Propaganda Berlin-Wien-Wroclaw

Tord Björk | Propaganda,Travel | Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

On my tour from Friends of the Earth European Annual general Assembly in Lenzen to the ESF meeting in Vienna I passed by Berlin. As an old neon-sign designer I regularly get neck problems when visiting cities, always glaring at signs above my head. This time it was rewarding. At the main ublic entrance to the city, the new impressive main station with traisn on top of each other in many layers and all directions there was a great neon-sign: Vattenfall.

Last year when I toured Central and Eastern Europe to promote ESF in Malmö I camer to the Warsaw railway station. It was impossible to find the way to the ticket boot. All over the place there were signs advertising for the private businesses that swamped the whole basment and endless corridors under the main hall making it hard to find the public information. I thought this is as a bazaar and the bizarre result of the drastic changes that has taken place in CEE countries after the transition to capitalist economy. Back home in the West we do not allow such total confusion so people cannot find the ticket boot anymore.

Such a mistake. Well it is possible to find the ticket boot at the Berlin main station, but private enterprises rule the world also here with proganda all over the place. And proudest of them all is Vattenfall. This is a Swedish state company that has been ordered to get out as much profit as possible out of its operations. The basic income comes from selling electricity from the many dams in Northern Sweden. With this income the company has been able to buy a lot of coal plants and open pit coal mines in Germany causing many conflicts wwith local popualtions and the envrionmental movement. Sweden that promotes itself as the best climate policy state among rich countries gets profits out of this company that creates alone more green house gas emissions outside Sweden than the whole country of Sweden. Sweden talks with a double tongue in the climate negotiations and has finally conquered Germany, this time with energy as the weapon.

Conservative gender propaganda is of course also a favourite at railway stations. Conquer the world and women with the help of beer… and what is so prickelnd, ..

In Vienna new and old propaganda were mixed in an effective way. I remember reading a book about Austria only some 50 years old. It described all of the country in the text. The illustrations were as I remember half of then chruches in the countryside and the villages. The rest was to a far degree nature. It was as if the life of the Austrians only had to do with these buildings. I like churches. Somehow they are places were people have gathered because they had a hope, because they needed each other. I am not religious myself but I respect these places. But in the book about Austria it became to much. In Vienna there are a lot of Churches.

There are also a lot of grandiose buildings and statues. These buildings and statues are far to huge for the country they now decorate with their presence from older days when the empire extended so far in all directions.

These heavy buildings making propaganda about the glory in the past becomes today parts of a holy temple of consumerism.

A consumerism that presents itself as full of the sense of lightness of luxury, a spiritual matter above all material concerns,

a spirit full of being swept away on a white horse.

In this classical city modern advertising also adopted the most modern form. At a crossing two young persons with a banner went in front of cars with a message. It looked very familiar from many environmental actions against car traffic. It is the same phenomena as when out door posters have pictures on young people making graffiti in branded jeans while the municipality in the city with these posters starts big campaigns against those making graffiti.

Looking at the whole picture it is quite clear what kind of prpoaganda that dominates a city like Vienna today, that of consumerism with specific gender roles.

After Vienna I took the train to Wroclaw in Poland, or the former German town Breslau. This big city was bomber in the late parts of the war but has been rebuilt and many historical parts are well kept.

Here I found walking forks making propaganda for a restaurant. Somehow this felt more to the point and a bit humouristic. As a teacher in exhbition design it was fun to see this classical Sandwichmen walking around in a time when it is claimed that only internet will be the way for marketing in the future. But I should not have thought in that way. Back home I traveled in a car with my collegue Roberto Finoli. He allt he time spoked with a soft volice to Lisa. He told her that she was so kind and that her voice was so much more gentle in Swedish than in Italian. She guided him so well through all his obstacles on the way to a meeting. Lisa was the name of his new GPS. As far as i understand this is the future. Everywhere one can get information about both which roads to take, restaurants to eat at, which museum to go to, which hotels to slepp at and whatever you need. There is new future for walking forks or people with banners anymore, or?

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