“Hooliganism” and the Art of East European Dissent

Logan Arts Center, Screening Room

Interviewed in March of 2010, Czech artist David Černý (b. 1967) denied his rebel status and underscores his hatred of officials: “The other day, I had to shake the hand of the Czech Prime Minister, and he was very nice and friendly, but I know he does not care about me, and does not like me. And I do not care about him….” Asked whether he is a rebel or prankster, Cerny replies, “No, I do not see myself as anything of the above. I am a sculptor. I make art. Period.” But the art he makes has been derided as trashy, depraved, obscene, offensive, tasteless, and shameful to the nation, its people, its values. This talk argues that this “hooliganism” is not restricted to Černý’s brand of art and provocation but is a hallmark of the work of so many Czech “dissidents”—writers, sculptors, painters, priests, students, florists, musicians, plastic peoples of the universe, dog walkers, etc. As Václav Havel might have provoked: Act as a hooligan so as to be able to recuperate that hooliganism as one’s true civility.