In 1976 Commissariat III, the state security department of the Zürich police, started a file called “Schmieren / Kleben” — literally “Scrawling / Pasting”, i.e. graffiti /posting of bills. The file encompassed political slogans, illegal happenings, sprayed murals and sayings, some by Harald Naegeli, all of which constituted “willful damage to property”. The police took pictures of the “scribbles” and documented the offences on index cards. The file contains roughly two thousand black-and-white photos from the years 1976 to 1981 and the corresponding index cards, though the file was kept open till 1989. Commissariat III was disbanded that year in the wake of the Fichenaffäre (a scandal caused by the 1989 revelation of secret files for mass surveillance of “anti-Swiss elements”) and the ensuing parliamentary inquiry.
Schmieren / Kleben shows seven hundred of the photos and all the index cards in the file, as well as a glossary explaining the connections between slogans, symbols and people. This is a unique official record of Zürich during that period, going from the women’s lib, anti-nuclear and other political movements, followed by reactions to the War on Terrorism and international conflicts, to the emergence of various subcultures and public activism. The files also reflect the mounting tensions between the city and its youth that came to a head in the Opernhauskrawalle, the May 1980 riots at Zürich’s opera house, followed by youth protests throughout the city, which permanently changed Zürich.