John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Czech artist David Cerny erected this massive one-fingered salute in front of his country's presidential palace.
The feelings that Czech artist David Cerny bear toward his country's leaders are not hard to decipher. It's not unabashed love that makes a man erect a 30-foot-tall hand in the middle of a river that's giving the one-fingered salute to the presidential palace.
The 45-year-old Cerny unleashed the offensive sculpture on Monday in the Vltava River near Prague Castle, home to regional leaders all the way back to Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire. Made of purple plastic and bearing an elongated middle finger, the artwork looked like a grossly mutated E.T. had fallen into the water and decided to give the world one last insult before drowning.
The meaning of the piece is less surreal, dealing with what he sees as a worrisome power grab by Czech president Milos Zeman and others. Here's the skinny from The New York Times:
Mr. Cerny said the monumental hand with its 16-foot-long outstretched middle finger, placed on a float facing the castle, was a “scream of alarm” against the state of politics in the Czech Republic, endemic corruption and Mr. Zeman, a former leftist prime minister, whom he accused of becoming intoxicated with power.
He said the sculpture, which he gave an unprintable title, was also aimed at the country’s Communist Party, which could gain a share of power in the coming elections for the first time since the revolution that overthrew communism more than two decades ago.
His fears aren't exactly baseless, as this August the Czech parliament dissolved itself after an "anticorruption investigation uncovered safes stuffed with millions of dollars in cash and stashes of gold that prosecutors suspect may have been used in an elaborate influence-peddling scheme," per the Times' account.
Here are a couple more views of the disrespecting digit, which Cerny installed after somehow gaining official permission:
Top image: Workers anchor a boat bearing an installation work by David Cerny in front of the Prague Castle on October 21. (David Cerny / Reuters)