Life In Berlin: The Center For Political Beauty Sharpens Its Teeth Once Again
The latest action from the controversial group, the Center for Political Beauty, is pure agitprop. It’s not only provocative - it’s also complicated.
Let me try to break it down. The Center for Political Beauty seeks to revoke a law which prohibits transportation companies from taking passengers into the EU without a visa, EU Directive 2001/51/EC. It’s this law, according to the Center for Political Beauty, which drives the illegal market in human trafficking and causes asylum seekers to drown in the Mediterranean.
They have arranged for a plane, the Joachim 1, to bring 100 refugees from Turkish camps to Germany to be reunited with family members who are already here - but only if: They meet their crowd-funded goal of 80,000 Euros for the flight; if refugees are selected by online voters based on short interviews; and - here’s the kicker - only if the German government changes the law. I told you it was complicated.
In videos that play on a loop outside the Gorki Theater, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière, and President Joachim Gauck are represented as Roman emperors who will decide whether these 100 live or die. But the comparisons to ancient Rome don’t end there. Next to the Gorki, an arena houses four tigers which bare their teeth and charge the glass window as tourists pose for selfies.
The Center for Political Beauty has nine refugee volunteers willing to be fed to the tigers on June 28th if the various conditions are not met. The first, Syrian actress May Skaf, said at a press conference, “To kill with laws is the work of cowardice. I will let myself be eaten up by Europe.”
Is calling this all “art” a way to protect this provocative project? The Grünflächenamt in Mitte has attempted to shut down Eating Refugee’s use of public space because it is a political protest rather than an artistic action. There is, though heavy-handed as it might be, a nightly performance - a show called Not und Spiele, Distress and Games - followed by a panel discussion and a symbolic feeding of articles of the German constitution to the tigers.
The group itself admits that this is in bad taste. But they refuse to agree with statements from the German Ministry of the Interior that the work is “inappropriate” and “cynical”. CPB artist Philipp Ruch affirms, “Anyone who knows our work knows that when we promise to do something, we deliver.”