Berlin Day Two – Graffiti – Friday October 13th

Steps: 17,511

We had so much fun on our second day. We started with another great breakfast, this time at Bastard. Yumm. Then we rushed to our main event for the day, a street art and graffiti tour with Alternative Berlin!

It was great to learn from an actual graffiti and street art expert what the difference is between the two. It can be subtle. And it’s not as simple as illegal and legal. Here’s Declan giving us some lessons.

Some of this stuff is super dangerous to create.  And not just from a getting-caught perspective. This one below, created by the “cooperative” called The Berlin Kids, was created in less than 7 minutes. They had to break into the building and break onto the roof, then with spotters on the street looking for cops, one person rappelled down the side of this 10 story building spray painting as he went. And this building is practically next to one of the busiest U-Bahn stations in Kreuzberg!

You also start to recognize the same graffiti “artists” all over the city. The Berlin Kids were pretty prolific.

As were the 1UP gang, which stands for One United Power:

There were also places where legal blended with illegal on the same wall. On the wall below, the dead animals was a commissioned piece by ROA, who’s super famous. The 1UP gang did the “LOVE” using a technique called Heaven Spot, named due to the fact that the painting is done while dangling over the side of the building. Hence “heaven” as you’re risking death. This one was made with rollers, with another 1UP member holding onto the belt of the painter. The toilet bowl is another famous street artist, who’s work you can see all over the world.

Oh, and my San Francisco friends, here’s some of the work ROA has done in SF –

Some of the street art is really small and detailed. Here’s one that was hand-drawn on the spot on the street. The artist, a woman, draws images of strong girls. This one is only 12-18 inches high, and the artist drew it in broad daylight. She wore a high-vis vest, and had her 10 year old daughter next to her, so nobody looked askance.

Speaking of gender balance of the artists working the streets of Berlin, our guide said that for street art it was about 50-50, but for graffiti it’s closer to 85% male.

A huge piece that we all really loved is a famous one, called Cosmonaut, by Victor Ash. Erie and haunting.

There was one commissioned huge piece that took up an entire side of a building, by the Brazilian twins OSGEMEOS. Supposedly one started from the top and one from the bottom, and they didn’t tell each other what they were drawing (other than obviously it was a figure of a person).

The thing about street art that struck me was how temporary it is. Look at the Wikipedia link photo for the image above. See how much it’s faded? These artists do all this work and they know that eventually the environment will destroy it.

The tour also taught us that there’s often a backstory you don’t know about unless you really dig deep. Look at the image below. There’s some more rappelling graffiti on the right from The Berlin Kids. Then on the top left there’s some Heaven Spot from the UF Gang. But what’s that “just” in the bottom left. Look at the scale of it. How did the artist paint that? Nope, not spray paint. Nope, not roller and brushes. He used a fire hose! Emptied it, filled it with diluted paint, pumped it full of pressure, fitted a custom nozzle on the end and let rip. Not impressed? Well, here’s some more details on the artist. An incredible activist, and a daring and brave photographer. Once I heard about JUST as a person, I thought about what he stood for each time I saw a piece of his on the street.

Some of the street art is wild looking when seen from afar…

.. but then you look closely and see the detail …

Berlin Observation #4: Berlin really is covered in graffiti. Covered!

After our tour through the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain neighborhoods we ended up in a street art production warehouse where we got to get our hands on some spray paint cans!

With the help of stenciling technique here’s what Alexis made…

The graffiti and street art tour was one of the absolute highlights of our trip to Berlin. Check it out if you ever go to Berlin!

Oh, just gotta throw this in here cuz it did happen that day. We were racing for the train in the station. I wasn’t getting in anyones way, or shoving people aside, I just saw a gap in between two people and went for it. Well, some German dude, maybe 60 years old, puts up his elbow and throws it at me, connecting solidly. Clearly didn’t want me making the train. Made be lurch over into Melinda, stepping on her feet at full speed.
Same thing happened on the street. We had stopped to check directions, and this older lady with her shopping cart clips me with it clearly on purpose, as if to say, “Stay the fuck out of my way, this is my sidewalk!” Wow, nice.

Berlin Observation #5: Berliners (Germans) have some boundary issues. Meaning they don’t like their boundary being encroached and will enforce it with violence!

{P.S. We had dinner that night at Industry Standard. One of the best meals I’ve had in a long time!}

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *