Czechs Unplug Bulgarian Toilet

The Czech Republic shook things up on the Continent earlier this month, when Czech European Union presidency spokesman Jiri Potuznik, commenting on Israel’s military operation in Gaza, stated, “At the moment, from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action.”



On January 1, 2009, the Czech Republic took over the 6-month term of the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) from France. To commemorate this transition, they commissioned Czech “artist” David Cerny to create “Entropa,” a large-scale installation (25×25 yards) for the EU headquarters in Brussels. The commissioned work stirred up more controversy than the EU Presidency’s official support of Israel’s action against the Hamas terrorist organization.

Mr. Cerny’s “artwork” was supposed to portray an iconic “map” of each of the 27 member nations of the EU, with 27 artists participating in the creation and construction of the project. Instead, Mr. Cerny collaborated with three of his countrymen, and ended up producing something that offended just about every nation depicted.

Perhaps the country registering the loudest complaint was Bulgaria, which was represented as a Turkish “squat” toilet. According to the Irish Times, “The exhibit depicts France with the word “strike”, Sweden with an Ikea box stuffed with the wing of a fighter jet (a reference to its weapons industry), the Netherlands is under water with several Islamic-style minarets poking through, while Italy is represented by….” well, let’s just say Italy was depicted showing football players holding strategically placed footballs. In a play for the triad of attributes of tastelessness, stereoptype and cliche, Germany was a network of motorways forming a swastika.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra has apologized. In a governmental cover-up that was universally welcomed, a black drape was placed over the tacky display.

As for Mr. Cerny, he has achieved his personal goal of attaining notoriety. In an empty gesture, he offered an apology to Bulgaria and Prague, and said he would repay his $65,870 (euro50,000) fee to the Czech government. Instead of stopping with “sorry,” he went on to say that his purpose was to find out “whether Europe can take a laugh at itself. If I wanted to insult somebody, it’s [President] Vaclav Klaus. Because Klaus insults Czechs.”

President Klaus personally wrote a letter of apology to Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov. “I consider it necessary that the government publicly distance itself from this unfortunate event and apologize to our partners – representatives of the Bulgarian Republic and its public at first place,” Klaus wrote in a letter to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.

See Also:
Bulgaria insists on veiling part of Czech EU art exhibit (Irish Times; January 21, 2009)
Bulgaria toilet art covered up (ABC News Australia; January 21, 2009)
‘Bulgaria toilet’ art covered up (BBC News; January 20, 2009)
Bulgaria Covered with Black Cloth on Czech Insulting Art Piece “Entropa” (Novinite, Sofia News Agency; January 20, 2009)