All of Brussels let out a sigh of relief yesterday as Spain unveiled its decidedly non-controversial art installation to mark the start of  the six-month Spanish EU Presidency. The installation in the lobby of the Justus Lipsius building presents a stark contrast to that unveiled by the Czech Presidency precisely one year ago. This hugely controversial piece succeeded in offending many of the EU’s Member States, not least Bulgaria, which was depicted as a Turkish toilet in the large mosaic map, and thus subsequently launched an official complaint.

© European Communities, 2009

In contrast, it would be difficult to take offence from this piece by Spanish artist Daniel Canogar, although this is not to say that the installation is not rich with symbolism and significance. The artwork consists of a 33-metre long, 1.65-metre wide LED screen which undulates and loops across the ceiling of the EU’s main summit building and depicts figures, filmed from above, walking, running, falling, crawling, cleaning, and picking up luggage as they traverse the length of the screen. Canogar has said that the work, entitled ‘Travesías’ (crossings, or journeys), represents the “profound territorial, economic and social transformations” which the EU has undergone in recent years, and the Spanish Presidency has described it as an “expression of the continual sense of movement with which Spain would like to provide the EU’s cultural policy”.

The obvious attempt to steer clear of potentially offensive imagery and patriotic colours is admirable and true to the EU’s egalitarian stance, yet one cannot help but notice the installation’s resemblance to a rollercoaster, which is a very apt representation indeed of the EU’s ‘journey’ in recent years, with its highs, lows and stomach-churning revolutions.

– Rhian

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