This week, a Prague court rejected an attempt to charge some fellows with anything after they flew underwear on a flagpole at Prague Castle where the national flag was supposed to be. This September, Ztohoven – that ragamuffin band of naughty guerilla artists known to all of the Prague cafe scene, of course – broke into the castle and gained access to the roof where they replaced the Czech symbol with a flag-sized pair of red undies. Immediately after, the group posted a backdated blog post that linked to video of the symbol switch and offered the boxers to be flown as the new standard of a man who is ashamed of nothing. In addition to the boxers from the group came poem, for effect. The poem described the shorts as being red like the Chinese flag, as well as like embarrassment, and that they are no longer missing the hug of the asses that are running the country. Castle spokesman Jiří Ovčáček mused on the events of the afternoon in a tweet about the fascination of “Prazska kavarna,” or Prague cafe society – a term used by Czech Republic President and ass Miloš Zeman to describe his opponents.
The artist collective that makes up Ztohoven has a history at pushing thought in a particular direction using the device of pranks. In 2007, members of the group hacked a broadcast facility of Czech Public Television. That morning on the breakfast show Panorama, instead of a typical live shot of a mountain scene, viewers saw a mushroom cloud rising from the ground. In 2007, television was the best mass media to send a message to the most people, but with this latest underwear approach, the group has adjusted to the times by using hashtags and retweets to go the distance. In the company of Ztohoven, many more artists have produced pieces “in real life” and utilized social media to watch them go viral.
British street artist Banksy harnessed social media has viral marketing for one special month in particular, during his residency in New York City in 2013. For the project, titled Better In Than Out, Banksy updated Instagram and YouTube every day of the month with a new piece – and a clue to its location, if you were lucky . His “followers,” online and off, then set out to find it and hopefully Instagram it for themselves. For the lucky person that found the Banksy of the day first? Nothing – but at least a couple likes and shares. The official hashtag #banksyny would become a live feed of what was happening, before any traditional news outlet would find anything out. When the pieces were tagged, destroyed, stolen or encased in plexiglass, the eyes on the art (the followers) often caught and broadcasted that live, as well. Banksy’s free and public exhibit and display on social media wasn’t just about seeing the works, but the concept of sharing, as New Yorkers shared their Banksy Instagrams often with their own opinions attached. Some days the Banksy would be good, some days the Banksy would be bad. I wonder what the Prague cafe society thinks?
Featured image courtesy of Adam Jones, Ph.D.