A month ago, the Czech Presidency of the EU started with the unveiling of a slightly provocative art installation Entropa. The Czech artist Cerny depicted the countries in a playful manner picking on some cliches and stereotypes. For example, Germany is a web of motorways in the form of swastika. The Netherlands is under water with only the minarets of mosques sticking out of it. Slovakia is a Hungarian salami, etc. I read that the artist claimed that the art work should be understood in the light of Borat and Monty Python - a bit of cliches, a bit of absurdism.
Bulgaria was probably portrayed in the most controversial manner as a Turkish squat toilet. I must admit that I was a bit irritated in the beginning and was thinking that there aren't many such toilets in Bulgaria any more. However, to my big surprise, the scandal acquired a political dimension when the Bulgarian politicians protested in all possible ways and in the end managed to have this part of the installation veiled again.
I think the Bulgarian authorities failed to understand that, after all, this is only a work of art and not a picture and as any work of art freedom of expression and interpretation is inherent. They also kind of did not get it that by having the toilets covered they committed an act of censorship typical of another era. And, worst of all, they failed to take the whole thing with a dose of self irony. Yes, indeed, the artist got it right: Bulgaria is indeed between the Orient and the Occident.
The whole thing immediately reminded me of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being and his theory on kitsch (Part Six, the Grand March). And what a coincidence that the artist is Czech.... I browsed through it and remembered that one way to define kitsch is the absolute denial of shit in both the literal and figurative senses of the word. It is also 'the mask of beauty one tries to wear'. And....wasn't the Bulgarian reaction exactly this???? If, by any chance, the authorities would have been asked what they would like to feature in Brussels as a symbol of Bulgaria, no doubt they would have chosen a smiling child or a rose or a snowy mountain or.....
But Kundera's analysis makes me think of a more important aspect of kitsch and this is in us and not out of us. It is the claim for perfection, the denial of complexity of motives, the rejection of doubt and the lack of irony....
BlumengrußFlowers in a Viennese Vestibule
2 days ago