Symbols As Weapons.
By the Example of the Red Army Faction’s Insignia
– 6 January 2019
German Museum of Books and Writing
German National Library, Leipzig
The exhibition “Symbols As Weapons” uses the emblem of the Red Army Faction as an example to examine and illustrate the deliberate use of texts, images, symbols, and other media for political provocation and the exercise of power.
The emblem of the extremist, left-wing Red Army Faction consisted of a star, submachine gun and the letters RAF and was first seen on the title of the magazine “Das Konzept Stadtguerilla” [The Urban Guerilla Concept] in 1971. In 1977, it appeared on photos of the abducted Hanns Martin Schleyer and in 1998 it was used to seal the last letter from the RAF announcing its demise. The exhibition provides a comprehensive insight into the history of the RAF while also exploring the role played by the tactical, repetitive, and precise use of certain symbols in the discourse of political power and control. The exhibition material consists of quotations, words, and images, such as recollections, police files or objects intended to illustrate how “graphic images can become acts of violence”. The exhibition is based on intensive scientific research undertaken by Günter Karl Bose, professor at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig, together with his former students Felix Holler, Jaroslaw Kubiak, and Daniel Wittner as part of their PhD thesis. Bose describes the exhibition as a “walk-in collage” where “text- and image-citations communicate with each other”. Background music and film sequences take the visitor back in time. The exhibition is accompanied by the publication “Name, Waffe, Stern. Das Emblem der Roten Armee Fraktion” [Name, Weapon, Star. The Emblem of the Red Army Faction] by the Institute of Book Arts , Leipzig.