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EU art exhibition draws on national stereotypes

BRUSSELS – France "on strike", Britain wiped off the European map and Romania as Dracula’s castle; a new exhibition organised by the Czech EU presidency in Brussels displays prejudices as art.

"It’s the first time that an installation by the EU presidency has provoked debate," enthused Jan Vytopil who is in charge of cultural events during the six-month Czech EU presidency which began on 1 January.

The main reaction was laughter as dozens of officials and journalists took in the opening of the exhibition in the grand foyer of the EU presidency building in Brussels.

The Czech Republic had asked an artist from each of the 27 European Union member states to represent stereotypes and prejudices about their own country.

"Stereotypes are barriers to be demolished," the Czechs explained in a statement.

The Czech EU presidency motto is "Europe without barriers".

In the "Entropa" exhibition, Polish artist Leszek Hirszenberg shows Catholic clergy erecting the rainbow flag of the gay community in the style of a famous photo of US troops raising the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima in World War II.

The map of Bulgaria is dominated by a "Turkish" squat toilet.

"It is sure to upset a lot of people, and that is also what I am aiming for," Bulgarian artist Elena Jelebova says in her accompanying note, calling the work "a punk gesture".

The map of the Netherlands is presented totally flooded with water with just the minarets of mosques visible.

Italy is transformed into a giant football pitch with players holding strategically-placed footballs. Artist Francesco Zempedroni speaks of "an auto-erotic system of sensational spectacle with no climax in sight."

Britain is taken off the EU map entirely, with the explanation by artist Khalid Asadi shedding little light on his depiction.

"This improvement of exactness means that its individual selective sieve can cover the so-called objective sieve," the viewer is told.

[AFP / Expatica]