A few weeks ago, Kai Diekmann uncovered a scandal. The former picture editor-in-chief sounded the alarm on Twitter : Unknowns had pretended to be a fictitious "Federal Office for Crisis Protection and Economic Aid". Their sophisticated website was indistinguishable from a legitimate government agency. Peter Altmaier allegedly promoted the office there, saying that it was "an important pillar in the stabilization of the German economy".
Representatives of the fake authority had reported to the executive floors of German corporations and asked for telephone appointments, it should be about the state of the economy and corona subsidies. The Federal Ministry of the Interior finally warned of the fraudsters, the site was blocked. Rolf Schmitz, CEO of RWE, also remembered the office. "As professional as the action was, there seems to be criminal energy behind it," he complained in the newspaper Die Welt .
However, the manager was not fooled by a gang of fraudsters, but the art collective Peng !. Disguised as officials of a false federal agency, the artists played telephone pranks on German companies and are now processing the material in a theater performance. An installation can be seen in the Kulturzentrum Kampnagel in Hamburg, and there is a video online. Actors repeat what was recorded in a memory log of the calls. In addition to RWE, other companies had also engaged in talks with the proposed "Federal Office for Crisis Protection and Economic Aid" - among others the meat producer Westfleisch, the energy company RWE, BMW, Vonovia, the health companies Asklepios and Helios and the Hamburg airport.
At the beginning of July, the artists set up a makeshift film studio in a shared apartment in Berlin-Neukölln. From here, the Peng! Collective wants to storm the antechamber of power. The activist, who will speak to the managers as Anja de Vries, wears a wig, color: gray like everyday life in the Federal Ministry of Economics. There are business reference books behind her on the shelf - this could actually be the home office of a state secretary. Only at a second glance can you see that there are works in this library that German officials probably do not read. On a purple cover is written in friendly white letters: Anarchism.
"How about socialization, for example?"
Anja de Vries, who does not want to make her real name public, does not come from art. She was formerly a human rights lawyer and worked for a club that represents victims of international corporations in court, for example in the event of chemical accidents or if labor law standards were violated. With the artist group, she can now pursue a completely different strategy. Radical changes, she says, are urgent: "We have no time for decades of court hearings, climate change is just around the corner! We may not feel that as much in Germany, but farmers in countries like India do." A radical approach is possible with the telephone calls. "Here we could say: How about socialization, for example? In the human rights discourse, you never talk to companies about building a new economy."
An activist who calls himself Thomas von Wulfen explains that the new campaign wants to show that large companies are not at all willing to change their actions in order to stop the climate crisis and to establish social justice. The turned-up man in his mid-thirties, who combines a pink corona mask with orange trousers, is with Peng! since the collective formed in 2013. The founders knew each other from the NGO scene. Today, a group is spontaneously composed for each action, often made up of activists, theater people and artists. The goal is political activism, art is only form. Peng! Became famous as a false researcher in a science competition run by the energy company Shelleinschleusten. Your supposed miracle machine for producing clean energy failures during the presentation - and poured petroleum over the audience.
The group sees itself in the tradition of Adbusters, they practice culture jamming : they copy the aesthetics of the advertising world in order to take a satirical approach to consumerism and capitalism. Last year, for example, she asked advertisers to leak campaign plans to sabotage them. Peng! as a Vattenfall PR department, a press conference announcing that the energy company was taking responsibility for climate change. "The economy is on the verge of legality," vonWulfen explains the attraction of sabotage and pranking. "They let lawyers fix it up. Why can't we do that?"