A Danish art group has put up old Nazi propaganda posters in Berlin — sort of. The posters are altered to suggest Germany get rid of the states where support for neo-Nazis is strongest.
The Danish art group “Surrend” has launched a new campaign to protest against the election success of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) in parts of eastern Germany. The group launched its latest provocative project on Tuesday by sticking up its own versions of old Nazi propaganda posters in central Berlin.
One of the members of the art group, Jan Egesborg, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the campaign was designed to show the link between Hitler’s Nazi Party and present-day far-right extremists. He says the group had been shocked atin the states of Mecklenburg- Western Pomerania and Saxony and decided to “poke fun at them.” And they were worried by the increased popularity of the right-wing extremists in Germany.
“It’s absurd when you think of the history,” Egesborg said. The NPD won seats in the state parliament in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania last September. It had already entered Saxony’s parliament in 2004.
Egesborg has already taken on the far right in his native Denmark. He cut his teeth on a poster campaign a few years ago, when he and other artists put up neo-Nazi election posters with misspellings and other errors to try to make the Danish extremists look stupid. He says the action was pretty effective — people who thought they were neo-Nazi propaganda tore them down, and far-right chatrooms were annoyed at the attempt to cast a slur on their intelligence.
The German campaign launched this week is a little different. Egesborg is convinced that people in Berlin will realize it is an art project. They are obviously old posters which have been changed “in a crazy way,” but it should make people think about the connection between today’s extremists and the former Nazi regime.
The posters depict the tongue-in-cheek demand that Germany get rid of the two eastern states that have given strong support to the NPD by giving them to the Roma people or handing them over to the Russian energy company Gazprom. The posters have so far only been put up in Berlin but Surrend intends to spread the campaign throughout Germany — including Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony.
This is far from the first time the street art group has cast its hi-jinks further afield. Its aim is to make “crazy art” in hotspots and to poke fun at the world’s most powerful men. Surrend has had sticker and poster campaigns in Poland, Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka. In 2005 it hung 1,000 peace posters in Baghdad and last year it managed, ostensibly in praise of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But when the initials of the text were read in English they spelt out the word “SWINE.”
If this all sounds a bit wilfully obscure, Egesborg insists that art can make a difference: “It is very important that art is part of politics,” he says. He criticizes much contemporary art as too introspective and only concerned with the artist’s inner feelings. “In this age of globalization, it is important for art to be expressive and to take a risk.”