January 12, 2009 / 5:50 PM / 11 years ago

Czech EU mosaic pokes fun at national stereotypes

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - EU President Czech Republic unveiled an official mosaic in one of the bloc’s key buildings on Monday that uses stereotypes to depict member countries.

People inspect a mosaic displaying representations about the European Union member countries in the EU Council Headquarters in Brussels January 12, 2009. The mosaic will be on display for the six-month Czech Presidency of the European Union. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

The massive temporary art installation beneath the glass and steel-framed ceiling inside the European Council building in Brussels where EU leaders hold their summits portrays individual countries in map forms attached to a blue tubular grid.

France’s map is emblazoned with the word GREVE! (French for strike) in red, a reference to its frequent industrial disputes. Romania is a Dracula theme park, Sweden is a do-it-yourself furniture flatpack and Britain does not appear at all.

“Entropa” is the joint work of artists representing each EU member country and the brainchild of 41-year-old Czech artist David Cerny, famed at home for re-painting a Soviet tank pink.

“Irony is about making fun. It is not meant to offend anybody,” Cerny said of his work for the Czech EU presidency, which runs until June 30. The mosaic will be dismantled at the end of the Czech presidency, when Sweden will take over.

“The EU is often such a serious thing, I think people have to take a lighter approach from time to time. It is a collection of national cliches.”

The mosaic, whose blue tubular design resembles the kind of plastic grid used to protect pieces in modeling kits, represents Luxembourg as a lump of gold on sale to the highest bidder, Bulgaria as the floor of a toilet and Finland as a wooden floor with animals on it.

The Netherlands is depicted as a sea with minarets rising from the waves, a possible reference to simmering religious tensions that culminated in the murder of Dutch film director and Islam critic Theo van Gogh by a Muslim militant in 2004.

Poland, one of Europe’s most religiously observant nations where the Catholic Church retains considerable sway, has priests waving a rainbow flag, a symbol of inclusiveness and diversity as well as pride for gay communities.

The 8-tonne mosaic will go “live” later this week, when certain country “pieces” will start to move and make noises.

That will apply, for example, to Germany’s cars on a motorway network and to Italian soccer players practicing on their national map with goalposts at the country’s northern and southern ends.

Britain, perceived by many to be one of the bloc’s more wary and eurosceptic members, has been left off the map altogether.

Denmark is made of Lego, its national toy icon, and Sweden lies within a flatpack made by locally based IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer.

Traditionally, countries that hold the EU presidency construct a decoration or sculpture in Brussel’s EU quarter during their tenure, usually in the European Council building.

Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague

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