What should you do if a hunter has just run out of boulders? Without further ado you take your own Schopenhauer complete edition and stuff the wolf’s stomach with it. The whole drawing is a fairytale idyll, a clapboard-roofed house at the edge of the forest, the grandmother with glasses and apron, Little Red Riding Hood next to her. And in the foreground the hunter who dutifully sinks his precious tomes into the wolf’s belly with Gravitas in view.
This drawing, printed in the feature section of the FAZ in 1996, is said to have pleased the legendary, grim politics editor Johann Georg Reissmüller so much that he called Achim Greser and Heribert Lenz and told them that they should kindly draw for the political section of the newspaper in the future. In the Titanic At the time, bets were made as to whether the two would only be kicked out after six weeks or earlier.
It was all 25 years ago, long enough for there to be a second version of the story told by Gustav Seibt, who was not yet writing for the SZ at the time and was responsible for the literature page in the FAZ feature pages. According to this, Reissmüller called him after another Greser / Lenz drawing had been printed and grumbled into the receiver: “Can you explain to me why I find this funny?”
The exhibition provides a kind of Federal Republican story from below
However, the liaison “between this highly reputable newspaper and us as subcultural fools” (Achim Greser) continues to this day and that is why the silver wedding anniversary is now being celebrated in the form of an exhibition in the Frankfurt Caricatura Museum and an illustrated book, so big and difficult that one could fill the stomach of every wolf with a single copy (“Schlimm. A quarter of a century jokes for Germany”. Kunstmann-Verlag, 704 pages, 48 euros).
At the same time, the exhibition and, above all, the much more voluminous illustrated book provide a kind of Federal Republican story from below. Stoiber candidacy and floods, the Afghan war and the Middle East conflict, Trump, eco-kindergarten, AfD and Corona, everything occurs, but never in a lecturing style. Instead of writing “Grand Coalition” on a truck and then letting it steer towards an abyss; Instead of labeling a burning tire with a current political problem and then letting a lion that is also labeled jump through it, instead of recycling exhausted language images in simple symbolic mechanics and delivering a kind of pointless editorial in pictogram form, the two caricaturists interconnect the petty bourgeoisie and the general political weather situation so absurdly with one another that lightning strikes.
They always have a soft heart for their staff, the people have hair instead of hairstyles, they only know fashion from the word model railroad, and it is very fortunate that you cannot smell the worn out slippers on the drawings. Very few of them have ever seen the inside of a gym, they drag their bodies through everyday provincial life like an aldi bag. The bedrooms, kitchens, inns and front gardens in which they spend their lives are each furnished so lovingly down to the last detail that one could actually hold a parallel exhibition about German living worlds in the Frankfurt City Museum, located a hundred meters next to the Caricatura Museum.
At the same time, however, the magic is at home in the rather gray life of these people. The honest existence of an employee is often short-circuited with extraterrestrial calamities or surprises from flora and fauna, in this respect many of the drawings are reminiscent of Gary Larson with his absurd insect scenes. At Greser and Lenz’s, the giant potato holds the helplessly wriggling, pea-sized farmer in his field in the air and threatens: “Pay me a study or I’ll forget myself.” And when the extraordinarily mild winter led to a tick plague in 2007, they drew a bus stop where various families of ticks pass the time. From the left a huge human leg comes pounded, everyone is queuing to climb the host animal, from behind a tick mother with a headscarf warns: “Women and children first”. And never has anyone looked at the ground more gracefully ashamed than by the alien whose UFO hovers in front of the city library and who is squeezed together by the employee at the return counter because he has exceeded the loan period by 176 years.
In addition, both are pupils of the New Frankfurt School, especially from FK Waechter, to whom they also wave friendly in some pictures: When Angela Merkel is a guest at a Hessian couple and is entertained with nibbles on the sofa, it cites a Waechter drawing the god wants to look down after us humans again and is also served nibbles in a hazy two-room apartment.
Andreas Baader cleaning the stairs, the gun in his waistband, the old neighbor with the glasses as thick as a bottle passes by and calls him a blessing for the house community; the hate preacher who asks for a German swear dictionary in the bookstore; everything big is broken down into the small everyday life, even the Taliban become prosaic existences with their calamities and life needs.
To this day, they still work with stereotypes such as mustaches, slit eyes, plump lips or seppel hats. FAZ editor Berthold Kohler said at the opening of the exhibition that he had a thick folder with caricatures of the two that could not be printed because they were too blatant. As the New York Times After a crude anti-Semitic drawing in 2019, she not only stopped working with the cartoonist in question, but stopped all caricatures altogether, wrote the author Sarah Pines in the NZZ: “Radical political correctness requires value-free words and images that omit categories such as race, sexuality and religion . It doesn’t tolerate ambiguities, no ambivalences, no humor, no ironic tips. It cannot deal with visual wit and pointed criticism. And it demands that identity aggressors be censored. That is the mirror that they New York Times holds up against their critics. “
Can anyone really want that? In any case, Greser and Lenz continue undaunted. The two of them live in a large house in Aschaffenburg, each in their own apartments, but share the studio, in which the ideas emerge in mutual conversation. But then only one of the two executes. Over the years they have symbiotised their style so perfectly that in the distant future the history of art will have to apply whole semester cohorts to these pictures in order to find out who has drawn and lettered. That should go on for now. At the opening of the exhibition on Wednesday, Achim Greser and Heribert Lenz seemed so happy that one can hope for another 25 years.
Greser & Lenz. A quarter of a century of jokes for Germany. Caricatura Museum, Frankfurt. Until November 21st. Info: caricatura-museum.de.