Street exhibit marks key moments in 20 years since Velvet Revolution

Václav Havel in 1989

The Vienna-based writer and poet Eugen Brikcius and his wife Zuzana are well-known in the Czech Republic for organising a wide variety of events or cultural happenings. On Tuesday, their latest project opened on a number of Prague streets: B&W poster images featuring photos and text on Czech life over the last 20 years. Called “From the Velvet Revolution to the EU Presidency”, the aim is to mark key moments that shaped the country after the fall of communism.

It’s a modest street exhibition on four Prague street corners that but given it was organised by the Brikciuses, the opening on Tuesday was guaranteed an audience: a jazz trio played and Czech TV broadcast live from just outside Masaryk station, while men in work clothes slapped up posters showing the way Czechs and Slovaks were back in 1989. I spoke to the show’s organiser Zuzana Brikcius and asked her which moments were highlighted in the exhibit:

“Of course, the revolution and the fall of regime are important in the show. Other key moments include the break up of Czechoslovakia and the country joining the EU. Then the period of Václav Havel’s presidency is important, and to a lesser degree the fall of the government. Finally, there’s the EU presidency.”

The EU presidency dominated headlines in the Czech Republic for six months and was something of a rollercoaster ride from the controversial Entropa artwork and the Russian gas crisis and Gaza in the early days to the eventual fall of the government. While, the Czech Republic was able to see through the remaining months of the presidency under an interim leadership, Zuzana Brikcius, says one the whole the Czechs’ tenure could have gone better:

Václav Havel in 1989
“The fall of the government was very unfortunate. Having lived much of my life abroad, I think that the country should come first, and that’s not what happened here. The Czech Republic had a great foreign minister as well as a prime minister who did his best and it appeared that the Czechs would be able to take on the tasks with courage, as well as to present the country in a good light. Yet still it came to this. ”

“From the Velvet Revolution to the EU Presidency” will remain on display only until July 9. One obvious downside is that it will have to compete with hundreds of advertising images for viewers’ attention. Nevertheless, Zuzana Brikcius says the street is the right place to be:

“The role of the street hasn’t changed: sometimes it’s dominant, sometimes less so. An exhibit like this, or music in public, you can stop for a moment and think about what’s going on. Plus, a lot of people dislike going into galleries and this is an alternative. We bring the gallery to them.”