Plakatieren Verboten! involved a relocation of poster leftovers, collected over three days across the city of Regensburg. They were reassembled into a collage that formed a colourful screen on the large windows of the temporary exhibition space of K2H, housed in the former promotion offices of the Regensburg European Capital of Culture campaign, which became vacant when the honorary title went to rival city Essen and the post-industrial Ruhr area.
At this central location, the collage of poster snippets triggered intense reactions. Local shop owners filed a littering complaint with the authorities, claiming that the project was unsightly, and did damage to the image of the city as well as business. They demanded its imminent clearance. Others vehemently protested against removal, raising uproar and debate in the city hall and the local media, even demonstrating on site, appropriating the visual language of the project. Many reactions defended the collected scraps in the name of art, pointing out that a city that had proclaimed it deserved to be recognized as a capital of culture ‘both traditional and modern’ should be able to stand the test of tolerating this art project. Others saw the impulse to censor the collage as a political event that confirmed the fact that, in effect, fly-posting policies privilege commerce and limit non-commercial organisations in reaching an audience.
Context: Curious accretions of paper snippets and bits of transparent adhesive tape can be found all around the cobbled streets of Regensburg’s Old City, on vacant buildings, street furniture, poles or drainpipes. Upon closer inspection, they appear to be the remnants of notices and posters put up by non-profit or small-scale organisations announcing music gigs or exhibitions, calling attention to political initiatives or promoting charities. Like so many other cities where public space is increasingly marketed and privatized, Regensburg has banned fly posting, and has put up official, commercially exploited poster spots at designated areas – white advertising columns, where space is sold at commercial rates.
Every day, the local sanitation squads go around the city to remove flyers and posters from illegal spots. But the clearing of the city from the clutter of unwanted messages and visual distraction paradoxically seems not to be done very thoroughly. The bits and pieces remaining from crudely ripped-off posters form a strong picture in themselves. They seem to be the silent signs of a daily battle. Rather than contributing to a clean and orderly, picture-perfect city image, the torn scraps give the impression of a rather aggressive relation between government and citizens, which provokes questions about the mechanisms that regulate and censor the information that appears in the public domain.