Berlin Artists Claim Responsiblity for White Flag Caper On Brooklyn Bridge

August 12, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Looks like Reverend Bud Green was full of shit. German artists Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke came forward to the New York Times from Berlin, claiming that they took down the two American flags and replaced them with two flags bleached white last month. The artists are established trespassers and explorers who “investigate the boundaries of public space in urban environment through different kinds of interventions and performances.” UPDATE: Read their press release here.

Though their stunt spurred a terrorist-themed panic across the tabloids and the NYPD attempted to make this into a national security issue, the artists insist it was nothing like that. Having scaled buildings from Vienna to Tokyo, they were only celebrating “the beauty of public space” and John Roebling — the bridge’s German-born immigrant engineer on the anniversary of his death on July 22, 1869.

“This was not an anti-American statement,” Wermke told the New York Times. “From our Berlin background, we were a little surprised that it got the reaction it did. We really didn’t intend to embarrass the police,” Leinkauf said. They submitted the following video as proof.

From the description of the happening given to the Times, they were deliberate and considerate in their actions.

“We saw the bridge, which was designed by a German, trained in Berlin, who came to America because it was the place to fulfill his dreams, as the most beautiful expression of a great public space,” Mr. Leinkauf said. “That beauty was what we were trying to capture.”

They volunteered that the flag project transpired roughly between 3 and 5 a.m. on July 22. They said they carried the white flags in backpacks up the climbing cables that workers and the police use to reach the towers, and did not see security cameras. They would not say whether other people were involved.

The artists stressed that when they removed those flags, they ceremonially folded them, “following the United States flag code,” Mr. Leinkauf said. The flags will be returned, he promised. As with their other projects, he stressed, the plan was always to come forward. “We always face the consequences,” he said. “This is part of the work, to have an open discussion. We just needed a little time to decide how to respond to the reaction.” They are now considering legal advice.

Having first read about the duo in the Urban Interventions: Personal Projects in Public Spaces book, we hope they’ll be alright — if they are, indeed, not lying for some reason. Here’s Zwischenzeit, their intervention through the Berlin subway system on a DIY draisine. Happy journey to you brave lads, as you navigate the inner-workings of the American justice system.

(Lead photo@NewsBell)