10.000 Euros tax money for the Antifa
Saxony needs antifa and antifa needs money. Therefore we have transferred 10.000 euros of Saxony state funds to Antifa. For this we acquired ten important objects of anti-fascism - and exhibited them in a museum.
Summer 2020: The Chemnitz Art Festival “Gegenwarten” invited us to make an artistic contribution 😉. With a project budget of about 24.000 euros, we could do what we want! The only requirement from the curators: it should have something to do with Saxony. What could you do with so much money? Our answer was clear: offer it to antifa!
But because these were public funds, we needed a trick to move the money. A friend had a great idea: why not buy objects of antifascist work from antifa groups for 1.000 euros each and exhibit them in a museum, 🙃 as a part of an art exhibition. So we would have the money properly spent at the museum and at the same time we could expand upon antifascist work and dispell bourgeois myths about the group.
For weeks, we looked for objects suitable for a weeks-long exhibtion. We concentrated on a specific area of antifascist work– the fight against Nazis and racism. It was important for us to show the movement’s diversity and to expose media and political cliché of Antifa as stereotypically violent, black-masked antifascists. We talked to many antifascists, researched in archives like Apabiz and quickly found what we were looking for. A beer crate from the Ostritzer Friedensfest, a spray can from the “Sprayer Grandma” Irmela Mensah-Schramm, the smartphone that filmed the racist hunts in Chemnitz and the indictment of the NSU tribunals. The shopping cart from the Connewitz New Year’s Eve, the Antifa pin of Martina Renner, the banner of the VVN-BdA, the YPJ flag of the flag of the UTA Women’s Council of Dresden.
Some exhibits did not make it into the final selection: a teddy bear from the Dresden memorial action “Never Forget”, a Refugee Black Box from Jena, a cushion from a sit-in blockade against a Nazi march and the Augsburg riot travel guide.
During the selection process it was important for us to focus on different strategies and formats of antifa work: from militant actions, to continuous research work, to very bourgeois “democracy formats”. Nine out of ten objects also tell of state repression, political criminalization and criminal proceedings.
Antifa – Myth and Truth
The exhibition objects had been found, the money was spent! Now we needed a suitable showroom. And what place in Chemnitz would be better suited for these items than the art collections of the König-Albert-Museum on Theaterplatz? It is the bourgeois heart of the city, located next to the opera house, St. Petrikirche and the Hotel Chemnitzer Hof. Between old masters of romanticism and the precious works of the classical modernists, our Antifa exhibits would now find a place. With the Antifa objects on plinths, in glass cabinets and illuminated by spotlight, they were safely organized in order to confront people who normally are not involved in the fight against Nazis and racism with the topic of anti-fascism. The title of the exhibition: Antifa – Myth and Truth.
We explained our intentions to the museum management; what we wanted to do, who we wanted to reach and who we wanted to provoke. The management was open and after several conversations they agreed to our project. We were able to begin with the exhibition’s construction. Unfortunately, at some point the communication went wrong– wall texts were not shown to the museum management until they were up and the exhibition was almost ready to be opened. These wall texts were critical of several German political parties. So at this very last moment, the museum demanded that we remove CDU (conservative party), FDP (liberal party) and AfD (far right party) from the wall texts altogether. They justified their demands with their principle of political neutrality.
Complying with this demand was out of the question for us. We felt that this demand was an encroachment on our artistic freedom. We also have a political and curatorial responsibility to the creators of the objects we were exhibiting –the committed anti-fascists. A heated meeting between us, museum management and the show’s curators ended with us being thrown out of the museum. They told us to find a new place for our exhibition – one day before the opening!
Perplexed, sad and angry, we quickly went public with the museum’s demand. The news of the expulsion spread through social media and quickly landed in the city of Chemnitz’s inboxes; who in turn quickly reached an agreement with the museum. With a sign attached to the wall text making clear that it was Peng!’s position and not that of the museum, our exhibition was allowed to stay.
Our opening was well received in Chemnitz, the queue in front of our showroom stretched over two floors. But the Nazis were not happy. The far-right AfD spoke of “state-sponsored terrorism”, their Saxon fraction leader called the exhibition a “violent exhibition” and Beatrix von Storch stoked the legend of the squared timber as a murder weapon (which we refuted, by the way, in exactly this exhibition 🙈).
Währenddessen auf der blau-braunen Seite der Macht… #AntifaschistischeAuktion pic.twitter.com/XExv2taWz5
— Peng. (@Peng) August 21, 2020
That Nazis are upset about anti-fascism is not surprising. But when Ebay objected to our use of their website to auction off the items – that took us by surprise. Our online auction had been running since the opening of the exhibition and had already brought in over 3,000 euros. But during our Wednesday morning over coffee, we see Ebay suddenly pulling the squared timber off their website. Their reason: “Glorification of violence”. We thought, “ok this is surely a mistake, they’ll realize this and the auction will come back”, but instead Ebay blocked our entire account then deleted all our auctions 😱
Hallo @eBayDE, die Auktionen von @peng gehören zu unserer Ausstellung GEGENWARTEN | PRESENCES – sind Teil der von Art. 5 GG gedeckten Kunstfreiheit – bitte stellt die Auktion wieder online.
— Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz (@Kunstsammlungen) August 20, 2020
The museum was cool and stood behind our auction. Several media outlets reported, that Ebay deleted anti-fascism from their platform altogether (while you could easily buy Nazi items there). Twitter was burning up and eBay was bombarded with press inquiries, phone calls and e-mails. After several phone calls and contradictory statements from Ebay employees, one said “Ah yes, the instruction came from the USA, this probably has something to do with the topic Antifa”. 😱 The next telephone call denied all this and instead said that there was missing data in our seller account. We still don’t know the real reason for our suspension. Finally, our account was reactivated, but all bids were gone. This was on Friday, one day before our planned public auction. We quickly reactivated all our auctions just 24 hours before the auction was to close!
Then on Saturday it was auction time. This “Anti-Fascist Auction” in the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz was to be the crowning event of what turned out to be a turbulent week. Invited guests included Paula Irmschler, Irmela Mensah-Schramm, Stephan Anpalagan, Bernd Langer, the VVN-BdA, the NSU Tribunal and the JuKo. We held an exciting panel discussions, discussing how much myth and how much truth there is the Antifa’s media image. The auctions ended live on stage and raised a total of over 6,700 Euros for the AJZ Chemnitz. It was especially nice to us that nine of the ten exhibits went to Saxony!
The exhibition is still running, you can visit it in Chemnitz until 25 October 2020. And you can still take part yourself: there is an 11th, empty, display case. This is room for your object of anti-fascist work! Here you can find all the information you need to take part.
If you like our actions and would like to see more of them, you can help us immensely by becoming a permanent donor to Peng! 💝