About the sculpture
Full title of the piece is Reconstruction as Tragedy and Farce (East German citizen Hartmut Tautz mutilated by an “independently attacking dog” of the Czechoslovak border patrol while attempting to cross the Iron Curtain in August 1986 from Slovakia to Austria, with border guards Ivan Hirner and Oldřich Kovář watching.)
The monumental installation in its main focus is about the Iron Curtain and the fatal aftermath of some of those who attempted to cross it. It tells a story of a young man that tried to escape from East Germany to Austria just a couple of years short of the fall of Communist regimes. During his attempt he was attacked by specially trained patrol dogs and then left to die by Czechoslovakian border guards who failed to provide help.
It was an intention of the artists to create a re-presentation of the myth of Laocoon, the Western culture’s icon of human tragedy and agony. Laocoon tried to expose the ploy of the Trojan horse, took a tragic stand against the gods and lost. Such is the story of the many who knew that the enemy is already inside and took their tragic chances against the totalitarian power and were killed on the Iron Curtain. The statue, in its form, is loosely based on the well known Hellenistic sculpture of the Laocoon as well as the Dying Gaul, whose grimace is partially appropriated for the head of Tautz. The sculpture also uses the naive aesthetics of Josef Lada (a well known Czech folk artist depicting ideal rural life), re-creating the myth to become a fable, as memory fades and tragedy becomes farce, and Europe is haunted by “östalgia” and ideas represented by the extreme left. This aspect is present in the statue explicitly (albeit sometimes barely visible), assuming the roles of anthropomorphic animals, typical of Lada’s fables: Vladimir Putin (rabbit), Slavoj Zizek (grasshopper), Noam Chomsky (worm). There is also a squirrel hiding in the corn with a head inspired by a bust of Karl Marx.
The sculpture was first shown at the Esplanade Solidarność in front of the EU Parliament in May 2015. It was unveiled by the EU Commissioner for Culture and the mother and sister of Hartmut Tautz were present. It was then exhibited in the Museum Kampa in Prague in July until October 2015.
The story of Hartmut Tautz
Hartmut Tautz was born on 10 February 1968. For political reasons, the Communist regime did not allow him to study music. Facing military service which he could not imagine to stand, he decided to escape from East Germany through Czechoslovakia to Austria. In the evening hours of 8 August 1986, he cut through the signal fence outside the town of Bratislava and ran toward the Austrian border through a high corn field. Two border guards, privates Ivan Hirner (*1964) and Oldřich Kovář (*1967), set out after him, releasing two specially trained “independently attacking dogs“ named Ryšo and Roby. The shepherd dogs caught up with Hartmut only 22 metres from the border and caused him severe wounds to the head and torso which however were not lethal. The border guards found Hartmut in pain on the ground and instead of providing medical help, questioned him and searched the surroundings. When he was finally sent to hospital, it was too late. Hartmut Tautz died of haemorrhagic shock in the early morning of 9 August 1986. Nobody ever stood trial for his death. Those responsible are alive today in the Czech and Slovak Republics.