Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

The Aesthetics of Resistance

May 18, 2018 - Piotr Pietrus

These photos were taken at the G20 protest in Hamburg last year.

I’ve always been drawn to protests. It’s hard for me to say why, but I keep coming back to them. One of the first ones I went to was the anti-NATO protests in Strasbourg, France 2009.


I borrow the title of Peter Weiss’ book, The Aesthetics of Resistance, when I think about how to frame my protest work. From those first protests I was conscious of not showing the faces of the protestors, to protect their identity. Now I do it almost without thinking, this gesture leaking into other projects: the face turned, obscured, or a shadow drawn.




But when I think about it, the police are also anonymous, their identity also hidden behind riot gear, heavy helmets and shields. At the G7 protest in Garmisch Partenkirchen, right at the end of the protester’s route where the police had prepared their blockade, some local residents let me in to use their own bathroom. The thing I didn’t expect was that police were in there too, needing to use the toilet just like me. Their helmets off, we stood silently together in the corridor of this traditional Bavarian family home, waiting our turn. Off the street, we were suddenly all just people again, all subject to the greater, usually invisible political powers that determine the system we live in.



And now I think I’ve worked out what it is that brings me again and again to public acts of resistance. When you get a group of people together who believe enough in something, you get this vortex on the street in which the normal system has to stop in order to be questioned. Sometimes, with loud enough voices, this usually untouchable thing can be moved into your radius, where you can influence it. And if I can borrow again, this time from ex-Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, „No social movement that mattered was ever started or led from inside Parliament House.“