German artists claim responsibility for white flags on Brooklyn Bridge

August 13, 2014 Heather Chin
Share this:

A pair of German artists with a history of creating projects that contrast ambiguously playful cultural commentary with unconventional use of public space have claimed responsibility for climbing the Brooklyn Bridge in the mid-night hours of July 22 and replacing two American flags with hand-sewn all-white replicas.

Mischa Leinkauf, 37, and Matthias Wermke, 35, who live in Berlin, made their claim via a video on their website and insist that the clandestine act was intended as a celebration of John Roebling, the German-born engineer who designed the Brooklyn Bridge, on the 145th anniversary of his death. Roebling died on July 22, 1869.

“This was not an anti-American statement,” Wermke told the New York Times via phone interview from Berlin. “From our Berlin background, we were a little surprised that it got the reaction it did. We certainly didn’t intend to embarrass the police.”

But the NYPD and city officials had to contend with the fallout from the security breach at a major landmark, tourist destination and, arguably, terrorist target.

NYPD Chief Spokesperson Stephen Davis said the department is “aware of the public statements made by [Leinkauf and Wermke] in regard to the Brooklyn Bridge flag case. The investigation is continuing.”

“No matter what the motive was, it’s a matter of concern,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in July. “I’m not happy about this event.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself a former police officer, added that “the desecration of the flag is a crime. The person should be apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Leinkauf and Wermke said that they handled the original American flags with respect according to “the United States flag code” and that they will return them as soon as possible.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment