Archive for the 'Antifa' Category

Sticker exhibition – subjects and topics

It’s too hot today to go back to Cambridge to collect stickers.  (Boo hoo….)

I am, however, organizing what I have from my last two trips to Berlin, and here below are the subjects and topics I’ve come up with so far to write about as text panels for the upcoming street and sticker art exhibition.  Some subjects are quite broad, while others are specific to socio/political issues during the last 5-6 years, and still others reference German history dating back to the 1940s.  So many subjects overlap that it’s difficult to sort them out sticker by sticker.  (I can write about that, too.)

ACAB (all cops are bastards)


Animal rights


Antifa (a huge topic covering a range of different issues)


Autonomy (Reclaim the Gardens) (gentrification)

Die Linke (Left Party)


Economy (Germany, EU)

FAU (Free Workers Union)

Gender and sexuality

German national statehood


May Day (May 1st)

MLPD (Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany)

NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany)

Nuclear energy/green energy/environment

Pirate Party Berlin (government Internet monitoring, data communications, privacy, civil rights)

Protests and demonstrations (CT – see list on Delicious)

Religious freedom



Silvio Meier (demonstration)

Soccer (anti-Nazi) ultras and fan clubs


Squatting (commercialization, gentrification)

Space invaders against…



Tempelhof airport (commercial development)

“a healthy opposition to ideologies” (I miss my Dad today)

A link from Infoshop leads to a Web site called Little Black Cart, which is a combination blog and shopping cart for books, mags, ‘zines, etc.  Reading topics include: anarchism, communism, culture, green anarchy, situationist, insurrection, anarchy, autonomism, and surrealism.  Here is what they write about Situationists.

The Situationists (or Sits) were artists from various countries who formed a group in the 1950s called The Situationist Internationale. They critiqued modern society in its various economic, social, and political aspects. They wanted to bring Marxism up to date, to construct a theory of what was going on in society that was preventing people from being able to live fully and act freely. The result was a critique that centered around everyday life, rather than on abstract economic forces. The idea of the “Spectacle” (the empty roles and values and passive rituals that modern life both perpetuates and relies upon) was at the heart of this.

The Situationists were characterized by a healthy opposition to ideologies (if you think of ideologies as sets of ideas that people pledge allegiance to, stop thinking critically about, and only defend). As part of that opposition the Sits denied that there was such a thing as Situationism, doing their best to fight off the stultifying, paralyzing effects of dogma and the party line.

I think I got “a healthy opposition to ideologies” from my Dad, a Congregational minister who left the church to become a professor at a community college and a maximum security prison.  I remember him talking about why he left the church, in that he felt the church as an institution in general was heading in the wrong direction.  This was in the early 1970s during the height of the Vietnam War and civil rights movements.  He said that he felt he would be a better minister working with those from a disadvantaged working class and others who deserve equal opportunities in life.

Shepard Fairey, a RISD grad, quotes the Situationists as an influence in his own work as a street and sticker artist.  His Obey Giant campaign “manufactures quality dissent since 1989.”

I have come across a number of German stickers in the past five years that reflect Situationist perspectives, which will be the subject of one of my text panels for the upcoming exhibition at SLU, “Contemporary Street Art in Berlin as Cultural Expression and Political Protest.”  Quiet mornings are helping me formulate the exhibition in my mind, and I realized today that the subject headings in my sticker database will form a perfect framework for these text panels.

In the context of German street art, I’d say that anarchy is not about lawless chaos.  Rather, according the Oxford English Dictionary (via Wikipedia), it refers to “A social state in which there is no governing person or group of people, but each individual has absolute liberty (without the implication of disorder.)  But is bound by a social code.”


Having recently watched the 2008 film The Baader-Meinhof Complex, I may be starting to get a better understanding of the historical context and meaning of antifa stickers that I’ve found in Berlin during the last five years.  There is so much I don’t know (so much!) that I wouldn’t dream of trying to write anything in depth about it now.  Christopher Hitchens reviews the film here in his August 17, 2009 article in Vanity Fair (Stickerkitty’s birthday #51).

I’ve also been reading Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone, which tells the true story of a couple who distributed postcards advocating civil disobedience in various public places in Nazi-controlled Berlin during World War II.  Much of the story takes place in the neighborhood in Prenzlauer Berg where I stay when I go there – Greifswalder Strasse, Jablonski Strasse, etc., all a block or two away from the Hotel Greifswald.  I’ve figured that Otto and Anna Quangel were in some ways the first “sticker artists” in that part of the world.  The story reveals, however, that the postcards had little effect, since most were handed over to authorities upon their discovery.  Not so with stickers of today!

To cap it all off, in doing a little research on the film, I learned about something called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon that describes how people find patterns of synchronicity in their everyday worlds.  The Best of Wikipedia puts it like this:

“The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon occurs when a person, after having learned some (usually obscure) fact, word, phrase, or other item for the first time, encounters that item again, perhaps several times, shortly after having learned it.”

I can go back to sleep now.


By (another) coincidence, I came across Kittens, an English-speaking journal produced within a network called Junge Linke gegen Kapital und National (which translates to “Young Left against Principle and Nation”).

Looks like more summer reading for Stickerkitty….

Here is a Junge Linke sticker I found in Berlin in 2003-04.  I’ll dig around for others more recent.

Summer solstice

I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell I am doing (at least with my sticker project).  Since 2004, I’ve been to Berlin six times and made dozens of trips to NYC, plus individual trips to San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Munich, and Madrid (mostly work-related except for NYC).  Students, alumni, and friends have picked up stickers in Amsterdam, Rome, and several cities in eastern Europe.  A couple of thousand stickers by now.  A growing database.  An exhibition in 2006.  A blog with musings and lots of links.  Two conference papers.  A few sticker contacts.  A faculty carrel.  A SLU-funded study trip to Germany with three students this summer.  Another upcoming exhibition in the fall of 2010.  A short list of publishers, residency programs, and grant opportunities.

Now what?

I need to figure this out.

The reading and research I’ve been doing leads me to Web sites regarding antifa, anarchy, (anti)-authority, identity, nationalism (often through sports), politics, war and political conflict, globalization, etc.

There is such a huge amount of material out there that I’m not sure where to focus my energy.  What’s my angle?  Cultural studies seems the most apt, but I don’t know anything about social theory, literary theory, political economy, etc.—or I should say, not enough to write about in relation to stickers and street art.  I met recently with a consultant in academic publishing who thinks I’m onto something with my sticker project.  She suggested I write about this material in relation to my interest in visual literacy and media literacy, which would certainly be unique.  But would it be of use to anyone in any sort of circumstance or situation?  She reminded me that publishing is about sales.  Yeah, I know.  I just don’t know how my project translates into $$.  If anything, the stickers and street art I’m interested in reject capitalism and capitalist authority wholeheartedly.

Just today, I came across a blog linking back to mine called Anti-German Translation.  They had used a few of my antifa images in a post called Variousness 8 (30sep09).  The ATG Web site led me to a fantastic list of resources with categories labelled: anti-german translation picks; antifa; autonomous culture; autonomous politics; eurozone; football; conspiracy; kritik and theory; middle east; thinkers; documentationsarchiv reporting global fascism; icare news; the cst: monitoring anti-semitism; contested terrain: platform against anti-semitism and for emancipation; shift: anti-capitalist perspectives; 3wayfight: our enemies’ enemies are often not our friends; slackbastard: against fascism, for anarchy; and planet kommunismus.  Each category includes scores of links.

See what I mean?  So much reading to do, much less make sense of.  I’ve always thought of myself as a studio artist, not a writer.  I like making things.  I do like to write, too, though.

A new me, perhaps.  Just in time for the summer solstice.

Thor #2

Another Thor Steiner reference to what has been attributed as neo-Nazi politics (see post from 11.03.09).

I also just came across a post by John Collins on The Weave entitled Fascists-For Real, in which he discusses contemporary fascist politics in Spain during his year-long sabbatical.  I wonder if he’s come across anti-fascist street art to the extent I have in Berlin.  John’s analysis on various topics is always spot on.

November 11+16, 2009

The dominoes fell, and so did I.  A rainy night, hundreds of people, and umbrellas everywhere made it difficult to see the ground, and I slipped off a curb.  I now have a Botero foot and knees–puffy!  It was okay.  The crowd was chaotic.

Berlin was absolutely fantastic.  I met up with Ollie at the Hatch Kingdom and hope very much that I can show my sticker exhibition there next spring.  It will need to be updated since the exhibition originally showed at SLU in 2006.  It was also really nice to hang out with SLU alum, Spencer Homick.  I told him he has good sticker stamina (unlike someone else I know!)  🙂

Each day, I gave myself a goal to travel to new neighborhoods, which usually involved negotiating trams and subways that require tricky cards that vary by hour or day and have to be authenticated before you board.  It was interesting to see how sticker content varied from one area to another.  Kreuzburg especially focused on issues of race/ethnicity and immigrant populations.  Antifa stickers everywhere.  Several stickers at the Neurotitan entrance focused on anti-US politics.  I can’t wait to go back next spring.  Berlin has a great sticker and street art scene, more so now than NYC, which is too bad since I get to NYC quite often.

I’m still trying to get a handle on the concept of antifa.  It seems like it covers so many different issues.  Maybe antifa could be equated with the notion of resistance and class struggle in general, beyond anti-fascism in Germany, though it’s not all that useful to describe anything like this “in general.”  Dunno.  I’ve now bookmarked International SPIEGEL to keep up more closely with German politics.


November 9, 2009

The street art scene in Berlin has been superbe this week.  I’ve collected at least 250 stickers, even re-visiting a few streets to find new stickers after a day or two.  There will be much research to do when I get back home.  Neal at the Hotel Greifswald helped yesterday to provide historical and cultural context to some of the political stickers.

This place in Kreuzberg had a bunch of original antifa stickers:

Picture 1

Berlin Day One

Keeping track of where I was, is, and will be.  Yesterday I walked a loop from Greifswalder, right onto Danzinger, right onto Landsberger Allee, which turned into Platz de Vereinten Nationen, whch turned into Mollstrasse, which turned into Greifswalder again.  Lots of political stickers, mostly for antifa demonstrations, one for Warmlaufen fuer den Widerstand – Atomkraft Kaltstellen!  One for a demonstration on November 12 in Berlin that says “Freiheit statt Angst, stoppt den uberwachungswahn,” which translates into “Freedom not Fear, Stop the Surveillance.”

I found one sticker referring to a controversy regarding Thor Steiner clothing that you can read about on Wikipedia.  The manufacturer’s label included two Norwegian runes, and various authorities have identified wearing Thor Steiner clothing as a sign of neo-Nazi membership.  The label is not allowed in certain government buildings or football stadiums.  The sticker shows a fist clenched in front of two clothing labels and reads “Stop Thor Steiner, gegen Nazi-mode!”



I spent a good deal of time yesterday doing research on the Berlin stickers.  In so doing, I’ve come across a new topic regarding the politics of football in Germany and other European countries.  Some of the stickers I gathered refer to football teams that oppose the nationalist politics of the sport and to audiences that promote racist and fascist politics.  I think I’ve got that right.  There is quite a lot of information on the Web at and other sites.



Flickr Photos

February 2021