Most people are of the view that the history of art is as old as the history of humanity. Art and graffiti have existed for the longest time possible. Dash offs on walls are regarded as the first form of artistic expressions. This aspect is viewed by many people as the first evidence of creativity by man which has survived until the present day. However, it was not until the early 1990s that street art and graffiti became a cultural phenomenon (Ferrell, Jeff 39). Historically, Street art and graffiti had two critical importance. The first was to express discontent. People who felt dissatisfied with anything in life sought to express their thoughts through street art and graffiti. The second importance is that art and graffiti was a way of creating awareness of sociopolitical issues (Christensen et al., 602). This could have been attained on a local or communal level depending on the scope of the awareness. Although street art and graffiti are inseparable, the Berlin wall is the birthplace of local street art culture.
Association of Berlin Stories with the street art Culture
It is without doubts that the Swiss writer Robert Walser Berlin Stories gives an overview of the culture of Germans living in Berlin. Ideally, this collection of prose pieces of Robert Walser was written in Berlin. If this is not the case, we can comfortably say that the collection drew on his Walser’s experience of living in Berlin. Walser’s Berlin Stories point out about the Germany capital city’s culture. Written between 1907 and 1916, The Berlin Stories does give an accurate account of street art (Harman, Mark 140). Berlin stories talks more about painters’ galleries that amused Robert Walser during his visit to Berlin. After arriving in the city of Berlin, Walser accounts that he was amused by the painter’s galleries in the street. These galleries had different subject matter which portrayed a different meaning.
Of importance to not also is the fact that the sole reason why Walser toured Berlin was to link up with his older brother Karl. Karl who had spent a considerable amount of years in the city was accustomed to the life of the city (Harman, Mark 143). By the fact that Karl was a stage-set designer, it shows that the art of painters galleries was part and parcel of the culture of the people. Painting stages in an artistic act just like scribbling on the walls. As a stage art designer, Karl was involved in decorating stages for films. This work mainly involves painting the walls with settings and with images. The writings and the images in this sense portrayed the message of the piece the crew was presented in the film. In this sense, it can be argued that although, the local graffiti culture was not much appreciated it was evident among people.
The West side of the Berlin Wall Gallery
The evolution of street art has always been considered to be the west side of the Berlin Wall. Some people might be of the idea that street art and graffiti existed even before the turn of the 20th century. However, it is right to say that it was until during the construction of the Berlin wall that street art was officially born. The height of the wall made it a perfect message board which artists of West Berlin used to express their opinions as well as their affiliations. As observed by (Chin, Daryl 135), the initial impulse to paint on the wall came from early settlers in the American-occupied sector. These people including draft resisters and anarchist punks found the wall as a perfect platform to express their view. There are some differences between the kind of painter’s galleries observed by Walser in the early 1900s and the one represented on the walls. The painting on the wall was mainly to express discontent.
On the other hand, the paints observed by Walser were merely to inform and educate people. The set stage design that amused Walser in his visit to Berlin at around 1907 was purposely to reflect on the message films. The similarity between the street art on the Berlin wall and the art observed by Wasler in the theatre is that they were both used to relay some important message. Following the first painting on the wall by Thierry Noir, other acclaimed and unknown practitioners followed suit (Christensen et al., 599). From this point henceforth, the Berlin wall became the meeting ended for graffiti writer. As the west side of the wall flourished with the paints, the east side was left bank. However, this changed after the Berlin Wall in 1989.
East Side Gallery and Berlin As Street Art Capital
Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the street art movement that was started on the west side of the wall continued to develop. The artists of the street art movement from the west marched into the eastern side where they turned the gray a region of the city into art districts. Spontaneous forms of artistic expressions filled the street. It was until 1990 that east side of the Berlin wall was painted. Artists from all corners of the globe celebrated reunification by painting the east side of the wall. (Christensen et al., 604), observes that this act was an expression of hopes for a brighter future. The paintings of the wall are considered as one of the largest open-air galleries globally. It is also the significant tourist attraction sites in Berlin.
Due to the murals on the Berlin wall, Berlin is considered as a street art capital. Bearing in mind that, graffiti is illegal in Berlin, it is a mystery how the city earned this title. The answer to this question lies in social and cultural contextualization. To begin with, street art and graffiti played a significant role in shaping the identity of Berlin. The murals on the Berlin wall must have played a critical role in influencing UNESCO to proclaim Berlin the City of Design in 2006 (Ferrell, Jeff 40). The street art, although considered illicit, attracts millions of tourists a year. Street art continues to practice not only in Berlin but in other parts of Germany and other regions of the world.
Although painters gallery was part of the early 1900s culture, it was until in the 1980s where this aspect was alleviated to higher levels. Robert Wisler’s might have accounted for street art; however, it was not as comprehensive as other literary works have covered it in recent times. At his time of writing his experience with the Berlin culture, street art had not developed as compared to the layers years in the 1980s. This is not to mean that the aspect of street art was not then during the period between 1907 and 1917. The only difference between these two periods is that one was dominated by graffiti while the other was dominated with public and private gallery like the ones used in stage set designing. For street artists and graffiti writers in 1980s, their focus was on reclaiming the public spaces. As a result, Berlin was full of versatile street art expressions. Berlin is now considered as a city that embraces street art. This aspect has made Berlin to attract a plethora of tourists from all over the world.
Chin, Daryl. “Berlin Metropolis.” PAJ 22.2 Berlin (May 2000): 132-37.
Christensen, Miyase, and Tindra Thor. “The reciprocal city: Performing Mediating solidarity space through street art and graffiti.” International Communication Gazette 79.6-7 (2017): 584-612. Berlin Street Art
Ferrell, Jeff. “Grafﬁti, street art and the dialectics of the city.” Graffiti and Street Art. Routledge, 2016. 43-54.
Harman, Mark. “Robert Walser: Writing on the Periphery” The Sewanee Review 116.1 (Winter 2008): 140-46.
Jackisch, Barry A. “The Nature of Berlin.” Central European History 47.2 (June 2014): 307-33.