Lebanese Flag

Lou Cantor in cooperation with Youssef, Moussa and Ibrahim Bassal at the 7th Berlin Biennale

 

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Germany the Arab and Turkish population showed unprecedented support for the national soccer team by putting German flags on their cars, installing them at their home windows and in their businesses. The display of patriotic feelings was welcomed by the German government as a sign of "positive integration", while several anarchist magazines were denouncing these flags as "black, red, and gold rags". Some "anarchist commandos" even raided Arab and Turkish businesses in Berlin, either ripping down or burning the German flags.

 

Youssef Bassal, a German of Lebanese origin and owner of a mobile phone shop in the Berlin district of Neukölln, came with an idea of placing a huge tricolor as a sign of support for national eleven. Together with his brother Moussa, he hung a 25-meter long flag on the facade of their shop during the World Cup. The use of the German flag by Bassals, highly present in the media in 2010, was embraced by all spectrums of political discourses: by the mainstream politicians as a symbol of Germany as an immigrant country and its multiculturalism, by the angry radical left-wing as a encouragement for the national tendencies, by some parts of the Muslim population as a dubious conciliatory gesture, and finally by some right-wing Berliners who saw the flag as an appropriation of their symbol by others.

 

As the cultural and football events came together for UEFA's 2012 Europe Cup (with Kiev throwing its first international biennale in matching dates and Warsaw's MoMA presenting New National Art - an exhibition dedicated to off-art world artists displaying various aspects of patriotism), Lou Cantor invited Bassals for a cooperation. The reason for this was not only the symbolic potential of the events connected to the flag but also support for the attitude presented by Bassals, manifested by standing up to all consequences of artistic or political gesture.