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Well-known Germans campaign for Europe

How German artists and scientists are championing the European idea.

Sabine Buchwald, 15.04.2019
Jan Böhmermann’s vision: “United States of Europe”
Jan Böhmermann’s vision: “United States of Europe” © dpa

Akilnathan Logeswaran: “Stand Up For Europe”

When, two years ago, people in numerous European cities took to the streets for a free Europe and against nationalism, Akilnathan Logeswaran occupied a spot in front of Munich opera house on Sundays, where he entered into discussions with passers-by. He seeks to move people. He co-founded the Munich-based group of the civic movement “Stand Up For Europe”, is a member of the Club of Rome’s “Think Tank 30”, and is involved in the Forum of Young Global Leaders attached to the World Economic Forum.

His activities came to the attention of US business magazine “Forbes”. Every year the magazine names “30 under 30” young people who champion a cause and serve as role models. In early 2018 “Forbes” named Logeswaran in the category “Law and politics”. He rejects the prejudiced opinion that young people are not interested in politics: “That’s not true.”

The Munich native headed the German delegation for the European Youth Event at Strasbourg’s European Parliament, which saw 10,000 participants. Moreover, he is active as a special ambassador for the campaign #FreeInterrail, which aims to gift every European an Interrail ticket on their 18th birthday. Logeswaran is convinced: “A trip like that expands your horizons.” The economist has himself been a traveller between different worlds since birth: He was born in 1988 in Munich, his mother’s hometown. His father is from Sri Lanka.

Akilnathan Logeswaran, co-founder of the movement “Stand Up For Europe”
Akilnathan Logeswaran, co-founder of the movement “Stand Up For Europe” © dpa

Mia Florentine Weiss: Love not hate

Concept artist Mia Florentine Weiss likewise grew up looking beyond her own backyard. She was born in 1980 in Würzburg and lived with her family in Germany and in the Russian capital Moscow. After graduating from high school, she travelled around the world for a year, later studied in the USA, and amongst other things engaged in an artistic exploration of the Himba people in Namibia. She is a globetrotter who champions the European idea with her art.

For over a year, an art object of hers caused a stir at the Siegestor (Victory Gate) in Munich, namely a five-metre-long metal sculpture conceived as an ambigram. On one side the word reads “Love”, on the other, “Hate”. Weiss’ message: “Make Love not Hate.” It is with this idea that she has been exploring homelessness and human dignity for years. As an artist she travels along the refugee routes on the edge of Europe as part of her “Pegasus” project, making contact to people seeking protection and documenting their fate.

“We need solidarity, the Basic Law and limitless freedom – that which we call democracy,” she said in an interview in “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. “After all, it is only when we act as one that Europe can remain the largest peace project in the world.”

“Love/Hate” sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss
“Love/Hate” sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss © dpa

Wolfgang Tillmans: Vote out populism

The idea that Great Britain could leave the EU motivated photographer Wolfgang Tillmans to realise a poster campaign in 2016. With slogans like “What is lost is lost forever”, he supported those opposing Brexit. He vehemently criticises the increasingly anti-European atmosphere and never tires of sensitising people to the possibilities afforded by democracy. With projects and in interviews he encourages people to go and vote and to take a stand against right-wing sentiment. “Democratic systems can change under pressure from their citizens,” commented Tillmans in an interview with “Zeit Online”. Dictatorships or other authoritarian systems, he continued, do not permit that.

Tillmans, born in 1968, grew up in North Rhine-Westphalia. He has been living in Berlin and London for many years how and is one of today’s most renowned contemporary artists. Among other distinctions, he has been honoured with the Federal Cross of Merit. In 2000 he was the first German artist to receive the British Turner Prize. Together with architects Rem Koolhaas and Stephan Petermann, in 2018 he launched the initiative Eurolab, which deliberates on a new “branding” for the European Union on a transnational basis. Perhaps it could motivate people to engage in a massive counter-movement in the form that Tillmans envisages: a movement that rises up against right-wing populists and outshines them like a “little light”.

Photographer Wolfgang Tillmans
Photographer Wolfgang Tillmans © dpa

Jan Böhmermann: United States of Europe

As a satirist, Jan Böhmermann (38) is permitted to go one conceptual step further. He propagates the “United States of Europe” in a similar vein to the USA. In a music video the otherwise bearded moderator of the programme “Neo Magazin Royale”, which airs on ZDF, sings for an “open Europe” as a cleanly shaven glam rocker wearing a curly wig.

The idea is not new. Even George Washington expressed the notion in a letter to the French Marquis de La Fayette in the 18th century. But the way Böhmermann raises the issue again, it could well settle in people’s minds now. Insistently and with humour, he calls in his programme entitled “Was los Europa?” (What’s up Europe?) for a “new European spirit”: shift to forward gear, turn on the main beam and step on it. And thus the suggestion has been made for a European anthem.

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