Czech Republic, Network 4 Debate

There is either fucked up art or no art at all

A master’s thesis about “fucked up art” written by a student in Brno has had the media in an uproar. But what does it signify?

The story of the “thesis from the Faculty of Fine Arts” even managed to catch the attention of the media usually disinterested in art or education. The reason was simple: the FFA graduate Kryštof Ambrůz used the words “fucked up art” in the introduction and went on to say that his work was meaningless and had no point.  This statement holds true for education as well; the only thing that matters when you live in the Czech Republic is “slaving away” and the awareness of this idiotic fact finally caught up with him in the last year of his studies, leading to apathy and a loss of motivation.

The thesis served as further proof of non-productive non-work activities, like art, being utterly worthless.

The media that covered this story were not interested in the student’s nihilistic message. Instead, they immediately used his words about “fucked up art” to bolster their attack on  freeloaders, artists, and work-shy parasites of all kinds. Ambrůz’s thesis served as further proof of non-productive non-work activities, like art, being utterly worthless. And the people who commented on the articles, people whose daily agenda consists of bitching about more or less everything, readily agreed.

Surprisingly enough, neither the editors of the weekly Reflex magazine nor the people at the ostentatiously more serious right-wing political commentary website Echo24 could be bothered to actually see the thesis in question (the written part being only an explanatory addendum to an artistic installation) before they started evaluating it. The thesis was “literally about nothing,” wrote Reflex; Echo24 could not overcome their bewilderment that “the thesis advisor had praised it.” The media passed the story around as a curiosity with the potential to bring thousands of clicks to their websites and the headlines it was published under were meant to satisfy the foreseen hatred towards spoiled artistic brats squandering public resources on fucked up art. The editors – judging by the headlines – put their money on people who hate slackers and provocateurs.

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Eva Svobodová, a blogger on one of the biggest Czech news portal, iDnes, summed up her conservative outrage in no uncertain terms by suggesting everyone involved should have their academic titles revoked: “I think the entire Faculty of Fine Arts at Brno Technical University is a stupid cesspit of left-wing ignoramuses that should pay for this with their own money or find a private sponsor. I’d fire the thesis advisor Šrámek and its reviewer Mazanec on the spot and start proceedings that would lead to having their titles revoked, because while one can be an anarchist, they then have no business being part of the system.”

The artist in the bistro

Those who study and create art are for many of their compatriots on the level of gypsies, Muslims, neo-marxists, gays and other violators of common decency.

The readers’ comments under the articles went in much the same direction. “This would not have happened at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, left-wing ignoramuses, send all them artists to bistros, make them work” – and so on. Those who study and create contemporary art at universities are for a huge part of their compatriots on the level of gypsies, left-wingers, Muslims, neo-marxists, gays and other violators of common decency that the Internet spokespeople of the Proper Majority simply cannot abide. The artist who ended up mocking his school could have been used as a shining example of a fool who has seen the light, who, thanks to his hard work at a bistro, finally realized the value of money and told art to fuck off. But he received the same hate as the school and art he took such pains to define himself against. But the cheek he showed cannot be rewarded; the text can be read in too many ways.

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Work is all that remains here from capitalism and democracy. It is as if there was no other ideology in the Czech Republic. The parasites from humanities and art schools receive overblown attention from those who fight for lost normalcy. Maybe some of them really think that if art and other “useless” fields of study stopped receiving funding, we would have considerably more money for pensions and roads. But for most of the haters, the sight of slackers at schools simply raises righteous indignation.

The communist mantra of “no work, no food” and its cult of work were perhaps aimed against the (already beaten) oppressors and focused on the renovation of the country after the war, making every single individual part of the machine of party-led industry. Today’s unspoken parallel to this motto, frequently and with only small variations used by Zeman, Babiš, the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats alike, simply tells us that we all have to live in same shit as the others and not make waves. It is not about forcing people to take part in something – rather, it’s about keeping in line everything that lies outside the realm of endless toil, and questions the necessity of slaving away for pitiful pay.

Translation by Michal Chmela.
Featured image by Allie Caulfield.

This article was created as part of the Network 4 Debate project, supported by the International Visegrad Fund.


Pavel Šplíchal
He is a sociologist and contributing editor at A2larm.