The pranksters who switched out the American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge for white ones—launching a hundred bad Twitter jokes about Dido and considerable alarm from the authorities—have revealed themselves to the New York Times as the German art duo Matthias Wermke and Mischa Leinkauf. (Sorry, hilarious stoner dude.) Germans invading our shores! German artists no less! And if that wasn’t enough to give New York’s fine tabloid reporters a collective stroke, Wermke and Leinkauf have, on their resumes, an even bigger New York Post no-no: a stint as squeegee men.
True, Wermke and Leinkauf aren’t the squeegee folk that the Post deeply fears. They cleaned the windshields of German trams, buses, and even police cars as part of a performance art project exploring, as they say on their site, “the boundaries of public space in urban environments.” The Wermke and Leinkauf modus operandi is to “temporarily override constraints without permission or invitation” in order to question those boundaries. You know, like the boundaries of cleaning a windshield without asking or swapping out American flags for bleached ones. Those.
Other projects that the duo performed include installing a series of random flags on Vienna landmarks, climbing up towering smokestacks in Prague, and riding one of those old-timey railroad handcars through the Berlin subway. Apparently they had already attached a bunch of balloons to the Brooklyn Bridge as part of an art project, but no one noticed.
None of their previous works provoked the kind of concern as the flag stunt, which lead to the duo’s apparent puzzlement at the brouhaha it caused. “We really didn’t intend to embarrass the police,” they told the Times. “Few people would care if we did the same thing in Berlin. Of course, we did not have the same problems with terrorism.”
No kidding, New Yorkers might be touchy about a terrorism threat? Tell me more. Wermke and Leinkauf can also see how touchy we are about the looming specter of windshield wipers if they try that over here.