Artist Martin Zet, Photo: Sandra Teigte
Deutschland schafft es ab (Germany gets rid of it)
By Martin Zet
The campaign Deutschland schafft es ab (Germany gets rid of it) was launched by artist Martin Zet in January 2012. The idea of a call for donations of copies of Thilo Sarrazin’s book Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Does Away with Itself)—the racist content of which you might disagree with—and its use in an art project gave rise to heated discussion, harsh critique from the media, polarization of public opinion, and an explosion of hate speech. The media immediately pursued fantasies about book burning, even if Zet himself never talked about it. A handful of people associated with right-wing initiatives even organized a demonstration on Bebelplatz in Berlin—where the Nazis burned over 20,000 books in 1933—to protest against the project. But what really burned were people’s imaginations, fed by the media, which mostly rejected the artist’s proposition for what one can do in the face of the popularity of such a book. As a result some art institutions, which had previously agreed to join the project as collection points for book donations, withdrew while some others from outside the art scene (such as the owner of a travel agency in Berlin-Marzahn) joined. We think that the mere fact that Zet, as a Czech artist and an »outsider,« touched on topics of social segregation, exclusion, and discrimination in Germany is probably one of the reasons why he was attacked.
The initial aim of the project was to make an art installation out of the collected books in order to confront people with its dangerous contents. The 7th Berlin Biennale hasn’t received many copies, but rather a significant number of hate e-mails and accusations. The project opened up a broad public discussion and brought forward the necessity to act against xenophobic claims, to oppose the European trend of growing conservatism, and even in the long run to try to cut down any ambitions Sarrazin might have to establish a new, right-wing party in Germany. Just a few days before Zet’s campaign was announced, the publishing house that originally commissioned Sarrazin’s book (now in its twenty-eighth edition) released a paperback version of it. Sarrazin is a Social Democrat who is feeding a wave of right-wing, extremist tendencies going through Europe at the moment. It might change the continent if we do not say: "Get rid of it."
by Artur Żmijewski and Joanna Warsza
Martin Zet is an artist who collects, produces, and uses books in his practice. He lives in Prague.