Sunday, 18 January 2015

Gold Watch Blues

BLU is the pseudonym of an Italian artist who paints wonderful wall murals across Europe and in the Americas. He painted a couple in Berlin on the sides of abandoned buildings across the wasteland of the corner of Schlesische Straße and Cuvrystraße back in 2007/08.

The one on the left seemed to show a business-man shackled by his gold watches, hence the tile of this post referring to the Donovan song:


The one on the right showed two figures seeming to be struggling to remove each other's gimp masks, one making the 'W' gesture for West Berlin, the other a three-fingered 'E' for East Berlin:


Sadly they are no more; they have now been painted over in black.

Unlike the Banksy murals that keep getting painted over by over-enthusiastic local UK Councils, these murals were erased mid-December 2014 at the instigation of the artist BLU himself. In a good example of someone throwing their toys out of the pram, he ordered his team to erase them. His reason seems to be because the area around here on the banks of the Spree is being bought up by property developers who are gradually erecting expensive, prestige apartment blocks. BLU did not want his murals to be used as a selling point for the window-view of apartments for yuppies and Russian capitalist émigrés. No way!

Well, that is a great shame. I used to look forward to watching out for these murals on the S-Bahn from the airport, and they always made me feel excited that I was almost back in Berlin. Perhaps it is not the same Berlin any more.

BLU as the artist has every right to destroy his own creations, and I do admire his sentiment for wanting to retain a bit of the 'arm, aber geil' bohemianism of Berlin after the downfall of The Wall, if not his hissy-fit way of doing it. And after all, graffiti art is by its nature supposed to be ephemeral, not something that is hung on the walls of art galleries for centuries.

But still, I feel that bit by bit the Berlin that attracted us here is gradually disappearing. Such though is the march of time, and bit by bit Berlin is also getting better in other areas too. Things change. Accept it. Embrace it. Be part of the change yourself. Just don't get stuck in a Rolling Stones vibe about it. (aside: anyone else been in the S2 carriage that someone has painted entirely black on one side, windows and all, with the words 'I see my red door and must have it painted black' ? Or was that just a dream?)

Anyway, the act is done now and there is no turning back the clock, even if Berlin City Council thought they could do that by spending millions getting the East-Side Gallery repainted.

This is what the murals look like today on a cold Winter's afternoon:


I like how BLU's team has carefully painted around the tags of the other graffiti artists! Respect in that at least!

Friday, 16 January 2015

A Fox at the Berliner Botanischer Garten

Berlin has plenty of green spaces within its boundaries, but Nature never fails to surprise me when I suddenly come across a wild animal in the heart of the city.

Today we spotted a fox in the Berlin Botanical Garden, and watched entranced as it stalked its prey, did a three-foot leap into the air, and pounced on something that was quickly gobbled down. Amazingly, I had my camera in my hand and managed to catch the fox immediately before she pounced:


Thursday, 1 January 2015