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Feb 19, 2017 11:00 PM

Barbara the street artist

Monday, February 20, 2017 - 00:00
Heroes of the Internet: the online community loves Barbara the street artist for the intelligent and witty signs that she puts up and photographs around the city – while remaining anonymous.

“Hate is crass. Love is crasser.” In white lettering on a black background and signed simply Barbara, the sign was attached to the office door of Marcus Pretzell, Member of the European Parliament for the Alternative for Germany party. Populists like Pretzell are prime targets for the criticism expressed by Barbara, probably Germany’s best-known street artist. She generally attaches her signs with their pithy messages and short poems to lampposts or the walls of buildings – her motto being “bill-posting is fun.” In this case a supporter had secretly attached her message in the European Parliament.

Grimme Online Award 2016

Secretly is the right word, as Barbara wishes to remain anonymous. Nobody knows who the artist is, or indeed whether it is a woman or an individual at all. Whoever it is, they have already published two books and won the 2016 Grimme Online Award. She did not come to the award ceremony – having said that, nobody would actually have known even if she had been sitting in the audience. Barbara’s stage are the social networks. She has more than 550,000 Facebook followers who are interested in what she has to say. She expresses strong opinions, always with wit and at times also with childish innocence. She speaks out against homophobia and racism, and takes a critical stance towards religion. The subject of refugees also moved her to post lots of messages, such as this one based on Sam Cooke’s famous song:

Don’t know much about history,
don’t know much about refugees,
don’t know much about quran book
or how many lives the bible took.
But I do know that I love you
and I know that if you love me too,
what a wonderful world this would be.

That Barbara’s art should thrive predominantly on the Internet is thanks not only to the anonymity that the online world affords her, but also to the transitory nature of street art. By the time Barbara posts a new photo online, the work it depicts has in many cases already disappeared – because someone has tidied it away or simply took it as a souvenir. Barbara is even the subject of research, as several students have written their final dissertations about the phenomenon. 

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