In the spring of 2016, Wolfgang Tillmans focused his skills as an artist on an overtly political cause – Brexit – for the first time with his EU Campaign. Troubled by a combination of what he described as the ‘lame’ campaign for ‘Remain’ along with the lack of registered and active young voters, Tillmans distributed striking posters along with a statement detailing his motivations. With this statement, Tillmans implored his contacts to liberally spread the images he provided. Like many, Tillmans sees a looming ‘abyss’ of rage and nationalism that threatens “the very institutions of democracy, negotiation and moderation that allow us to live the lives we are living.” These sentiments – veiled with the guise of extreme patriotism – have only grown more pronounced and urgent since America elected Donald J. Trump as president in November 2016.

Nexit?

Now, in March of 2017, the nationalist wave is poised to strike The Netherlands. "Will there be a ‘Nexit’ campaign in the near future? With countless references over the past months to the similarities between politicians like Wilders, Trump, and Farage, it would be unwise to discount the possibility", Tillmans states. Refusing to hang up his hat after the ‘leave’ vote prevailed in the UK, he remains actively committed to the idea of a united, democratic Europe and a European Union, working to protect the values of democracy, moderation, and negotiation.

Free posters

Tillmans’ EU Campaign posters diverge quite significantly in style from the works he is best known for. The artist pointed out that this project is indeed unique, and the most important element of the posters is that they convey information that effectively communicates the campaign’s message of unity: ‘No man is an island. No country by itself.’ Inspired by Wolfgang Tillmans’ anti-Brexit campaign, Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers, have adapted his posters for the upcoming Dutch elections on 15 March. With the support of partner organisations the campaign's focus is the protection of the EU against the current wildfire of political negativity. The four collaborating partners in the Protect the European Union-project: De Balie, Foam, Het Nieuwe Instituut and Witte de With issued a joint statement and will be distributing Tillmans’ posters - and with that, his message - for free, starting today. Due to the imminence of the Dutch, French and German elections this campaign starts in these languages, but the organisation plans to translate the messages into all 24 official languages of the EU.