I’m sure you are all aware of the Government Shutdown that just happened, and probably not too happy about it. For about two weeks, the government couldn’t agree on a new fiscal bill, thus shutting down certain elements of the government and preventing people from being paid. Because of partisan conflicts and inability to compromise, many people were effected and suffered in some way. What did Americans do in response to the shutdown? Well, we got pretty mad, which for the majority of Americans means that we took to our social network of choice and did a whole lot of complaining. Some people staged protests, some furloughed workers showed their anger by going to the bar a lot more, and a lot of public figures satirized the shutdown and called for GOP leaders to compromise. Overall, all of these forms of “protests” are pretty mundane, and don’t really make a statement or stir up any real controversy over the issue.
Although the GOP eventually did back down, this could have been a great opportunity for America to get creative and show their outrage with the government in some interesting ways. On this front, the US could stand to follow the example of some other countries. We are severely under utilizing sculpture as a means of criticizing the government (peacefully) and making a point (My apologies if I am ignoring any incredibly witty American sculptural protests). In other parts of the world, artists are getting involved, and even if the sculptures are sometimes seen as silly, they still get people talking about a cause. Here are 5 sculptures that we should learn from, and would great additions to the National Mall in D.C. these days.
1. Giant Middle Finger, Prague, Czech Republic
(photo via The Guardian)
This sculpture of a giant purple middle finger floating in the middle of the Vltava River in Prague is actually the greatest thing I have ever seen. The sculpture has begun to float in the river recently, and was placed there by artist David Cerny. Cerny is the master of controversial statues aimed at the Czech government, and this one is meant to express dissatisfaction for the Czech President and is aimed at his office in the Prague Castle. I know you’re all thinking it: We could use one of these bad-boys floating in the reflecting pool on the national mall, but somehow I don’t think that would go over too well. Even if the Czech President never sees this, or shoots the gesture right back to Cerny, this sculpture is just such a win.
2. Guantanamo Hoods on Statues, Stockhol, Sweden
(photo via Scoop.it)
These statues weren’t actually built to be a form of protest, but they were “dressed” by artists and activists to protest President Obama when he was visiting Stockholm. The Swedes aren’t happy with Obama’s and the US’s considerations of military action in Syria, and showed their disapproval by adorning the statues with bright orange hoods to make a reference to the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. This action was a pretty snarky kick in the face to Obama made by those witty Swedes. Even other countries are doing a more creative job of criticizing American politics than we are.
3. Monopoly Sculpture, London
(photo via My Modern Met)
No list of sarcastic art advocating a cause would be complete without a piece by Banksy. This sculpture from the mysterious artist was created to support the Occupy Movement in London, and is a snarky little piece of commentary about corporate greed using probably the most famous board game ever. It is complete with “Rich Uncle Pennybags” begging for even more money, and spaces marked by the names of other cities staging Occupy Protests. Maybe Occupy Wall Street would have been appreciated more if they had some more super clever statues made by famous artists.
4. Sculptures of Toilets, Cyprus
(photo via msn)
This collection of 20 sculptures of toilets placed by artist Andreas Efstathiou outside of the central bank in Cyprus is probably one of the most clever and hilarious use of sculpture ever. The people of Cyprus are not happy about their economy having gone down the crapper (to phrase it politely) and this sculpture is probably the most accurate way to illustrate that sentiment. This is the most awesome literal representation of a potty joke ever. I know the middle finger in D.C. wouldn’t go over too well, but how about some little concrete toilets?
5. Installment at Futura Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
(photo via davidcerny.cz)
This is another of David Cerny’s masterpieces, his stuff is just too good to stop after just one sculpture, and to be honest, I just love Prague. This set of sculptures is a permanent installation at an art gallery, and allows visitors to climb a ladder and peer into the rear of the figure to watch a video of two Czech politicians feeding each other with “We are the Champions” playing in the background. It’s just too good. This one would translate to Washington pretty well too, just switch out that video for one of the members of Congress having a giant food fight.
Even if your political opinions don’t quite match up with mine, or you don’t agree with protesting, there is no denying the genius of these sculptures. Kudos to the artists for being awesome and incredibly sarcastic.
What is your favorite sarcastic sculpture?