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Party people, sorcerers, yeswecans: some adverts, billboards, placards for the German Bundestagswahl 2009

An online journal by Guinevere Boyle, Auckland, NZ

Guinevere (Jen) Boyle at the Elbe beach, September 2009
The author lazing in the late summer morning sun near Hafenstrasse-
Museumshaven at one of the beautiful beach clubs at the river Elbe. Even here,
you can find large billboards (the one in the background advertises the
environmentalist party the 'Gruene').

September 16, 2009. Hi, my name is Guinevere (pronounce: Jennifer) Boyle. My friends call me Jen. I'm 27 years old and I'm from New Zealand. Currently I'm here in Hamburg, spending some time with my boyfriend Klaus at his parents' house in Othmarschen. Klaus' parents are actually active in the Green party, and we've had a fair amount of discussions about German politics. I've noticed a certain tenseness due to the forthcoming German Federal elections, now that all the billboards are being put up. Last week, when I went down to the beautiful river Elbe to hang out on the beach, I took a few snapshots of party placards and billboards with my camera phone. To be frank, German party politics are pretty alien to me, so I wondered whether I should write an essay about it, a kind of outsider's view. To put that into perspective: I currenty study journalism in Auckland, and one of our exercises is to write an illustrated online journal, so that kind of thing would serve me fine.

What brought me here

I guess I should give you some more background about myself. The first time I came to Germany was in 2003. I believe this was a few years after they brought down the Berlin wall? Anyway, there was hardly a trace left of it, which was a bit disappointing. Then near Berlin Kreutzberg, I think at Potsdam place, I came across a really interesting street art installation called something like "Family Studio Pozzi". They were just asking passers-by to pose as a kind of fake family against a romantic backdrop. And there I met Klaus. He and I and one or two bums and a few Turkish kids were arranged to some kind of group shot, it was good fun. He put his arm around me. When we were done, he asked whether I would care to join him for a drink. He was cute, and in no time we were dating each other. I extended my stay but then I had to go back to NZ: my visa ran out, and my studies were waiting (I was studying to become a vet at that time, but then I discovered that I was beginning to develop an allergy to animal hair). In any case, Klaus has followed me to NZ and he says he has no regrets so far (we will see!).

The last few days I have followed up my first photo excursion. I've gone to some other parts of town to check for more and different billboards. Now I've got a *big* pile of photos (actually, jpeg files on my Mac) to mull over. I have no idea where and how to begin, but I guess the whole point of an online journal is informality, so let's just kick it off!

Party matters (a first shot)

I gather the broad scheme of things is CDU = right wing verging towards the centre, SPD = left wing verging towards the centre, FTP = liberal democrats, already taking centre stage. The greens in contrast are probably a bit like our NZ Green party, and then there is a kind of communist party, Die Linke. So much for that. I guess I'll try to focus on the human element in all this, at least for now; others are more qualified to dissect the actual politics. My working hypothesis is that if I stare at the party billboards for long enough, the images will begin to speak to me.

I can be quite temperamental (one of Klaus' favourite jokes is "Boiling over again, Jen?" (remember my surname is Boyle)) but somehow, most billboards leave me cold. Most of them seem quite stilted, others are plain and very boring.

You can click on the small images to get a larger view.

David Erkalp (CDU): the sorcerer

David Erkalp poster

Some of the billboards have the opposite effect on me, however. I mean, how do you relate to a guy that's staring at you (or worse, actually at a place somewhere near your collar) with glassy eyes, eyes that look as if he was trying to hypnotize you? Do you really want a kind of sorcerer to govern you? (maybe I am unfair and too personal here — but isn't it the the whole point of an online journal to waltz uninhibited, tripping over digital toes? Do I really need to be nice at all times to all people just because I am a guest here? I hope not...

Just look at this face. There is an uncanny intensity; something in this guy sends shivers down my spine. I cannot bare to look into his eyes (mind you they are printed on paper!) for more than a fraction of a second. Maybe I'm just too much of a sissy? Perhaps right now, as I look at his image, this guy is trying to take control of me remotely? Or do I secretly feel some erotic attraction? — let's not dismiss it outright. A rather humiliating fleeting thought passes my mind - that I might abandon Klaus at a single wink from him. Forgive me David Erkalp, you may be a real powerhouse and you may heat me up in no time...

David Erkalp poster
Billboard showing hypnotic David Erkalp, Christian Democratic Union.

Dieter(?) Westerwelle, FTP: the yeswecan

Now another one, I have been told this guy is called Dieter(?) Westerwelle. It seems he is so popular that it is no longer necessary to put his name on the billboard. Ghee whizz: plethora, constriction, nausea. The narrative that they all share the same joke wears out at a glance. I wouldn't want to be near him - gosh, he looks so creepy!

Dieter (?) Westerwelle among photoshopped supporters
Billboard showing Dieter Westerwelle, Freie Demokratische Partei.

It's just as well that these folks are clearly pasted in around him. A thing not obvious immediately, but when you look more closely, the scene disintegrates. For a start, the guy's head is much too big compared to the people surrounding him. Look at the lighting, the gazes. There is no commonality in all this, every one of these harmless ogres is a single shot (except perhaps mother and child at the top right) cobbled together without a hint of discretion or skill. The idea of multiple singularity echoes well with the FTP's approach, suggesting that everyone shall fend for himself. By dint of a rhetorical figure in the strapline, which I have researched to be called 'synecdoche' (something for you too google) the mirage of the state (Deutschland) must stand in for the asserted prowess of a typical German yeswecan.

Now this guy looks straight into the camera, shamelessly ejecting the feelings wasted on him by his imaginary entourage. He shoots joy and happiness into the eye of the bedazzled observer. All around him seem transmogrified into children, blissfully enchanted, unburdened, elated. "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14)

The two young women that appear practically glued to his front seem to admire him greatly. Intriguingly the right one also looks into the camera as if she had been told not to, a hint of an ironic twinkle in her eyes. The heads of both women are too small, or his is a true alpha male's head. On seeing the end result, how glad they must have been to have been photoshopped in instead of having to poke their little noses into his chest!

Will be continued... and tell me what you think!

Last update: 16 September 2009 | Impressum—Imprint