A group of artists in the Czech Republic are facing up to three years in prison for playing a practical joke. Last July, the ‘Ztohoven' art group hijacked a Czech television broadcast and introduced the image of an atomic cloud into a weather report. Early risers who were tuned into the morning programme were stunned to see the cloud rising in the midst of a peaceful country landscape.
The stunt caused outrage in the country, but it was also commended; the group was awarded the NG 333 prize by the National Gallery, with a cash bonus of €12,500. Yet despite their appraisals, the trial for ‘attempted scaremongering' and ‘the distribution of deliberately misleading information' is fast approaching for half a dozen of the artists. Our Observer for Eastern Europe talked to one of the elusive group's members about why they did it. See the original video and photos of past ‘offences' committed by the group.
Video posted on YouTube by ‘wowes777', 22 June 2007
Pictures of the atomic cloud also featured the group's website address, supposedly informing the audience that the images were a prank and an art project.
Video posted on YouTube by ‘martinmcz', 16 December 2007
This video shows how the group managed to interrupt the channel with their own images, from the first step of setting up a camera in the Krkonose Mountains.
It's not the first time the group has got into trouble with the authorities. Ztohoven came to prominence in 2003 when they covered up one half of a neon heart that sits on top of the Prague Castle, (the residence of the Czech President), effectively turning the symbol of love and peace into a huge question mark. They were supposed to be tried for the offence, but the state decided to drop the charges.
In April 2007, group-member Roman Týc replaced 50 of Prague's green/red -man pedestrian crossing lights with ‘more inspiring' versions: you can now find the green man drinking, urinating or walking his green dog. But Prague's municipality aren't too pleased about it; they want Týc to pay a 100000 CZK (almost €4000) fine.
Video posted on YouTube by ‘Sachtardy', 19 April 2007
Most of the group's members are anonymous. The name Ztohoven means two things in Czech: ‘Out of that' and ‘a hundred turds'. See their blog.