Youth and Popular Culture

Illegal, But Brilliant: Germany's Street Art Blogs

A sprayer, who doesn't like to be identified, sprays an unauthorized graffiti on a wall in Berlin. (Photo: © picture-alliance, Wolfram Steinberg)

Whether you think of it as vandalism, great art, or something in between, everyone has got something to say about street art. Among these, of course, are graffiti artists themselves, who extended the public space into the online world so as to display and share their work with a growing fan base on blogs and websites.

The relationship between street art and blogs is a natural one, as both have arisen out of so-called subcultures, resist an increasing commercialization, and are perfectly suited to express personal and political opinions. An exceptionally good piece of graffiti may be hidden away under a bridge or behind a factory wall, just as a noteworthy blog may be equally hard to find.

The general ‘life expectancy’ of most German street art blogs tends to be low. Often they disappear just as quickly as they emerged on the scene. The reason for this odd trend is a German law that came into effect in 2005 and constitutes graffiti spraying as property damage, punishable with up to five years in prison. Although this circumstance added to the narrative of street art as an illegal depravity, it did not manage to remove this form of art from urban spaces. When posting their works online, authors of street art blogs tend to use pseudonyms to avoid prosecution. There are some German cities, where local authorities try to accommodate this art form by creating ‘legal zones’ and giving assignment works to local graffiti artists – the city of Dresden being one example. However, these alternative strategies aren’t always well received by local graffiti crews, who want to express their own idealism, identity and culture through graffiti spraying. “Graffiti is a social problem, because graffiti sprayers do not accept any rules apart from their own. Their biggest contradiction is the desire to be noticed by as many people as possible, while encrypting their messages at the same time”, says Hartmut Salzwedel, lecturer in sociology at the Technical University of Berlin.

Despite the constant evolution taking place within Germany’s street art blog scene, there are nevertheless blogs by graffiti crews and artists’ collectives that are here to stay, and inform readers about both German and international street art trends – one example being Graffiti-News. Blogs like Streetart Bremen post pictures of recent and particularly noteworthy graffiti, stickers and stencils, as well as interviews with leading artists.

“I love Graffiti”

screen shot „Ilovegraffiti.de“ One of the most professional graffiti blogs is I Love Graffiti, a magazine-style blog that is run by four of street art’s most dedicated advocates. Apart from up-to-date top-10 rankings of the most remarkable graffiti pieces, it also features separate blog entries written by various street art and graffiti artists. A handy search function makes browsing the image-rich site faster and easier. This blog is a must for those who seek a good overview and wide background knowledge of the all the latest trends.

“Graffiti-Blog”

screen shot „Graffiti-Blog.org“ Graffiti-Blog.org offers event information and news regarding graffiti. Even though the different monthly topics are clearly arranged in archive-tabs, the site’s search function leaves room for improvement. The vast amount of high-quality videos that show artists at work deserve a special commendation.

“Graffiti Osnabrück”

screen shot „Graffiti Osnabrück“ Regional blogs hold their own among the wide range of national and international blogs. Graffiti Osnabrück, as the name suggests, only focuses on graffiti and street art in and around Osnabrück. The site offers over 100 pictures of local graffiti, information regarding exhibitions, as well as legal and ‘illegal’ news. A particular highlight is the blog’s extensive photo link list.

“Freundeskreis Street-Art”

screen shot „Freundeskreis Street-Art“ The Berlin urban art blog Freundeskreis Street-Art Berlin is not only relevant to Berlin’s graffiti scene. It describes itself as the first German, non-mainstream, urban art blog. Not only will this blog keep you up-to-date with Berlin’s growing street art scene, but RSS feeds offer also round the clock news from Freundeskreis Street-Art Berlin’s counterparts, such as Reclaim Your City.

A Small Graffiti Glossary

Mural A medium or large scale painted art composition.
Outlines Outlines are primarily used for making thin lines for outlines and detail work. They exist in different forms, for example, German Outline, Skinny Banana or Gray Dot Super Skinny.
Paste/Postering Posters using paper that has either been painted, drawn, printed or digitally copied with wheat paste or wallpaper paste as the adhesive.
Piece A version of an elaborate tag with multiple colours incorporating – and often in addition to – character based images and artwork.
Sticker Using papers of vinyl stickers with adhesive on the back to stick on any given surfaces. Can be a tag, drawing, print or anything for the motif.
Stencil The artwork’s shape is cut out of thick paper, cardboard or thin plastic. Using spray paint, rollers or brush paint, the cut out area is filled with paint.
Tag The most basic form – a written name or image used to represent an individual or crew.
Throw-Up A more elaborate tag traditionally sprayed in “bubble lettering”, using one or two colours.
Ama Lorenz
is a Berlin based freelance journalist and author.

Translation: Sara Jabril
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
April 2013

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