Czech EU mosaic pokes fun at national stereotypes

Mon Jan 12, 2009 12:46pm EST
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By Jeremy Smith

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.

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.   Continued...

<p>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</p>