Berlin Performance Artists Reveal Brooklyn Bridge Motivation

It wasn’t terrorism; it wasn’t vandalism. Rather, the recent swap of flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge was a 145th year anniversary shout-out to a late German-born architect.

From the statement posted this week by Berlin performance art duo Wermke/Leinkauf (a.k.a. Matthias Wermke and Mischa Leinkauf), supported by a series of phone interviews with the New York Times:

In the night from July 21st to July 22nd, Wermke/Leinkauf hoisted two hand-sewn white American flags on the towers of Brooklyn Bridge. They were careful to treat the bridge and the flags with respect and followed the U.S. Flag Code. The return of the original flags is in progress…

John August Roebling and Washington August Roebling White American Flags refers to the German-born American architect of the Brooklyn Bridge, John August Roebling, who left his Thuringian hometown Mühlhausen in 1831 in search of a better future in the land of freedom and opportunity. He was a pioneer in the field of suspension bridges and his creations have become landmarks and unique architectural pieces of American history. Tragically, Roebling did not live to see the completion of his greatest work, the Brooklyn Bridge. He was injured in an on-site accident and died on July 22nd 1869. His son, Washington August Roebling, completed the masterpiece fourteen years later. He died on July 21st 1926.

In their statement, the pair also tipped their hats to artist Jasper Johns and Ken Burns1981 documentary about the Brooklyn Bridge. At least this duo didn’t choose to honor David Hasselhoff with a July 17 birthday shout out. Wermke/Leinkauf have been doing this sort of thing for ten years.

The New York Times separately had a great piece this week about how the July 22 Brooklyn Bridge stunt affected area resident Kristian Roebling, the great-great-great grandson of John A.:

Although he had no hand or foot in the white flag caper, the contemporary Mr. Roebling thoroughly enjoyed it. Last week, he said, he kayaked under Pier 2 of Brooklyn Bridge Park with his sons, ages 7 and 5.

[May 26, 1883 Harper’s weekly cover courtesy:]