Urban Street Art: Berlin


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Extreme Sports are no doubt increasing in global reach and popularity – year on year festivals celebrating Action Sports seem to expand in size and frequency. Such events are surrounded by Visual and Design Culture that play an important role in feeding the Lifestyle Industry. Graffiti and Street Art, the growth of which is usually associated with underground and skateboarding culture, though once simply dismissed as ‘antisocial behaviour,’ are these days much more likely to be considered legitimate forms of art. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t threatened; the organic development of such subcultures still manages to rile certain groups, particularly where spaces showing Graffiti or Street Art aren’t officially designated by a public authority. Take the ‘undercroft’ skatepark under London’s Southbank Centre as an example – here is a site where the collision of Skateboarding and Graffiti makes for a massively exciting attraction, yet just this year the skatepark has been under threat from  the Centre’s managers who want to redevelop the area for retail purposes.

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(The Undercroft at London’s Southbank Centre – Picture: Nigel Howard)

As of September 2013 however, these plans have received a setback. Thanks to campaigners, the site is – for the moment at least – recognised as having wider urban community value. Hopefully this argument will stand up against criticism for some time – this spot may not offer financial revenue, but it certainly enhances and enriches the atmosphere of the Southbank, much more than yet another vanilla coffee shop would likely do.

Though always likely to be a contentious issue, Graffiti and Street Art are still argued to have the potential to positively regenerate urban areas. In May this year, skateboarding fanatics and Street Artists –  Mexican ‘Curiot’   and German duo ‘Low Bros’   – demonstrated the potential and awesomeness of Street Art when they collaboratively painted an enormous mural at FIT Freie International Tankstelle in Berlin.

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Though the artists usually work independently, the mural successfully unites their respective styles. Curiot’s own huge paintings combine bold animal and human figures with mask-like heads and miniscule people alongside them and take elements from images and shapes in ancient Mexican culture. Those of Low Bros are similarly large scale and show animals made from painted geometric shapes, objects and buildings.

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The FIT scheme reclaims and regenerates abandoned gas stations globally to bring art to new audiences and to challenge ideas of what counts as art – an ideal place to support a Street Art project. The FIT website states: ‘FIT – Freie Internationale Tankstelle – has stood for art that is relevant to society […]The mission of FIT is to reclaim the abandoned architecture of filling stations and to rebrand their original function as sources of fossil fuel […] It is the mission of FIT to be all inclusive in its commitment to exploring the full spectrum of human and societal creativity, including those expressions not commonly valued by society.’ This short film from Editude Pictures captures perfectly the process of the project:

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