European citizens do not like the European Union. In an effort to make the EU more sexy the Austrian authorities decided to subsidize a publicity campaign with a series of 150 posters. 75 artists from various places in Europe were asked to each make two posters, but some of them apparently took the request to present the EU in a sexy fashion too literally. In addition to the one depicted here there is a poster which shows two naked women and one naked man in a sexual pose. The man is wearing a mask with the features of the French President Chirac and the women are masked as Queen Elizabeth of Britain and… the American President Bush (one may wonder what he has to do with the EU and why Europeans are meant to see him as a woman). Readers will find a selection of the posters here. The posters are currently displayed on 400 billboards in Vienna and will be hung in other Austrian towns in the following weeks.
On January 1 Austria takes over the presidency of the EU for a half year period. The poster campaign costs the government 500,000 euros, which is 10% of the total cost. 90% is paid for by private sponsors. The campaign is intended to celebrate Austria’s EU presidency, as well as the 60th anniversary of the Austrian constitution and the 10th anniversary of Austria’s EU membership.
Even though Europeans have become accustomed to explicit pictures in their streets, the posters have caused an uproar in Austria. Barbara Prammer, the Socialist deputy-speaker of the Austrian Parliament, said the posters depict women “in a sexist and demeaning manner.” Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, a Christian-Democrat, explained that he had not seen the posters in advance and added that they “surpass by far the limits of good taste.” He said he wants the posters to be taken down.
As they are part of an independent cultural project it is unclear whether the posters can be removed. Schüssel stressed, however, “that the posters have nothing to do with art.” Gabi Burgstaller, the Socialist governor of Salzburg, announced that she does not want the poster with the EU underwear to be shown when the posters come to Salzburg on January 24 as part of the so-called “Sound of Europe” conference. She said the poster, which was made by a (female) Berlin artist, is “hostile to women.”
Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), described the poster of Chirac, Elizabeth and Bush as a “group sex fantasy.” Perhaps that is exactly how some Euro-fanatics see the EU project, which forces nations into a kind of collectivist multinational construct. The Spanish artist who made the poster said he wanted to depict “the most recent changes in Europe and the resulting spatial constructions.” The project’s organisers called the poster a “direct criticism of globalisation.” According to the Austrian Catholic Family Organisation it is “pure porn.”
And what does the picture of the woman in EU underwear mean? Perhaps that the EU is a prostitute? Or is it a message to Polish MEPs?
Update, Thursday evening, 29 December 2005:
The Austrian authorities decided to remove four of the 150 posters, because they are considered to be too obscene or offensive. The four posters include the one with the masked nudes in a sexual pose and the one with the EU underwear. The Berlin artist who made the latter says she is angry about the “censorship.”
Update, 31 December 2005:
See also: Is the EU a Sex Fantasy? It is, 4 July 2007