Don't Count Us, Count Your Days, 1987

Don't Count Us, Count Your Days, 1987
Watercolor and chacoal on paper, 149 x 99,3 cm

In the 1980s, Ruth Baumgarte repeatedly directed her keen powers of observation at groups on the margins of society. Although she herself was part of "high society", she had a strong interest in the socially excluded.

Young people in unconventional make-up and ragged clothes with safety pins through their lips, chains and chokers against the backdrop of Hamburg's Hafenstraße – the centre of the German punk scene from the mid-1970s – rats, a red wine bottle on its side, a toilet bowl and, in the centre of the picture, an embryo. A cross rising up in the background gives an almost religious dimension to the image.

The rat in the foreground climbing up the embryo is particularly shocking. Although there is a realistic element to the group of punks, the rat images represents another, disturbing dimension of reality. The collage-style group portrait depicts punks, who had been setting out to scandalise middle-class society since the late 1970s.

Starting with the music, punk style became a subculture and later a pop culture phenomenon whose cultural expression drove new developments in fashion and music. In Zählt nicht uns, zählt Eure Tage (Don't Count Us, Count Your Days), Ruth Baumgarte is clearly on the side of the punks. The petit bourgeois is reminded of his own mortality in ironic terms.