This border crossing does not exist.
In the tranquil village of Bayerisch Gmain, where people call themselves German and only have to walk one street further to meet people who call themselves Austrian, we had a poster put up: "This border does not exist".
We have apologized – Tatü Tata – in the name of the Bavarian police, because we find the removal of art by police officers stupid.
Because responsible handling and professionalism is important to us and a statement is missing so far, we have taken their advertising campaign as a model. Of course, we respect the artistic style of the police and do not stylistically disregard their design decisions.
The question remains: what is the police’s concept of art in Bayrisch Gmain?
In the small municipality of Bayerisch Gmain, where art exhibitions are rarely seen, a work by the Peng collective was now on display. It was part of the art project “Schrei es in die welt hinaus” (“Shout it out into the world”). For this project, conceptual artist Peter Kees invited eleven artists to design public billboards. Sponsored by the Free State of Bavaria, by the way.
So we had an advertising poster put up at Grenzweg 3 saying that this German-Austrian border would not be there. More precisely: “This border crossing does not exist”. In Ukrainian, Arabic and English, to underline the cosmopolitan claim of the work.
A federal eagle was depicted on the poster, but also a slightly alienated EU symbol on purpose to show: this is a work of art. Similar to the showmaster Jan Böhmermann’s videos on the constitutional law, in which the logos of the late night show ZDF Neomagazin can be found next to the emblem of the Ministry of the Interior as an indicator of satire. We similarly contextualised the German emblem and wrote “Wilkommen in Bayern” (Welcome to Bavaria), deliberately with one L too few, so that even the last official would scratch his head in wonder.
The police are now investigating themselves.
So when the Steinhöring conceptual artist Peter Kees had our poster put up, it was like all the other works in his exhibition: he was pleased. And came over to have a look at it. It looks good, he thought, and went for lunch. When he came back, the poster was gone. Neatly removed, the torn parts of the poster gone. Peter Kees was at a loss when a police car came around the corner. After all, he said, this was a border area, a personal check. File a complaint against unknown persons, Kees said spontaneously, the work of art had been destroyed. The officers took the complaint.
And then it got exciting. When asked, it turned out that the police had removed the poster themselves. Vandalism in a spontaneous act of asserting authority. So the complaint filed was against the police themselves, not against unknown persons. And what do the police like to do when there are accusations of criminality within their own ranks? File a counter complaint! So Peter Kees is now being investigated for impersonating an official.
What is going on here? For one thing, it is obvious that there was no imminent danger, which is why the poster should have been destroyed urgently. It is more likely that the police officers themselves committed usurpation of authority by playing the judiciary and indirectly giving themselves a court order in order to then act as executive power.
On the other hand, in this act of vigilante justice, the police disregarded the freedom of art, which is particularly protected in Germany by the constitution. After “degenerate art” was banned under National Socialism and confiscated and destroyed by the police, this fundamental right has a special status. A non-observance that could lead to summary dismissal for the officers who now have to investigate themselves, as they did not act worthy of their office.
So it remains exciting to see which boundaries will be respected in Germany. Those of artistic freedom, those of the separation between the judiciary and the executive, or those of personal taste and vigilante justice in uniform.