April 17, 2008

Berlin, Germany

I visited Berlin more than once for extended periods, it was the culture, people and definitely the graffiti. Andreas Tzortzis says it best in his Time article:

'Nearly everywhere you go in Berlin, from the cafe-lined streets of Kreuzberg to the leafy schoolyards in Grunewald, hastily drawn “tags” stream across the sidewalk and crawl up the side of buildings, in an elaborate zigzag of cartoonish graphics, puffy letters, photo-like wheat pastes and bold stencils.

The roots of graffiti culture can be traced back to West Berlin in the early 1980s, when the American-occupied sector was the reluctant melting pot of anarchist punks, Turkish immigrants and West German draft resisters. Kreuzberg, a neighborhood surrounded on three sides by the Berlin Wall, blossomed particularly well, with miles of wall space and little police scrutiny.

The first so-called writers were heavily influenced by the New York City scene. Works about the time, like the 1983 film “Style Wars” by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant, and the 1984 book “Subway Art” by Mr. Chalfant and Martha Cooper, enjoyed a cult following.

But while the west face of the Berlin Wall was blanketed with graffiti, the east face was orderly and gray. The notorious Stasi police kept graffiti under wraps, and writers in East Berlin risked imprisonment or worse if they were caught red-handed with spray cans — assuming they could even get their hands on paint.

All that changed, of course, with the fall of the wall in 1989, which opened up vast new blank walls virtually overnight. Artists, musicians and young people flooded East Berlin, heralding a shift in the youth culture from west to east. The pockmarked walls of Mitte, Friedrichshain and other gray neighborhoods were soon carpeted in colorful squiggles.'

No comments:

Post a Comment