Emma Bailie

Graffiti is public and defiant exhibition of an artist's thoughts or opinions.It is often regarded as rebellious, considering vandalism is illegal in most places.The specific purpose of graffiti varies from place to place and from time to time. For example, modern American street art (source 3) derived from a high school boy in Philadelphia who painted his name "Cornbread" in various locations in order to get the attention of a girl. The publicity graffiti gets makes it worth the hassle of not being able to use all the studio materials, dealing with the weather and encounters with the police.

The Berlin Wall

August 13, 1961- November 1989

When a giant concrete wall was built down the center of a city, most people were so baffled they weren't quite sure what to do. There was now a physical division between two polar opposite economic principals and philosophies.
Berlin In The 20th Century
external image Occupied_Berlin.svg
Berlin faced a lot of turmoil in the early-mid 20th century. After World War II, the Allies divided Germany into 4 occupation zones with the Potsdam agreement (Sept 1944).Even though Berlin was located far into the Soviet occupation zone, it too was divided into four so that each zone had a bit of the capitol (source 4). The war had destroyed more than half of residential living space and 60% of work spaces. The Battle of Berlin was a Soviet attack on April 16, 1945 that was mostly responsible for this destruction. The population of Berlin had been increasing: in 1920 the population was 2.7 million in 1920 and 4.3 million in 1930 (source 4). However, after 1945 (post WWII), the population began to steadily decline. The end of World War II did bring in some eastern European immigrants (source 4). They were attempting to escape from Soviet influence and the lack of free enterprise behind the "iron curtain" (term coined by Winston Churchill to describe the strict division between eastern and western Europe: the divide between capitalism and communism).
The majority of the people living in Berlin at the time were young in the working class. Before and after the war, Berlin and the rest of Germany had relied of engineering and technology as a major economic source (source 4).This was also true for East Berlin, the zone controlled by the soviets, which came to be known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The Soviets ruled by military occupation (source 4). The social democrats, including Christian democrats and liberals, and the Communist party of Germany merged and became the called the Socialist Unity Party. The soviets made use of the old Nazi concentration camps by turning them into "special" camps (source 4).The people imprisoned in these prison camps included member of the Nazi party, suspected spies, and anti-soviet activists. Inmates were not allowed to have any contact with the outside world or even with fellow inmates (to prevent outbreak of fights) (source 6). Inmates who didn't even have shoes weren't aloud to ask their relatives to bring them winter clothes for the cold, snowy season. Around 160,000-260,000 people were detained and between 50,000-80,000 died due to starvation, diseases, and execution (source 6).Beginning with the Battle of Berlin, the Red Army continuously and systematically raped German women and girls (source 6).Berlin was made of virtually entirely women, so the soldiers had free reign. Mothers were raped in front of their daughter and visa versa (source 6). Some were sent to Siberia to Stalin's work camps. In these camps, women would be striped naked and paraded around for officers to see. The officers would choose favorites and offer them sex in exchange for lighter work (source 6). This was on top of the daily sexual abuse they faced. More than half of the 1000 women sent to this camp died in under 6 months. Many women committed suicide to avoid all of this, some killing their children before ending their own life (source 6).
West Germany became the Federal Republic of Germany. Mayor of West Berlin was Ernst Reuter, who had finally succeeded in being elected mayor after many failed attempts due to soviet opposition (the were now separated). 1948-1949 East Berlin placed a blockade around West Berlin demanding that they stop the use of Deutsche Mark, a new currency introduced by the allied powers (source 4). During this time, the United States air force, the Royal Air Force and others dropped supplies and goods into Berlin, up tp 8,893 tons a day. This act of comaradary is known as the Berlin Airlift.

Artists of the Berlin Wall
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Thierry Noir was the first person to ever paint colorful forms of rebellion against communism onto the Berlin Wall. He was French, and when he first moved to Berlin he lived with his fellow French painter Christophe Bochet. These two worked closely with each other. Together they created the Fast Form Manifesto, which was the a formula that consisted of 2 ideas and 3 colors (source 5). Voir was frustrated with people always asking him what his paintings were about after he had painted them, so he decided to attempt to make the message more clear and more concise. That way, he could reach a larger audience with his message. It's also important to note that art that consists of no text surmounts the language barrier that exists between people who don't speak the same language. In a city like Berlin, people who don't speak the same language live among each other without communicating, but pictures and symbols act as a type of universal language. (source 5)
This photo of him was taken by his wife Gabi. He is wearing clothes he found in bags on the streets (put out for recycling), because he had no money to buy his own clothing. Similarly, he and Bouchet had to collect house paint left over from local renovations that was left out. To survive, they sold canvases in restaurants. However, they only ever made enough money to barely scrape by.
(source 5)

“You can’t make the wall beautiful because it is a deadly border,” he says he constantly told people. “Even if you put thousands of kilos of colors on the wall, this wall will never be beautiful.”
(source 5)

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This is one if Noir's first paintings, one of the first pieces of art on the wall. He was inspired by American artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basqiuat (both from New York). He was also inspired by musicians from the "New Wave" which was a lot like 70's punk-rock, but often included synthesizers and sometimes drew inspiration from gothic rock. Noir was particularly fond of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Kreafrwerk, Led Zeppelin and Nina Hagen. Most American street artists were predominantly inspired by R&B music, but not all of them. (source 5)

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These purple creatures are supposed to represent dinosaurs, which considering their size to reptiles today, can be looked at as some sort of mutation that gave them the 'gigantic gene'. This, Noir said, was comparable to the "mutation" in culture and society at the time. For one, there is a giant wall going through the middle of a city, keeping everyone on the East side in and keeping everyone else out. Also, he was an artist, making a career (barely) out of painting a giant concrete wall. Something about this didn't seem right to Noir (source 5).

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This work is paying homage to Marcel Duchamp, a Dadaist artist. The dadaist movement first started in Switzerland in 1916 and then gained fame in New York in 1920. The major theme uniting dadaist artists is the rejection of logic and aestheticism associated with a capitalist society. Instead, they used sound poetry, collage, and sculpture irrationally and often it didn't have a clear purpose. It is ironic that he references this genre of art on the Berlin wall, economically West Berlin held opposite values than generally socialist dadaist artists. However, Voir is most likely playing more into the mockery side of it. Marcel Duchamp put a urinal in an art gallery to mock the up-tight art world that he had originally came from. Voir could have been taunting East Berlin, the whole concept of a giant wall running through the city, the boarder officers policing the wall, among many other ridiculous things that were going on at the time (source 5) .

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Voir dared to paint on the most dangerous part of the Berlin Wall: Checkpoint Charlie. It was heavily policed by Grepos, the boarder control officers. They would shout at Voir with bull horns, so he had only small pockets of time to complete his paintings. While he never saw anyone get shot, around 300 people were killed by these police officers (source 2). Besides artists painting the walls, Berliners showed their resistance by throwing trash over the wall and shouting "Scheiss The DDR [Deutsche Demokratische Republik]" (f-ck the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany).

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Voir and Bouchet decided to create these images in celebrating the 100th anniversary of France giving the US the statue of Liberty. They created a stencil in order to recreate 42 similar images at Checkpoint Charlie. The Statue of Liberty is on of the most universal signs of capitalism as well as natural rights of humans, two things East Berliners were deprived of. The gift from France to the United States is also a symbol of the solid and lasting relationship that the Allied Powers had, a contrast to the Central Powers who turned on and attacked each other.
When the fame American street painter Keith Haring came to visit Berlin, they prepared for him by painting over these statures with yellow paint. When Voir told Haring what had happened, Haring was extremely embarrassed and apologetic. Even though Voir said it wasn't a big deal, Haring said "In New York, you could get shot for something like that."

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As the wall was being knocked down, artists including Voir would jump through the holes and paint inside the two walls, an area known as the death strip (source 5).

Keith Haring faced a huge backlash against graffiti in the 1970 in New York. He was arrested several times and did spend some time in prison. (source 2). Haring was a strong advocate for blurring the lines between fine art and "low class" art and really challenging people's perception of both high and low art.

Image result for keith haring berlin wall
Image result for keith haring berlin wall

Haring too had troubles avoiding the police, jumping back every time it looked like they were going to arrest him. He was accused of painting the Berlin wall purely for the fame, but re retorted:
''The main objective here is that it is not an insignificant act that goes unnoticed. The entire world should know that it happened, reinforcing its political significance.'' (source 2)
His mural was centered around human form, as was most of his art work. He simplified the human figure to make it as expressive while still being extremely clear as possible. Today, his artwork can still be seen in merchandise of the Keith Haring Foundation which supports research and education to help fight AIDS, a disease Haring himself died of in 1990.
Jonathan Borofsky Running Man, 1982 Collection of the Artist
Jonathan Borofsky Running Man, 1982 Collection of the Artist

Jonathan Borofsky painted "The Running Man" with the figure clearly running after something, but that something is not depicted (this was common motif in many of his paintings). It was a metaphor for society and how it is constantly moving forward and progressing blindly. (source 1)

Ron English Two-Headed Donkey on the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall, c. 2011 Collection of the Artist
Ron English Two-Headed Donkey on the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall, c. 2011 Collection of the Artist

Ron English coined the term "POPaganda" to describe his depictions of mass culture using hybrid figures (source 1). In this painting he created near Checkpoint Charlie, he is calling attention to the close historical connection his home country, the United States, has with its neighbors just to the south: Mexico (source 1). Yet, both countries are too stubborn to admit it. The two mules facing either way, in an almost childish silent-standoff, and they refuse to acknowledge they are connected.

1. Jonathan Borofsky (American, born 1942)

2. When Keith Haring Graffitied The Berlin Wall Allison McNearney - http://www.thedailybeast.com/when-keith-haring-graffitied-the-berlin-wall

3. Saskia Melker - http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/the-history-of-american-graffiti-from-subway-car-to-gallery/

4. "Berlin." Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 1, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006, pp. 343-350. World History in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3447000117/WHIC?u=nysl_se_arli&xid=b07f7103. Accessed 7 June 2017.

5. Noir, Thierry. "Graffiti in the death strip: the Berlin wall's first street artist tells his story." The Gardian. N.p., 3 Apr. 2014. Web. 6 June 2017
6. Linda Schaitberger - http://www.revisionist.net/human-loot.html