Berlin artists own up to Brooklyn Bridge white flag stunt

Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke say they wanted to ‘celebrate the beauty of public space’

Arts+Culture News
a7e9fa2aeaafd65e8a0f7867e6c7f08f.1000.0.0.0.0.80
The white flags on top of Brooklyn Bridge Courtesy of Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke

This summer, New Yorkers were more than a little freaked out when the two American flags that sit on top of the Brooklyn Bridge were mysteriously replaced by white flags. The NYPD launched a full-blown investigation; parody Twitter accounts were subpoenaed; terrorist panic gripped the tabloids, and a legal marijuana activist called Rev Bud Green (seriously) took credit. Now it turns out that the flag-swapping stunt was the work of two Berlin artists called Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke.

In a press release, Leinkauf and Wermke describe the work as a piece called White American Flags. As proof, they provided the New York Times with a video filmed from the top of the bridge and said that the white flags was not intended as an "anti-American statement".

Instead, they wanted to "celebrate the beauty of public space" and honour the German-born engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, John Roebling, by planting the flags on the anniversary of his death. 

"From our Berlin background, we were a little surprised that it got the reaction it did," Leinkauf said. "We really didn’t intend to embarrass the police. 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. That beauty was what we were trying to capture."

On their website, Leinkauf and Wermke describe their work as "investigating the boundaries of public space in urban environment through different kinds of interventions and performances". Previous projects include "Zwischenzeit", in which they navigated the Berlin subway system on a DIY pushcart. 

Hopefully, the NYPD will be able to appreciate the artistic side of White American Flags

More Arts+Culture