Art Here and Now
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The Czech Dream, the Hoax Superstore of the Czech Republic

In the late ’80s, Czechoslovakia became a democratic state, and in 1993 peacefully separated into two countries – the Czech Republic and Slovakia. With democracy came capitalism and advertising, and with capitalism and advertising came The Hypermarket. Hypermarkets are the world’s superstores, selling shoes and spinach, pipe wrenches and pumpkins, all you would need to buy under one roof. Compared to the scarcity of goods in the pre-capitalist Czechoslovakia, this abundance was a big change.

Just like people in other countries had become critical of rampant consumerism and advertising eroding their culture, many Czechs felt the same way.

Two filmmakers created a fake advertising campaign, including radio, tv, sales flyers, posters and a web site, to promote the new hypermarket named Czech Dream – Cesky Sen. They announced a location and an opening day; built a huge fake storefront in a field, made of a tarp and scaffolding; and 3,000 people showed up. They filmed the whole thing, from inception, ad design, recording the theme song, filming the commercials, to the day 3,000 people standing in front of them found out they had been lied to.

The film is well made, but like many odd art events, the real art happened in the field that morning with those 3,000 people. The film just documents creating that art.

Controversy about the film and the ad campaign stretched all the way to the Czech Parliament and Prime Minister. Government arts funding had been used to make the film (and the fake ad campaigns), which outraged a lot of people. Supporters of the film argued this was no different than the government’s expenses for the huge “join the European Union” ad campaign. Both were advertising an ideology, it was better to also show a contrary view. (Joining the European Union, because of easier trade with other EU nations, was thought by many Czechs to be a huge unwanted step towards materialism and consumerism.)

Like Adbusters, The Yes Men, and some Michael Moore films, the artists set up circumstances that most clearly show the point they want to make. The set up is what usually gets people really riled up, because people feel manipulated, and the films no longer retain an illusion of neutrality. (Documentaries are rarely neutral. How up front a film is about its bias varies.) They’re big, social, political practical jokes.

Lessons of the film: 1. Advertising is bad. 2. Buying things won’t make you happy. 3. Standing outside in a field on a sunny day is much better than going to a mall.

Buy something about anti-consumerism:
Czech Dream (US DVD release date December 4, 2007)
Words by Adbusters and founder Kalle Lasn
Work by Michael Moore

posted by Trout Monfalco