empathy

Art That Haunts Buildings

This week berlin-artparasites is having its Urban Art: Graffiti Edition week, meaning that we will delve into the graffiti scene in Berlin to explore its depths, history and current activities. Urban art has become increasingly more and more recognized and admired in the conventional art scene. In fact, urban artwork has been taken up from the street and landed in galleries and more tame enclosures – artwork that was once illegal and banned by the police, is now being sold for expensive prices to collectors all over the world. Other artists, however, will face legal action and have their urban artwork reprimanded and banned for what could seem like their lifetime. 

But this type of art is far from vanishing from the streets. When we walk around Berlin, it’s easy to see here how active the street artists are: there is graffiti, stencil and stickers almost in every corner. They enjoy taking the city scenario as a canvas, but the job is not easy. They can still face angry einwohners (inhabitants) or even the police. Finding abandoned places is then a good option, because it’s where they can work for hours without being disturbed.

 

Abandoned Hospital

 

Abandoned Hospital

Inside the Kinderkrankenhaus, one of the abandoned places that attracts many street artists. 

Inhabited Art Gallery

I followed a group of three artists in what was to be a short adventure. They decided to explore the abandoned children’s hospital in Neukölln. The place is as creepy as it sounds: it’s hard to walk inside the buildings not imagining the cry of sick children or considering the possibility of encountering a ghost. After all, it was a place for death and suffering.  However it’s now the building itself that is sick: it’s taken by vegetation, burned, vandalized and full of garbage. Nevertheless, there is some colour in this haunted avenue: many of the walls exhibit impressive pieces of art.

After climbing a fence and passing by signs that warned us about security guards and cameras, the task was to explore the place and find as quickly as possible a virgin wall ready to be artistically taken. From the basement to the roof, it was hard to find a clean spot; many artists had already left their mark in this place. After almost one hour sneaking around, they finally found a suitable room. There were some porn magazines, empty bottles and a puddle of vomit in the floor, but nothing else but the walls mattered. It was time to start making art!

One of the artists took a wall to create colorful graffiti work. The other two decided to work together and paint, in black and white, the figure of an old drunk man sleeping on a street bench. I was impressed by their technique. It took only a couple of minutes to draw the sketch. Then, while one was giving volume to it, the other was focused on the details. It was then that I realized I wasn’t in an abandoned hospital anymore, but in a new kind of art gallery, watching talented artists in action.
 

Abandoned Hospital

During the search for a good spot, we had to be quiet in order to avoid being caught by security guards.

Abandoned Hospital

Traces of artists. Since it’s easy to get in, the place is quite popular.
 

Abandoned Hospital

Abandoned Hospital

Details of the artworks that can be found in the Abandoned Children’s Hospital.

Abandoned Hospital

Artists in action! 

I had my camera to register everything, but I had to respect the privacy that they demanded. Their almost anonymous work is there to be admired for those brave enough to face the risks of exploring the place. But maybe it won’t be for long. Works of street art are doomed to stay always current: they are only there until someone else decides the opposite. And that is what makes it so interesting, so refreshing… so alive!

 

 

Disclaimer: While these pieces are stunning, berlin-artparasites is simply portraying the artwork/graffiti scene in Berlin and not condoning the work of graffiti artists on public or private spaces.