empathy

Berlin Through the Eyes of a New Yorker

It is hard to miss, or even ignore, the heavy amount of Graffiti when you walk around the streets of Berlin. Under tunnels, in U-Bahn Tunnels, on S-Bahn trains, on buildings – wherever you turn it is on buildings, walls, public transport. It is like a disease that has spread across the city since the 80s. We recently met one of the pioneers of the graffiti scene hailing from New York where graffiti started.  This time,  however, he is visiting Germany and so we met in Friedrichshain for a quick chat about what makes Berlin’s graffiti so special and what event he is visiting Berlin for!

BAPS: So, tell us who you are and where you come from?

Wane: My graffiti name is Wane. Sometimes I also paint Knows. I am 42 years old and I am from the North Bronx, New York.

BAPS: When did you start painting graffiti?

Wane: I started in 1983. From my window I could see the Elevator Trains, similar to what you guys have in Kreuzberg. I was fascinated by all the graffiti, the styles and the different names. So I choose a name and started playing the game. First, I was sketching different names for a whole year until I painted my first train in 1984. It was incredible, since that moment I’m addicted to graffiti.

BAPS: What brings you to Berlin?

Wane: On the 28th of July is the Yard 5 Jam at the Yaam, where I am invited to paint. I am also here because over the years I have made lot friends in this city and I just love Berlin, it has always been an exciting place to be.

BAPS: what makes it so special in your eyes?

Wane: Berlin today is like New York in the 80s. It is a city with attitude, no other city in Germany has that attitude. People here dress how they want and do what they want. 

BAPS: When you take a look at the graffiti pieces and tags, how would you rate Berlin?

Wane: It is the best graffiti scene in the world right now! The streets a flooded with bombings and tags it takes time to notice every single one, because there is just so much. When you jump on the train and look out of the window, you see piece after piece.  The competition in the city is harder than in other cities.

BAPS: How is the competition harder here?

Wane: Well, because there is so many people doing, street art and graffiti it is not easy to stand out and that what makes Berlin the best scene in the world. Son in order to stand out in Berlin you either have to do a lot, and I mean a lot, paint at very special place or just be better than the rest. That is why in Berlin you will find a variety of different styles.

BAPS: The word on the street is that Berlin graffiti writers developed the early New York style..

Wane: True, but that is the old school generation. They had a style that was strong founded and resembled the New York style. It is a style where the letters are sharp and wild, but not too difficult to read. Today, you still see that base in many graffiti works but the younger generation of graffiti writers in Berlin have also developed their own style.

BAPS:  A lot of graffiti writers now take it to the next level and appear in galleries. Is that something you are interested in?

Wane: I feel  a canvas limits my abilities to express myself, but I know there is writers who take it to the next level and earn money with their stuff.

BAPS: Do you make money with graffiti?

Wane:  Rarely. People fly me out to paint at Jams and Festivals. I appear in Universities as a Lecturer to make a few bucks but to be honest it will never make me rich. I’m just in for the fun these days.