“ARBEIT MACHT FREI” Graffiti Artist Comes Forward in Facebook Post

The mysterious author of the “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” graffiti installation at the Packard Plant in Detroit has come forward. An artist named Penny Gaff , alleging to be the author of the work issued this response at 11:03 Tuesday February, 19 in the comments of my post on Facebook of a Detroit Free Press article about the infamous German slogan, once used over the entrance to Nazi concentration camps – installed in the windows of the walkway bridge at the abandoned factory:

detroit-packard-plant-Arbeit-Macht-Frei_2As the artist of the “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” installation at the Packard plant from the series “WE ARE THE ZOMBIES” I have decided to come forward to address my intention and motivation behind the piece. In doing so I am by no means limiting the work to my own personal definition. Despite the piece only surviving a short while due to mindless vandalism, it successfully served its purpose to provoke thought, create dialogue and bring attention to an environment and its inhabitants who have long been forgotten and neglected.

“ARBEIT MACHT FREI” was cruelly placed at the entrances of the labor camps in irony, with the knowledge that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope, only death. A parallel can be drawn with the current corporatocracy we are subjected to today. The illusion that one day we will be rich and successful is similarly misleading, but we swallow it and live in this false sense of hope. We whore our lives away day after day for corporations and the empty promises of the powers that be. We have become wage slaves, with no alternative, essentially reinstating forced labor.

I placed the sign on the overpass, the gateway to Detroit, the heart of a once booming industrial America, full of capitalist promise and hope. Once, it employed thousands of people, but now lies in ruins and is dead, as are the dreams of those who sacrificed their lives in the form of labor. All that remains is a war torn cityscape, an economic genocide and GHETTOIZATION of ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

The destruction of the “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” sign at the Packard plant is comparable to the destruction and subsequent theft of the original sign from the Auschwitz camp in 2009. It is an affront to humanity, history, intellectual dialogue, art and the suffering of those who perished then and are perishing still at the hands of our oppressors.


Love, Penny