Berlin is known as the graffiti capital of Europe. To avoid the street art, which lines the walls, doorways, floors and advertisements would be a feat in itself. The west side of the Berlin Wall became covered in graffiti in the ’80s with messages against the oppression that was suffocating them. Since the wall’s collapse, the whole of Berlin itself has become a platform for the messages of the urban artistic community. Graffiti certainly isn’t legal in Berlin. But it is indeed a grey area, especially since it brings a plethora of tourists into the debt-riddled city. This article takes a look at three of Berlin’s most prolific street artists.
If you live in Berlin, the characters ‘XOOOOX‘ might be familiar to you. XOOOOX’s artwork is a tribute to the world of fashion; his/her passion started with cutting his parents old fashion magazines up and making collages out of them. XOOOOX presents graffiti stencils with an air of neutrality (neither happy nor sad), forcing an audience to make up the story behind the characters for themselves.
It’s not a lie to say that Alias is perhaps the busiest of all the graffiti artists in Berlin. The streets are literally covered with his paint. From his introverted characters, an audience can observe that Alias feels exhausted by a disconnected society – making him one of the most poignant street artists around. This can be seen by his artwork of children sitting on bombs, grown men trapped in the monotony of their jobs and even hooded, faceless children disconnected from the world, plus many more.
Mein Lieber Prost
If you look carefully, you will find Mein Lieber Prost’s graffiti all over Berlin. The characters bought to life by Prost are designed to hide in the midst of other graffiti, blending in, so that the passer-by does not even notice they are being pointed and laughed at by the spray paint figure. Prost’s graffiti is normally completed in black and white; but on the odd occasion Prost will use minimal colour. These trademark smiley faces know no boundaries; they are tagged onto any surface whether it be a sign, advert, doorway or even the floor. Prost remains anonymous for the fact that he lives through his cheeky characters; not the other way around.
Each individual artist has their own agenda when it comes to conveying a social message. However, of all the art that is sprayed upon the streets of Berlin, there is one message that is prominent: freedom. The city of Berlin itself is entwined with the notion of ‘freedom versus oppression’, symbolised by the construction and destruction of the Berlin Wall. Since the wall’s collapse, the city’s air still lies heavy with the past, and is thus reflected in the artwork which stains its streets.
With such a rich history of graffiti, it’s hard to think that the streets will ever be scrubbed clean and graffiti made illegal. Art forms will always thrive in places of debt, where society is at unease; which is why Berlin is known as being one of the most creative places in Europe.
Guest article by Sophie Webb of London-based printing company Print Express.