David Cerny must be laughing himself hoarse about the fuss over his sculpture.Â Not just at the chance to have a pop at every other country but for the wide-boy chancer way he got the commission and let the EU think the work was getting the involvement of artists from all the other countries.
Not that I wholeheartedly approve.Â As a piece of art I think it has a good concept, but that some of the individual depictions of countries are unnecessarily offensive in a quite childish way.Â Is it big or clever to put autobahns in a formation that suggests the swastika?Â Â Leaving the UK out completely because we don’t seem to participate fully in Europe is fair enough: a mildly amusing conceptual joke.
This could have been a great piece of art if the individual countries were done in a less broad way.Â The way it has been done is necessarily offensive – how many countries can be depicted in a sympathetic or even neutral way if they are represented by a single defining characteristic or stereotype?
The artist says that the work is satire, but it is not particularly subtle satire is it?Â Â Surely satire requires some sort of subtlety and its a cop-out to try and claim some sort of subtlety at a meta-level in the process of creating the art under false pretences.
I reckon it would have been better if he had just done the framework and inserted individual components that had been done by artists from each country.Â Not that it would have given any guarantee of non-offensive stereotypes.Â It could have been even worse, depending on the artists involved as they would know which buttons to really push.Â Can you imagine, for example, how someone like Banksy might have depicted the UK?Â Â It would, however, have contained less lazy stereotypes.
But at the end of the day the work has generated a lot of comment.Â After the initial flurry of knee-jerk objections (which even if they have some grounds are still knee-jerk) it could stimulate some debate about the nature of Europe and the relationships between the parts.Â The whole analogous structure of an Airfix-type kit could lead to speculations about whether Europe is still just a collection of parts with the potential to something much better when assembled.Â Any piece of art that people are going to talk about instead of just saying “ooh. That’s pretty” can’t be all bad can it?