Berlin: various, ca. 1978-1984. Various formats, ca. 30 × 45 to 85 × 60 cm. Most posters are in very good condition; a few show light creasing and/or old pin holes. Most are offset printed, some silk screened. Most feature photographs, drawings, and other illustrations; many show striking photomontage compositions by Kurt Jotter. Color is used sparingly, though many feature red lettering, some are in full color, and a number are on color paper stock.
A collection of seventy broadsides and posters documenting the West-Berlin “squatter” movement from the 1970s and early 1980s. (with an additional thirty-three posters by related autonomous groups in West Berlin). The West Berlin squatter movement continues to fascinate and divide today; its demands for affordable, socially just housing are echoed in today’s heated debates about urban development for a united Berlin. Many believe that the phenomenon of occupied—and often vigorously defended—buildings played a key role in preserving Berlin’s historical core and raising awareness of the historical significance of the imperial tenements. The squatters are also seen, on the one hand, as having enriched and motivated the leftist political scene more broadly. Thus, squatted properties were a way to implement various social and political centres in the 1970s, often with specific functions (such as homes for immigrants or disenfranchised youth). By the early 1980s, the squatter movement intensified and some 170 houses were occupied in West Berlin alone, as well as in other cities of West Germany. Some believed in constructive engagement with conservative politicians and investors, and formulated more moderate demands taken up by political movements such as the early Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). Others were vigorously opposed to compromise and pursued a hard line of protests and violent conflict. For a third subset, life in squatted housing projects was less of a political movement than a lifestyle choice entailing heavy drug use and an excessive festival culture that pursued no concrete changes.
This group of posters documents the various forms and roles of the squatter communities, as well as the general politics of occupied housing, the housing shortage, and the protests against real estate development as pursued by investors in conjunction with the West Berlin senate. The bulk of this collection (items 1– 37) was used for an exhibition in Summer 2013 entitled “Wohnungsnot und Mieterkämpfe im Plakat“ (Housing Shortages and Tenant Resistance in the Poster Medium). Largely arranged chronologically, they offer an overview of the scene’s development, while also constituting various thematic, political and designer- oriented clusters. Thirty-three additional posters from the same period, in a similarly good state of preservation, enhance the multifaceted picture the collection paints, and an additional 33 posters relate to other causes and events organized by autonomous groups, student organizers, and independent protesters in Berlin in the 1970s and early 1980s. Among them are the poster for the iconic Tunix Kongress held January 27-29, 1978 (featuring Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari and others), the poster of the Tuwat Herbstfest 1981, and the poster of a student-organized discussion on the Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal held 1977 and featuring a talk by Rudi Dutschke. Many posters are anonymously designed. Among the outstanding known designers and illustrators are Klaus Staeck, whose Plakat-Aktion “Würden Sie dieser Frau ein Zimmer vermieten” (1971) became one of the most iconic documents of the early housing movement; Harald Juch, a skilled caricaturist part of the West Berlin squatting community; and Kurt Jotter, who designed the most visually interesting posters in the collection. The author of a series of photo-montage posters on a range of left-wing issues in the 1970s, Jotter viewed himself as an inheritor of the Dada tradition and occasionally used the pseudonym “Dada-neu.” In 1977 he published a Dada-influenced manifesto and in the late 1980s he was part of the political art activist group “Büro für ungewöhnliche Maßnahmen“ (Office for unusual measures). One of his most daring designs included in the collection is a 1981 photomontage poster combining a press conference by the anti-squatter Senator for the Interior Heinrich Lummer with the body of a protestor who died demonstrating against a campaign of evictions.
The collection represents a valuable source for further research on the politics, practice and aesthetics of this movement. One scholar notes that despite “a growing body of literature on the role of ‘1968’ as a watershed moment in the evolution of new social movements in West Germany, there remains little empirical work on the role of squatter movements within a broader matrix of protest and resistance” (Vasudevan, in The city is ours: squatting and autonomous movements in Europe from the 1970s to the present, 2014, p. 132). See also Vasudevan, ed., Metropolitan preoccupations: the spatial politics of squatting in Berlin (2015).
Book ID: P6851