Flying Fortress

The Teddy Trooper – a Radical Concept

Flying Förtress currently based in Hamburg is one of Germany’s most famous writers. He is also an illustrator and designer - or just simply a creative head. Flying Förtress is an outstanding artist who has pushed Graffiti in the early days by new innovative impulses such as the idea of consequent seriality. His hallmark is the well-known Teddy Trooper figural icon. Created about 13 years ago, Förtress and the Teddy Troops are still present and visible in the public urban space. He is the creative flagship of the infamous Jukebox Cowboys and constantly pushing his artwork and the crew’s output up to a higher level - that definitely sets the pace. On many occasions he has shown that he is really setting trends ­– an artist able to start and lead a movement.

We met up and sat down with him in a typical St. Pauli pub to talk about the concept behind his Teddy Troopers and the contrasts between Hamburg and Munich.

"Melange a Troops" for DRAW A LINE

You call yourself Flying Förtress. What's the story behind your rather unusual name?

The “Flying Fortress” is an American bomber from WWII. The Germans used to call it "Fliegende Festung". When I was a child I used to like model making, especially tanks and airplanes. I was fascinated by these machines. Even when I had a child’s innocent concerns on the topic war. Later I liked the paradox of the name itself attractive. On the one side there's the notion of “flying” all this being free like a bird. And on the other side the notion of the “fortress”, something made of stone, solid, on the ground. These antitheses are fascinating to me. That is a perfect substance for my writer’s alias.

“I do not just repeat my hallmark but I also enlarge my personal army of Troopers. They are not armed but they do occupy and control public space.”

What's the intention behind this idea of the Teddy Troops?

In the beginning it was important to me to switch from classic graffiti letters to something more modern, illustrative and iconic. You see, I’m primary an illustrator and I am able to draw anything you want me to. But my intension wasn’t to end up just drawing random things any given moment. Like that yellow dragon today or a small forest tomorrow... I wanted to go for something that truly challenges me on a different new level.

Now take my Teddy Troops: this concept is all about seriality. I simply wanted to create something that has a high recognition value. Something that is convincing because of its clarity. A radical concept to force myself to expand boarders as much as possible within this self-willed limitation. You know, I’ve been pursuing this concept for 13 years now and I find myself very often at that point of being totally bored and feeling like giving it up. But this is exactly when it becomes a challenge to me and by moving on the concept grows even bigger and stronger.

Of course over the years the Teddy Troopers have become a part of. You might say that I am the Commander in Chief and I want to grow my Teddy Troops into a big worldwide army.

Flying Fortress with Swanski in Warschau
Flying Fortress

You grew up in Munich but moved to Hamburg a few years ago. What’s the difference between these two cities?

Yes, I was born and raised in Munich. I moved to Hamburg seven years ago. See, Munich is nice and pretty but you know as the saying goes: the prophet has no honour is his own country. When it comes down to it, Hamburg has more urban atmosphere than Munich. As an artist the Bavarian capital had actually become a limitation to me. So it has been a good decision to move on to a new place.

Hamburg is a fascinating place and a starting point for something new. I love the industrial harbour atmosphere and the rough and dirty but down-to-earth St. Pauli neighbourhood. Compared, Munich is just too clean and smug. Here in Hamburg there is more common acceptance and there are still enough of these little free spaces that give you air to breathe. Ha, in Munich there's more of what I call the “caretaker culture”. Signs like "Do Not Lean Your Bicycle Against The Wall!" literally everywhere. You’ll find this kind of attitude and infantilizing only there. But here in Hamburg, you know, it’s more like when you get caught tagging you’ll end up more likely getting a black eye rather than getting in trouble with the Police.

Interview by Nils Altland

“I am the Commander in Chief and I want to grow my Teddy Troops into a big worldwide army.”
Flying Fortress
Flying Fortress "Commander in Chief"