Synopsis – Laura Theel

How did the Berlin Wall influence urban art in Berlin today?

As long as there have been people and walls, there has been graffiti. Roughly 16.500 years ago our ancestor painted their hunting stories in a cave. Through the course of the history, putting your thoughts on walls in stead of paper stayed a much used tool. But graffiti truly took of in the subways of New York in the early 1960’s. When the city of New York started making it more difficult to spray in the subways, graffiti artists went above ground and here graffiti started evolving. It became more graphic and gained respect: street art was born.

Right now in some districts in Berlin it is hard to find a building that isn’t covered by paint. Graffiti and streat art, together named urban art, are a very important part of the culture in Berlin. But how did it became that way? Right after the Second World War Berlin and Germany were divided. The Berlin Wall rose to ensure the communistic economy in the East. The people from Berlin were heartbroken and from all over the world people came to Berlin to express their dissatisfaction on this perfect white canvas. Does that still have influence on todays urban art?

During the time of devision of Berlin, a subculture characterises by artistic diversity, dissatisfaction with the government and individualism started to form. Their creative mindset and the trend of protest resulted in great wallpaintings and graffiti texts on parts of the Wall. For example in Kreuzberg, the district where the subculture had settled.

After the Wall fell, former West Berlin had to make large sacrifices to get East Berlin up to speed. For the renovations that were needed they had to neglect the West. This resulted in real freedom for the first time: crime, squat houses and drugs could all exist without the police taking any action. It was the perfect ecosystem for graffiti and street art. The thought that you’re piece would exist for a long time in Berlin because no one would do something about it, attracted many young creatives from all over the world to, once again, paint the walls of Berlin.

Today’s motives for making urban art are: being seen by others, getting that adrenaline rush, political messages and simply surprising people. So, not many urban artists see the Wall as a source of inspiration in terms of content but it did highly contribute to the urban art culture that lives in Berlin today.

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