Berlin is famous for its street art. Everywhere you go, you see graffiti and other forms of art painted into the walls of buildings. They are an expression of pain or hope of a better life to come. Before I came to Berlin, my cousin Sonja, who had visited the city three years ago, told me about the free alternative art tour. Much of my visit here in Germany has been spent on visiting cathedrals and old city centers that date back to the medieval times. However, when I came to Berlin, I decided I wanted to see different things.
Berlin is a very expressive city. It’s fascinating, colorful, yet dark. Much of the street art expresses the despair many people feel.
Beside the dancing ladies, you will see an animated little girl. That is Little Lucy. Little Lucy was a animated show produced in the Czech Republic during the communist bloc. Little Lucy chronicled Lucy’s adventures with her cat, called Kitty. Of course, this show carried messages that were pro-communist.
Our tour guide — a 20-something English woman — explained that an artist from Frankfurt, disgruntled by the communist messages in Little Lucy, recreated the show in which Lucy gets revenge on Kitty. In the image above, Lucy is wearing mittens. Those mittens are made from Kitty. Our tour guide gave us several examples of how Lucy got medieval on Kitty. All examples were downright gruesome. I don’t remember most of them, but I do remember one: In one episode of the re-created Little Lucy show, Lucy ties Kitty up and uses Kitty as a swing.
Our tour guide told us about how one woman from New Zealand was so choked by these stories, when she returned to New Zealand, she created her own street art where Kitty gets revenge on Lucy.
In the past, I’ve heard of stories of how Eastern Germany still relies on Russia to provide for them. I never knew what that looked like until I went to Berlin. Many Berliners continue to live in the past. The wall was torn down twenty-six years ago and the people of Berlin united, but I got the feeling that the wall was never truly demolished. Many people in that city continue to live, wanting to believe that the Soviet Union still exists, unable to adopt the individualistic and fast-paced culture of the West.
Yet, on the other hand, there are many other people who loath the communist system as portrayed in the example of Lucy gets Revenge on Kitty.
I’m not sure exactly what message the artist was trying to express in this painting in the image above. However, when I see the wall in the painting, stretching for miles, I get the strong feeling the message has to do with the Berlin wall and the west’s struggle with the communist east. The tiny person, resembling a goose, reminds me of the story of David and Goliath: the tiny person dares to fight the giant tiger.
So many people had been shot to death when they tried to sneak over or under the wall into West Germany. It could be that this tiny person symbolized all those brave souls who attempted to escape East Berlin during the communist bloc. This painting also makes me think of one short story the tour guide of the free history walking tour had told us: One family attempted to smuggle their young child into Western Germany. In order to get the child past the wall without being caught, the parents hid the child in a box. The child made it without being caught, but sadly that child did not survive. He/she suffocated inside the box.
While some art carried subliminal anti-communist messages, other art as displayed in the images below, was the outlet of people who were disgruntled with life in general.
Not every piece of art expressed the despair and angst some of these artists felt and continue to feel. There were a few pieces of street art that express hope, fun and togetherness.
The image above shows dancing ladies. This is actually a series of art called The Dancing Girls. According to our tour guide, the artist of ‘The Dancing Girls’, inspired by the more positive things in life, will randomly take pictures of women dancing on the street (or in clubs). He will then ask for their permission to post their image on the city walls for everyone to see. Apparently he has created the ‘Dancing Men’.
‘The Dancing Girls/Men’ express the brighter side of Berlin, where people come together, let loose and have fun. Our tour guide explained that the great thing about this artist was that he did not just take photos of thin women; he used the images of women (and men) of various sizes in his street art.