Guerrilla art group replaces presidential flag with giant underpants

Pranksters from the art group known as Ztohoven made their mark at Prague Castle at the weekend when they replaced the country’s presidential flag with a giant pair of red boxer shorts. The move, the group said, was in direct protest against President Miloš Zeman. His spokesman condemned the act as dishonourable.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK The Czech guerrilla art group Ztohoven has never shied from controversy or pushing the envelope when it comes to making an impact. Years ago, the group was awarded the NG 333 prize for young artists and has made headlines repeatedly since – most for a fake atom bomb explosion in a live Czech TV feed to point to how reality is manipulated by the media. For that, seven people came were charged but were later cleared in court.

This Saturday, the group was at it again: three members, disguised as chimney sweeps, lowered the presidential flag on the roof of Prague Castle, replacing it with giant red underpants. In a statement online, Ztohoven made clear the move was a jab at the current president, Miloš Zeman, who the group labelled a man “not ashamed of anything”. The group put video of the underpants online but the three “chimneysweeps” were arrested by the Castle Guard.

Jiří Ovčáček, photo: Czech TelevisionJiří Ovčáček, photo: Czech Television The president’s spokesman, Jiří Ovčáček, found nothing funny about the prank, saying this:

“The last time we saw such an act of dishonour was on March 15, 1939 when the Nazi flag was raised above Prague Castle. We did not such a thing even after the Soviet occupation. It is an act which deserves to be treated only with contempt and that is also the view of the president. I repeat, contempt.”

Later, Mr Ovčáček went on to describe the group as “vandals pretending to be artists”. The group, meanwhile, defended the protest, arguing it was not a question of dishonour. One of its members spoke to Czech TV:

“This has nothing to do with desecration of the flag. In our view, taking away the symbol from someone who definitely doesn’t own it is an adequate reaction.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK The group charged that the head-of-state himself had plenty to answer for, publishing a list online in which they slammed the president for a number of faux-pas, not least his use of vulgar language last year on Czech Radio. Others noted this is not the first time that the president has been targeted by the art world. A statue of a giant hand with a raised middle finger by David Černý was floated on the Vltava River facing Prague Castle in 2013. There was no mistaking the intent there. This time, the message has hit even closer to home: for that reason, personnel changes in Castle security have already been announced. The three Ztohoven members who were arrested, meanwhile, could be charged with theft and disorderly conduct.