Julia Blue Arm is a student at Colorado State University and an ISA Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Berlin, Germany.
One of the most compelling and unconventional attributes of Berlin is the street art that covers the city. The street art scene in Berlin is truly alive and thriving. Whether it is graffiti, stickers, stencils or commissioned mural paintings by well-known artists, street artists avidly use public spaces of the city as their canvas for artistic expression. Most notably, the district of Kreuzberg has been the heart of this medium since the time of the Berlin Wall. This district has now developed into the hipster and cultural center of the city.
East Side Gallery
Here is a wall of graffiti along the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved as a memorial to remember the reunification of Berlin and Germany, as well as their newfound freedom after the Cold War. Unlike other sections of the wall that are painted by invited muralists, here, we can see a wall covered in graffiti from unknown individuals.
Since the 1980s, when Berlin was divided into the East Germany and West Germany, the Berlin Wall became a long stretching canvas for “west-side” citizens to express their frustration with the state of their society. Kreuzberg became a major hub of graffiti during this time because the Berlin Wall bordered the district on three sides. After the reunification of Germany and the end of the Cold War, the remains of the wall were commissioned to artists who were to paint sections of the wall. Since then, this district has been a center of individualistic expression, a district where artists leave their marks all over the streets. The buildings, train stations, street signs and street poles of Kreuzberg are covered with street art. No matter where you look, you will always discover more tags and paintings.
The “Pink Man” Mural
Painted by well-known Italian street artist, BLU, this mural is one of the most famous murals in Berlin. It is located on the side of a building in Kreuzberg that neighbors the Oberbaum Bridge. The “Pink Man” is a large pink man being made up of many smaller nude bodies which are rather indistinguishable from each other. With its empty eyes and wide-open mouth, the “Pink Man” appears to be eating a single white figure from the tip of its finger. It has been suggested that this mural points to the fascism of Nazi Germany. The white figure then, may represent the idea of the “individual” that gets destroyed within fascist societies, such as the Nazi Regime.
There have been disputes about where the dividing line between art and vandalism is drawn. There is a definite contrast between commissioned mural paintings and the huge amount of graffiti tags, posters and stickers that cover almost every street post and wall of Kreuzberg. Aside from issues of vandalism and legality, some people find graffiti rather unattractive, while others appreciate the color and uniqueness it brings to public spaces.
Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?
Here you can see the eclecticism of the different forms of street art throughout Kreuzberg.
Nevertheless, street art in Berlin has been an ongoing artistic tool for expression, unification of communities and socio-political awareness and activism. I believe it is up to each person to decide whether they consider these forms of art beautiful or not. It cannot be denied that the street art of Kreuzberg, and Berlin as a whole, is a thriving entity that has become a major part of Berlin’s unique identity.
The world awaits…discover it.