For the Bundestag elections, a small show features satirical posters by an exceptional artist. Klaus Staeck's works from five decades are fascinatingly current. "Nothing is done!" is then also the title of the exhibition. It can be seen in "Michas Lädle," a kiosk in Stuttgart's Heusteig district.
Rarely have German parliamentarians been seen in such a violent rage. On March 30, 1976, several CDU/CSU members of the Bundestag, including Philipp Jenninger, then parliamentary party leader and later Bundestag president, stormed into the rooms of the Parliamentary Society in Bonn, tore several posters by Klaus Staeck off the wall, tore them to shreds and kicked them. As if holding a trophy, Jenninger, seething with "political pornography," posed for the photographers with a poster that had particularly infuriated him and his colleagues: a photo of prisoners from the soccer stadium in Santiago de Chile, which served as a concentration camp after Augusto Pinochet's coup in 1973, above which was the sentence of former CDU Secretary General Bruno Heck: "Life in the stadium is quite pleasant in sunny weather." To this, in large red letters, Staeck's polemical comment: "Since Chile, we know what the CDU thinks of democracy."
The event, which became known as the "Bonn iconoclasm," resulted in Jenninger being ordered to pay Staeck damages of 10 marks plus 35 marks in legal fees and 18 marks in court costs. At the same time, it once again demonstrated the provocative potential of Staeck's photomontages and the accuracy with which he was able to combine press photos, motifs from the fine arts, or photomontages with satirical statements to create pointed political commentaries. Always striking, but rarely flat. "German workers! The SPD wants to take away your villas in Ticino!"
Staeck was already one of the best-known German artists before the "iconoclasm," however, and his most famous motif was already four years old: a futuristic villa with the slogan "German workers! The SPD wants to take away your villas in Ticino!" The 1972 poster was known to nine percent of all adults in Germany, at least according to a representative survey conducted after the federal elections in the same year. It had been Staeck's reaction to a campaign by the CDU against the SPD, in the course of which it was also insinuated that the Social Democrats would not shy away from taking away people's little houses. "The satirical exaggeration to the point of absurdity seemed to me the most appropriate and effective response to this malicious campaign," the 79-year-old still thinks today.
As funny as many of Staeck's motifs are at first glance, he has never seen himself as part of a "fun guerrilla," because that has nothing to do with satire, Staeck emphasizes. "Satirists are usually serious people," says the artist. "My definition of satire is: helping the weak, through no fault of their own, against the superiority of the strong." The strong, including the CDU or the arms company Rheinmetall, had tried 41 times to have posters or postcards by Staeck banned - always unsuccessfully. In the meantime, however, such reactions to his works are rare, says Staeck, "people have realized that it's counterproductive for them."
And the ideological divides no longer seem as deep as they did in the seventies. In 2009, the artist, who was once scolded as a "hate poster graphic artist" and "political pornographer," emphasized that he is now also accepted in the ranks of the CDU. Staeck, who was president of the Berlin Academy of the Arts from 2006 to 2015, continues to design posters undaunted, and his routine handwriting is unmistakable even in new motifs on the AfD or the financial crisis. What is almost more interesting is how contemporary many of his posters from the 1970s and 1980s still seem today, whether polemics against capitalism and the contrast between rich and poor, or comments on militarism or environmental pollution.
Exhibition organizer Klaus Fabricius (right). Photo: Joachim E. Röttgers "Nothing is done!" is the programmatic title of a Stuttgart show of Staeck's posters starting next Friday, September 1. "These are posters on social and political topics that are satirical and biting and have lost nothing of their validity," says Stuttgart artist and former gallery owner Klaus Fabricius, who selected the 30 or so motifs together with Michael Schmidt, who owns a kiosk.
Not the first exhibition in Michas Lädle
Kiosk owner? Staeck's posters are not hanging in a museum or gallery, but in the stationery and tobacco store "Michas Lädle" in the Heusteigviertel. In its function as a meeting place for the neighborhood, this place is somewhat reminiscent of the Brooklyn tobacco store in Wayne Wang's 1995 film "Smoke," although operator Micha Schmidt exudes considerably more cordiality and good humor than the store owner Auggie Wren, played rather stoically by Harvey Keitel. Fabricius lives right next door, and it was on his idea that Schmidt converted his shop windows into a gallery for the first time in June 2016.
Since then, works by the Stuttgart street artist Fred Collant and the photographer Uwe Dietz have been on display here, people from Schmidt and Fabricius' circle of friends, to whom the two want to offer a platform. In addition, there are also bigger names, such as prints by Hamburg artist Horst Janssen (1929-1995) in the shop window. The goal is to make a difference in the neighborhood," says Fabricius, "and to do so by means of a form of presentation that is accessible to everyone 24 hours a day without an entrance fee, and that is also noticed by people passing by and shopping who otherwise have little to do with art.
The timing of the new show is no coincidence: Staeck's posters are "just right for the federal election," says Fabricius, because it finally needs "real posters that question something and are critical." Schmidt, the kiosk owner, is also fascinated by the fact "that we can just take posters from the seventies from Staeck, and it's still current." The show is scheduled to be on display until Election Sunday on September 24.
Staeck discusses justice at the Theaterhaus
Staeck himself is also taken with the unorthodox exhibition location and concept: "I support all small stores as long as they haven't yet been absorbed into a large chain." For the show, he specially designed a motif with the exhibition title "Nothing is done!" "Our concept is low-budget, and Staeck's art is also low-budget," Fabricius comments - instead of high prices for individual works, Staeck was always concerned with spreading his messages as widely as possible on posters and postcards. These will now also be available for purchase at moderate prices at Michas Lädle.
But the artist does not yet know whether he will make it to the window show himself. Staeck, an SPD member since 1960, is on the road a lot for the voter initiative "Aktion für mehr Demokratie," which he co-founded in 1979. This includes an appointment this Wednesday, August 30, in Stuttgart: Staeck will discuss "On Justice" with SPD state leader Leni Breymeier, Werner Schretzmeier and Peter Grohmann at the Theaterhaus. For "Michas Lädle" it will probably not be the last Staeck show. Something is already planned for the artist's 80th birthday on February 28, 2018. Not the worst occasion to drop in occasionally and enjoy a bite of art alongside newspapers, drinks, cigarettes or a chat.
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Food for thought instead of decoration | By Christoph Kutzer in Stuttgarter Zeitung on 19.09.2017:In Michas Lädle for magazines & tobacco, customers interested in art also get their money's worth when looking in the shop window. Fresh for the election, the owner shows provocative posters by Klaus Staeck.
It's the start of school. Stationery stores have stocked their windows with basic supplies for ABC students. Elsewhere, the covers of current magazines dominate the picture. In the display of Micha's Lädle, a sack with the inscription "Sand fürs Getriebe" catches the attention of passers-by: A work by Klaus Staeck. Until the federal elections, owner Michael Schmidt is showing works by the artist, whose provocative posters with slogans like "German workers! The SPD wants to take away your villas in Ticino!" have long been legendary.
"We simply asked him if we could exhibit his things," says Schmidt, describing the surprisingly uncomplicated path to the exhibition on Weißenburgstrasse. "Once a few modalities had been clarified, we were ready to go, partly because Staeck liked the concept." The idea for art in the kiosk owes much to Klaus Fabricius, whose work has also been presented at Micha's. "He brings the expertise," says Schmidt, describing the role of his cultural companion. "I myself can only say whether I like something or not." The selection that the two make together usually meets with the customers' approval.
Only once did an unpleasant scene occur, when a lady bumped into a motif by Stuttgart artist Hartmut Hörmann. "She literally punched me verbally," Schmidt recalls. "Of course, you have to expect such reactions when you exhibit more than just pleasing works. After all, it also shows that people are consciously aware of what's happening here in the shop window. But it still gnawed at me for a moment.
Meeting place for residents
The woman who enters Micha's shop shortly afterwards is not looking for trouble. She's looking for advice because her husband is having problems with his fountain pen. Michael Schmidt takes time for the consultation. The tone is almost familiar. "This was already a meeting place for local residents in the days of the previous owner," he explains. Accordingly, it was easy to gain a foothold. The fact that the clientele is very mixed and ranges from dishwashers to millionaires has sweetened his years in the Heusteigviertel so far. "It's nice that people also get in touch through the store," the 40-year-old enthuses. "At an exhibition opening, there's always a little get-together. That's when people get to talk who would hardly meet in everyday life. Art brings them together. Real friendships have already developed in the process. Watching that is the most rewarding thing for me."
The fact that people move in and out of the neighborhood a lot doesn't bother the trained restaurant specialist at all. "I'd find it boring to just see the same faces every day for five years," he says. "Regulars are great, but a little variety is good." Also in the store window. Street art by Fred Collant found its place there in the past, as did graphics by Horst Janssen. The fact that the Staeck posters are being shown shortly before the federal election is no coincidence. "I was surprised how many of his decades-old works are still current," the landlord of Micha's Lädle is impressed. "That's probably more helpful for political orientation than any TV duet. Nevertheless, the motifs are not one-sidedly party-political. I'm not doing any election campaigning. Privately, of course, I have my opinions, but here, as far as that's concerned, I'd rather stay out of it and just sell my newspapers."