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Art Collective Sues German Politician for Libel: “It Is About Freedom of Art”

A migrant holds one of the crosses (Image courtesy of the Center for Political Beauty)
A migrant in Melilla holds one of the crosses (Image courtesy of the Center for Political Beauty)

The German art collective known as the Center for Political Beauty (CPB) doesn’t mess around. In a strange twist, the group has sued Berlin’s interior minister for defamation after he publicly criticized them for moving a Berlin Wall memorial without authorization, RBB has reported. The 1971 memorial consists of seven white crosses bearing the names of people killed attempting to escape across the Berlin Wall from East Germany. Minister Frank Henkel had called the CPB “thieves” and described their actions as “despicable” attempts to gain attention. His words were echoed by several other German politicians.

The activists have since returned the crosses and defended their actions as a temporary artwork intended to protest the EU’s immigration policy, which has made it difficult for asylum seekers to legally and safely enter the continent. CPB had moved them from their location near the Reichstag to sections along the EU border, as well as, the North African settlement of Melilla. “The wall dead have fled in an act of solidarity with their brothers and sisters across the external borders of the European Union,” they wrote on their website. “30,000 deaths in the EU’s external borders in the past 25 years and the ongoing military blockade of the continent were too much for their dead calm.”

In an email to Hyperallergic, CPB member Phillip Ruch explained why they decided to sue the minister: “It is about freedom of art, but also that he held certain information away from the public, trying to discredit our project as a whole!” On its Facebook, the group describes itself as a think tank linking “interventional art, politics, and human rights” in an attempt “to gain the attention of digital media in order to protect human lives.” Their many previous projects have included the creation of a sculpture of the letters of the U.N. made of 16,744 shoes to highlight the entity’s “betrayal” of the victims of Srebrenica and the offering of a €25,000 (~$31,000) reward to send a famous German weapons dealer to prison.

A cross relocated to the EU border fence in Bulgaria (Image courtesy of the Center for Political Beauty)
A cross relocated to the EU border fence in Bulgaria (Image courtesy of the Center for Political Beauty)
Migrants in Melilla pose with one of the crosses (Image courtesy of the Center for Political Beauty)
Migrants in Melilla pose with one of the crosses (Image courtesy of the Center for Political Beauty)
The White Crosses memorial on a fence in front of the Berlin Wall, where they were first installed in 1971. (Image via Wikimedia)
The White Crosses memorial on a fence in front of the Berlin Wall, where they were first installed in 1971. (Image via Wikimedia)
The White Crosses memorial near the Reichstag, from where they were taken. (Image via Wikimedia)
The White Crosses memorial near the Reichstag, from where they were taken. (Image via Wikimedia)
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