Wolfgang Tillmans Wants YOU—to See His Posters for European Unity
He calls it a "one-in-a-generation moment."
German artist Wolfgang Tillmans came into the public eye for photos documenting the British rave scene in the ‘90s, and his trademark photos are often marked by a plain affect combined with homoeroticism. But his recent work has increasingly taken on social and political problems; for instance, he dedicated his Berlin project space, Between Bridges, to exhibitions and events highlighting the refugee crisis.
Now he has created a series of posters and written an open letter addressing the debate over Britain’s potential departure from the European Union, also known as Brexit. In the wake of an early-April referendum in which Dutch voters rejected a treaty between Ukraine and the EU, Tillmans says it’s time for those in favor of Britain remaining with the European Union to speak out and register to vote before June 7.
Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has promised to put EU membership to a vote by 2017.
Tillmans’s open letter follows:
I’m sure you are also following with horror the rightwards drift and anti-EU sentiment brewing across Europe. The Dutch referendum should be the final wake-up call, alerting people to the real risk of the UK’s EU referendum resulting in a victory for Leave.
The official ‘Remain’ campaign feels lame and is lacking in passion. It also lacks an active drive to get voters registered—and with the deadline already falling two weeks before the referendum, this should be an urgent priority.
I want to get involved and actively campaign. In particular, I want to work towards maximizing turnout among younger voters by focusing on the first, crucial step: voter registration—the deadline for which is June 7! So anyone who hasn’t registered before this date has no chance of having a say, no matter how strongly they feel about the issue. So the really crucial date is June 7. Everyone’s grannies registered their vote long ago, but students no longer get automatically registered by their unis. This is because of a new law brought in by the Conservatives that makes it possible for them to disenfranchise up to 800,000 students, who as a group tend to move around a lot more and so drop off the voter register easily.
I feel that we have reached a critical moment that could prove to be a turning point for Europe as we know and enjoy it—one that might result in a cascade of problematic consequences and political fall-out. Firstly, the weakening of the EU is a goal being actively pursued by strongmen like Vladimir Putin and European parties on the far-right that are funded by Russia (a little known fact). Furthermore, Brexit would provoke calls for referendums in many other countries and could effectively spell the end of the EU. It’s a flawed and problematic institution, but on the whole it stands for a democratic worldview, human rights and favours cooperation over confrontation.
It could prove to be a one-in-a-generation moment. Can you imagine the years of renegotiations for undoing treaties, and all the negativity that would surround that.
In the past weeks myself and assistants at my London and Berlin studios and Between Bridges worked on these texts and designs. Please feel free to share these posters, they work as print your own PDFs, or on social media, or in any other way you can think of. I consider them open-source, you can take my name tag off if more appropriate.
Let’s hope for the best—but hope may not be enough.
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