The Czech Republic's Banksy
written by Graham Marema (Davidson College)
My parents decided to take advantage of my semester abroad and came to visit me last week. They’ve always wanted to go to Prague but it’s not something they’ve ever been able to prioritize, so this trip was big for them. I’m sure seeing me was a perk.
They came armed with Rick Steve’s Guide to Prague, where they read all about the sights - the Prague Castle, the Lennon Wall, the Charles Bridge, the astronomical clock. When they got here, I said, “Yeah, yeah, that stuff’s cool, but here’s the game plan: I’m going to take you around the city and show you all of David Cerny’s artwork.”
When I first got here, it took a manner of days before I heard David Cerny’s name. Now he seems to be everywhere. To me, this is something that defines the city just as much as the Prague Castle sitting perpetually in the background every time you look up at the skyline. His art represents a lot of what I think is cool about the Czech Republic. Cerny’s first big stunt was painting a huge Soviet tank - a memorial to the country’s liberation in 1945 - bright pink. Since then his stunts have gotten bigger, crazier, and, nowadays, a bit more legal. But no less shocking.
The Czech Republic has a history that is dark at times, even darker at others, and constantly under change and reformation. While to some it may seem that David Cerny just takes every possible opportunity to thumb his nose at society, I see his art as a new way to commemorate the past, making it brighter and more noticeable, humorous and honest.
I’m sure my parents raised their eyebrows at a few of the things I showed them. But it’s important, when visiting a new city, to embrace the strange, lesser-known parts of the culture - the giant babies with screens for faces clawing their way up the TV tower, the sculpture of a dead upside down horse ridden by St. Wenceslas, and a few others which the reader can Google on their own time. And afterwards my parents managed to see the castle and the John Lennon Wall as well.