We recently missed to report about this street art project hosted by the DEUTSCHE BAHN AG in Frankfurt/Main. The graffiti artists CASE of Maclaim Crew and DOES teamed up in summer 2016 to create a 6.600 m² painting inside the S-Train underground station Ostendstrasse. Supported by a team of selected assistants, they spent six weeks to paint the complete inside of the station. As the station were completely covered in graffiti before, there were a few challenges to take before painting. The walls had to be cleaned and buffed, this proved to be the first challenge: the tunnel system is not equipped to process large amounts of water and so a 1.5 ton compressor had to be moved inside to clean the tunnels with dry ice. After cleaning the walls, the tunnels had to be primed in one colour and for this more than 1.000 liters of coating were needed. If you look closely, you can see that the small tubes, boxes and wiring do not have a splash of color on them – pretty sure it was a big hassle to tape everything!
When the green base coat was applied, CASE and DOES started applying their designs onto the walls at a very high pace as delay was not an option. After another 2 pallets of paint and 6 weeks of hard work the tunnels were completely dipped in color. WCASE and DOES created an awe-inspiring work the spans every inch and corner, making missing any train a bit less frustrating at Ostendstrasse. A beautiful work!
Well, the second big challenge was, or is, to see how or if the local graffiti scene replies to this transformation of their former “hot spot”. Such a project realized by graffiti artists always works with a unwritten code. The artists have ties to the graffiti community, and the idea is that when graffiti writers come and see it’s the work of veteran or highly skilled artists, they know better than to tag out of respect. Recently, however, something out of place have appeared on the mural ⎯ RA and 1UP crew silver pieces that dot the elaborately painted images. It’s not the first signs of a battle in which street/mural art is a weapon for gentrification against graffiti, and graffiti is trying to launch its defense. This conflict is hard to fight, especially on such a location.
To most of the public, it’s easy to conflate graffiti and street art. Even in artistic circles, the two terms are used interchangeably, and refer to a fluid concept of literally and simply “art on the street”. Yet, however singular or cohesive the two may seem to the mainstream as a subculture, there are significant differences that separate the two. Graffiti predates street art and street art draws its inspiration from graffiti. Graffiti is word-based and its ‘writers’ are mostly self-taught. The art form emerged from inner city neighborhoods as a type of self-expression for urban youth. It’s egoistic because its “tags” are acts of personal branding by the writers. Graffiti is illegal, but it is precisely this illegal risk that gives it its counter-cultural edge. Street art, on the other hand, is often painted with permission or commissioned, like this one by CASE and DOES.
Coloured photo’s Stephan Polman
Video & Editing by Zane Meyer, Chopemdownfilms