Intervention in Public Space
May 1968: Peter-Ernst Eiffe covers the whole of Hamburg with his messages
Peter-Ernst Eiffe, also known as “Eiffe, der Bär” (German for ‘Eiffe, the bear’) was probably the first Graffiti artist in Germany. Swept up in the student movement of the ‘60s, Eiffe began scrawling his anarchist and nonsensical messages all over Hamburg in 1968.
He soon became widely known, because wherever he would leave his messages (such as “Eiffe for President! All Traffic Lights to Yellow!”), he would also leave his calling card, complete with home address and telephone number. When the Hamburger Hochbahn issued him a bill of 900 German marks for damages to their property, he replied by issuing them a bill of 900 marks for his artwork.
For a certain period he worked at the statistical office in Hamburg. His superiors attested him above-average intelligence, but his career came to a halt for other motives. He decorated his work-place with a portrait of Bismarck and erotic photographs and insulted each morning the cleaning personal in French.
He was also known for a peculiar style of dress- a suit, white shirt, and tie- that made him suspicious to other young people. However, the message that he repeatedly pushed, on the subversive power of fun, eventually attracted a lot of supporters.
He was finally arrested in May of ’68 when he drove his Fiat Topolino into the hall of the central railway station in Hamburg. On it was written, FREE EIFFE REPUBLIC and he started to decorate the tiles with triangles. He was quickly arrested, ushered away in handcuffs and taken under press coverage to the psychiatric hospital Hamburg-Ochsenzoll.
The Fiat Topolino of Eiffe for President
Eiffe was released from the ward later in the year, but in 1970 was interred into Rickling Psychiatric Hospital for depression. In 1982 he escaped, but died of exposure during the attempt.
A 1995 film by Christian Bau entitled Eiffe For President; All Traffic Lights to Yellow recalls his life as a graffiti artist, activist, and “fun guerrilla.”
This text was first published partly at 1AM, short for first amendment. 1AM represents the freedom of speech through street art, striving to progress the street art culture and create a community of artists, fans, and like minded organizations.