Spanish Presidency unveils ‘uncontroversial’ art installation

Spanish artist Daniel Canogar is today (5 January) set to unveil in the atrium of the EU Council’s Justus Lipsius building an “uncontroversial” art installation, which will accompany his country’s rotating presidency of the EU for the next six months.

By installing a massive piece of art in the Council building, the Spanish organisers are partially following in the footsteps of the Czech Presidency (which took place in the first half of 2009), which unveiled a four-ton artifact by David Cerny called ‘Entropa’. The Czech sculpture raised eyebrows in EU circles and sparked a diplomatic protest by Bulgaria (EURACTIV 15/01/09

Entropa depicted Bulgaria as a Turkish toilet and Italy as a football playground where players were seemingly masturbating. Germany appeared to be dominated by swastika-shaped highways and Lithuania featured Manneken Pis-style figures seemingly urinating on Russia. In comparison, the Spanish artwork, seen by EURACTIV in the Justus Lipsius lobby, is unlikely to trigger any quarrels. 

Canogar’s work, called ‘Travesías’ (crossings), is a video installation which sees pictures move through an arabesque, carpet-like structure made up of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The images, grouped in different sections, move through this film. They make a full loop in 18 minutes. 

The video features men, women and children involved in different activities: walking across an electric carpet, climbing it, cleaning it and picking up luggage. 

Canogar told EURACTIV that he was “clearly trying to avoid offering references to national symbols,” favouring instead interpretations of the work that do not involve national colours. 

“I wanted to stay away from a literal patriotic reading,” Canogar said. 

The work can be read in a number of different ways, he explained, stating: “In one sense it is a dynamic, almost adventurous reflection of the people walking through the atrium of Justus Lipsius.” 

In another sense, “if you consider the meaning of ‘travesías’ in Spanish, it conveys not simply a passage, but also a journey. That would be the most literal meaning. The European Union is an experiment that we have all witnessed first-hand to avert dramatic changes in a short period of time,” he said. 

According to Canogar, the EU is now going through a period of transition. “There is an allusion to it in the piece as something that takes effort: people climb, drag along; they meet obstacles which need to be surpassed, But the video also has moments of delight,” the artist said. 

On 1 January 2010, Spain assumed the European Union's six-month rotating presidency. Madrid's term at the helm comes at a defining moment for the bloc, marked by the first steps of the Union's first-ever permanent president and foreign affairs chief and efforts to lift Europe out of its worst recession in decades (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on the Spanish EU Presidency). 

The rotating presidency is seen as a chance for the country at the helm of the EU to foster and stimulate debate about integration and identity. Previous presidencies have done so by installing pieces of art in the atrium of the Council building, known as the Justus Lipsius. 

In January 2009, 'Entropa', an installation by Czech artist David Cerny intended as an ironic interpretation of national stereotypes, triggered numerous controversies (EURACTIV 15/01/09).

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