holesovice, Dox Contemporary Art Museum
Like Oscar Wilde said when everyone disagrees on a piece of art the artist agrees with himself. In this homogenized world it is sometimes the role of art to create controversy and stimulate ideas that make people see life with a new pair of lenses, the way the artist sees it. David Cerny is a master of controversy and we certainly appreciate his contributions and points of view.
Want to know more about David Cerny? Visit his official site here.