While I was in Berlin, my group also took a street art and graffiti tour with Alternative Berlin.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I ended up finding it fascinating. Our tour guide was excellent, and she taught us about the history behind graffiti tags. Graffiti tags usually involve a person or group painting something on a building or wall that represents their name. It started in the United States with Cornbread. He had gotten into some trouble and ended up in juvenile detention. There he complained so much about the dry dinner rolls, saying he missed his grandmother’s cornbread, that his nickname eventually became Cornbread. Then, one day he began painting it all over the walls. No one could figure out if it was really him, or someone trying to frame him. He gained some notoriety and moved on to bigger stunts, including tagging an elephant in the Philadelphia Zoo. Now people all over the world use tagging their name as a way to gain respect and attention.
Our guide also pointed out various street art that we passed. The art ranged from sticker graffiti, to yarn bombing, to full-scale paste up art.
El Bocho (Spanish for little donkey) is one of Berlin’s most famous street artists. One of his very popular characters is Little Lucy. Originally, she was in a bland Soviet-era cartoon where she went on adventures with her cat. All that has now been flipped on its head by El Bocho, who depicts Little Lucy’s new adventures of trying to kill her cat in many creative ways.
Another character of El Bocho’s does not have an official name, but is called the Citizen or simply the Girl. She is in love with jthe city of Berlin. Originally the pasted up paintings are very colorful, but as time passes the color washes off and she turns grey and fades away. The symbolism is very powerful.
There was also a visiting street artist who had left some pictures behind. They were all approximately life-sized paste ups of people partying and dancing taken from public Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook profiles and surrounded by caution tape printed with “IT’S TIME TO DANCE”. I thought they were fun, even if they had an undercurrent of caution. It was also very interesting that a street artist would so directly take on social media as a topic, since that is how most works of street art get shared. You can see an album of some more of the works in Berlin here.
When we finished our tour, we got to go back to a workshop and make some spray paint graffiti art ourselves.
Without this tour I might have missed out on the rich culture of street art available in Berlin, and subsequently, some of what makes the city shine, plus it was a great time.