Street art in Berlin – a colourful way of seeing the city
Greetings from Citadines Kurfurstendamm Berlin or what is popularly known as Kudamm, the high end glitzy shopping arcade of Berlin. Its such a quiet neighbourhood and yet bustling with life and looks very beautiful with the neon lights on. My residence is all elegance personified, just like the locality where it is located..classy, subtle and comfortable. I am in the Western part of the city, the area that was once West Germany during the days of the Walled Regime. However travelling to the East has absolutely no barriers now, no ghost stations or patrolling officers as the city celebrates 25 years of the Fall of the Wall.
Citadines has initiated a programme called Moving Feet, Touching Lives – for every km you walk, bike or run , the company donates a Singaporean dollar to a social cause. Yesterday, I was out for 14 hours on the streets of Berlin and I walked most of it. Maybe I should login the kilometres I walked and add my bit to the cause. Visit Berlin had arranged a six hour historic walk around the Wall and the guide, Dennis, a budding historian was so fantastic with every detail and stories around the Cold War. However the best part of the trip was discovering the city through its street art and graffiti.
You see them everywhere – on buildings, subway stations, on the remnants of The Wall, on galleries on the road side, on the walls of 19th century factories and old residences, on traffic signals and in old cultural centres promoting an alternative lifestyle in Berlin. It is more than just art. It is a statement, an expression giving artists an identity. In Berlin there are approximately more than 2000 graffiti artists and some of them have achieved cult status . A movement that started as a way of reclaiming the streets from advertising and commercial messaging, street art is not always irreverent or messaging for a cause. Some are funny,some ridiculous, some attack a tradition, some poke fun at society But they are a form of a comment on modern life and one gets to feel the pulse of the city through its vibrant art. One can spend days exploring the street art culture in Berlin and if possible even meet a few artists, but I just had a few hours with Dennis and he showed me some brilliant pieces of art. Most of them dont stay for long and are constantly changing .
The five interesting ideas that stayed in my mind are..
The angry bear
The ambassador for the city of Berlin or “Bearlin ” is the bear – cuddly and warm. One of the famous bears was the Knut, the bear cub born in the Berlin zoo. But the artist Bymer rejected the concept of Berlin being represented as a cute creature and decided that the city needs to be wild and strong..hence his bear is always angry and snarling..the only time the bear is chilled out is when he is smoking a joint. Dennis told me that Bymer bears were always seen in company of Grappho monsters
Lucy and her kitty
This is my favourite. Almost all of Berlin is filled with a cartoon character Lucy, pissed off with her kitty and in a mood to shoot it. The artist is El Boscho and in most cases he uses a paste up, where the art work is created at home and is then pasted on the walls with glue. Most artists use different materials – spray paints, stencils for their art and sometimes even the canvas changes..Some of the Lucy pieces are done on decorative pieces of paper used to serve cakes for instance. But I like Lucy..she is always angry and is waiting with a vengeance to surprise her kitty.
Dennis and I found this guy absolutely hilarious and intriguing..he just randomly paints a 6 in street corners and walls. Well, if its not a 6, its a 7..its a sort of a signature..I would like to meet him and ask him why.
There are many themes that are anti establishment, a sort of a rebel with or without a cause. But El Boscho talks about his dislike of surveillance and protection of identity in this art. There are many other anti establishment themes – against cops, religion and some of them even make a political commentary.
Poking fun at the tourist
Sometimes its good to have a laugh at oneself. Most of the time tourists can be annoying and the artists think so too and this is how they depict them..
This is not even a glimpse of the street art culture in Berlin. There are so many of them and I have memory cards full of photographs. If you are ever in Berlin, do sign up for a tour of street art and ask for Dennis as your guide.
And am off to explore the Charlottenburg palace, quite close to the Citadines Kurfurstendamm residence. Meanwhile dont forget to vote for me at http://www.citadinesmoments30.com/en/
Magnificent art works. Love street art and graffiti.
Thanks Niranjan..they say so much about a place
A wonderful story and good photos. Interesting take on the city. I love Berlin and hope to spend three weeks there in 2015.
hope you enjoy your trip..