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Berlin slated to lose two graffiti masterpieces
08:33 am




Anyone who works in the medium of graffiti can’t be too enamored of the possibility of permanence for his or her work. The destruction or evanescence of the works is kind of built in, whether the antagonist is the cops, the weather, or rapacious developers. But as graffiti becomes a more accepted part of the art world, the hopes for longer durations rises. A year ago, in October 2013, the incredible exterior of the legendary 5 Pointz space in Long Island City in Queens, New York, was painted over in stark white, a sobering reminder that the exigencies of commerce will generally trump a technically illegal grassroots art movement.

It looks like something of the sort will happen to the remarkable murals of the Italian street artist Blu in Berlin—murals that Artnet earlier this year named one of the five most important murals in the city. The Blu murals are located on Curvystraße, in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, and were painted in 2007 and 2008. One mural shows the torso of a man straightening his tie and wearing gold watches on both wrists which are connected by a chain. The second one shows two figures trying to unmask each other, with the one holding his fingers into a W (for West) and the other into an E (East).

Graffiti art has a special status in Berlin. Since 1989 the city has been defined by squatter culture, after the unused living spaces of the then-squalid Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg neighborhoods in East Berlin were occupied by young people—that tone has come to define the famously “poor but sexy” world capital. I visited the city in the summer of 2013, and the preponderance of graffiti was a little bit mind-blowing, it’s clearly semi-legal there and a source of scruffy, anti-establishment local pride. I was strolling in Kreuzberg when I happened upon a tour group that was on the theme of urban art and local left-wing activism—you’d be hard-pressed to find such a tour in New York City, let me tell you. I followed the group for the second half of the tour, and in fact the guide showed us the number three entry on Artnet’s list, the “Cosmonaut Mural” by Victor Ash on Mariannenstrasse.

It was reported last week that real estate investor Artur Süsskind and the architectural firm Langhof plan to tear down the buildings and replace them with 250 apartments, a kindergarten, a supermarket, and an open air terrace facing the Spree River. Not to be deterred, Berliner Jascha Herr has launched an online petition calling for the artworks to be protected under Germany’s monument protection statute. As Herr writes, “The city of Berlin loves to promote its alternative scene—and more precisely the cultural value of its artists—but it simultaneously discards them. It is simply about selling to investors who only see personal profit in the alternative landmarks of the city. But the cultural identity of the city belongs to all of us.” Unfortunately, it would be unprecedented for the landmark protections to be extended to artworks as young as seven years old.


Two nifty time-lapse videos documenting the creation of the two murals after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Evocative photos from 1980s Berlin

Slesische Strasse October 1982. Near the corner with Cuvrystrasse.
A photographer named Chris John Dewitt has set up a fantastic Tumblr consisting almost entirely of pictures of various places. During the 1980s he took many, many photographs of East Berlin and West Berlin, and they are utterly fascinating. Sometimes he has photos of the same place both pre- and post-1989. We’ve got a generous selection of them here, but really, there are tons more over at his Tumblr.

As for context-setting, I’ll leave that to Dewitt himself:

A trip to the East was another step into the time-machine. The politics of the 1940s and 50s shaped everything around. Most crossing points were much like something out of an old movie, even up to the end in 1989. Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous of course, as it was the only street crossing point for foreigners, and it was built up into a full-scale border control shed in the final years, with jolly ‘Welcome to the DDR’ signs on it. The other, less well-known crossing points remained mostly the dreary forbidding places they were from the beginning. Each border-crossing was intended for particular people. Chausseestrasse, Invalidenstrasse, and Oberbaumbrücke were for West Berliners only.


When I got there I began taking pictures, but was very quickly stopped by two young policemen. It took some while to work out what it was I shouldn’t have been photographing. It wasn’t the site of the Reich Chancellery, they replied to my questions, or even the wall. It was because in the distance, poking up from the other side of the wall, the Reichstag building could be seen. One mustn’t photograph buildings on the other side of the wall they said. The fact that I could go there on the Western side and take as many pictures of it as I liked made no difference. That was the rule which I must obey whilst on DDR soil.

Here are some of the pics, in roughly chronological order, with Dewitt’s captions:
The Berlin Wall at Wilhelmstraße 1980
The view from the platform at the end of Bernauer Straße in 1980.
Another Sunday, another protest. March 1981.
Protest march on the Ku’damm 1982.
The Berlin Wall. A viewing platform built by the West to allow West Berliners and tourists to look over into East Berlin.
Looking over the Berlin Wall from the viewing stand on Harzer Straße Treptow. 1982.
The East Berlin authorities were taking no chances with this building being so close to the wall. All the windows are barred, and a guard tower sits a few meters away, to prevent any escapes to the West. 1982.
More after the jump…

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Gorgeous color film footage of turn of the century Berlin
01:11 pm



Absolutely stunning. The footage below is primarily of Berlin around 1900, though it contains a bit of Munich and some shots from 1914, as well. Around the turn of the century, Berlin was experiencing a population boom, mainly due to migration. Massive, rapid industrialization created the beehive of activity you see below, which inspired Mark Twain to call Berlin, “the Chicago of Europe.”

There’s an amazing array of life seen in such a short clip, from political and military pomp and circumstance to children playing to men drinking beer. Beyond the hustle and bustle and beautiful architecture, it’s the fascination of the subjects with the camera that really drew me in. Their curiosity gives the film a very intimate view of life at the time.

Via The Wall Breakers

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Oops! Google Maps brings back ‘Adolf Hitler Square’ in Berlin for a few hours
09:25 am


Google Maps

Adolf-Hitler-Platz, Google
For a few hours on Thursday, the address “Theodor-Heuss-Platz” in western Berlin reverted to its name during the Third Reich—“Adolf-Hitler-Platz”—at least on Google, anyway.

As is often the case in Europe—think of Leningrad/St. Petersburg—the names of places are themselves a kind of condensed history of the twentieth century. Such is the case with Theodor-Heuss-Platz. From its construction in the early 1900s to 1933, the square was called “Reichskanzlerplatz,” or “Imperial Chancellor Square.” From 1933 until 1945 (BZ, the paper that uncovered Google’s goof, says 1947) it was named after Der Führer. After the war (whether 1945 or 1947) it reverted to Reichskanzlerplatz. Then in 1963 the square was named after Theodor Heuss, who was the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany after World War II, from 1949 to 1959. (The position of President is largely a ceremonial one in Germany; the current President is not Angela Merkel—she’s the Chancellor—but rather Joachim Gauck.)
Adolf-Hitler-Platz, Berlin
According to BZ, a spokesman at Google apologized and said that they would look into why this change occurred. So far, they don’t know why it happened. When I first read about this, my first thought was that they had somehow permitted data from an old-timey map to get through—which just goes to show how naive I am. BZ points out that Google Maps permits certain changes from users, to account for short-term construction or changes in traffic. It takes only one disgruntled neo-Nazi to make a change like that.

BZ also points out that Google Maps has a pretty good record in terms of dealing with historical place names. For instance, if you put “Karl-Marx-Stadt,” Google Maps instantly directs you to Chemnitz, as the East German city was known before 1953 and after 1990.

Here is how the square looked during the Third Reich and how it looks today:
Adolf-Hiter-Platz, Berlin
Note: “im Flaggenschmuck” means something like “In flag mode” or “Done up in flags.”
Theodor-Heuss-Platz, Berlin
via Spiegel Online

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Is Berlin going to name a street after Edward Snowden?
10:32 am


Edward Snowden

Snowden Strasse
In early July, a citizen of Berlin named Jörg Janzer went to the trouble to “rename” Schwedter Strasse and Kastanienallee, respectively, “Snowden Street” and “Snowden Alley.” He did this simply by pasting his own printed versions of the street names over the street signs at that intersection. His intention was to protest the mistreatment of Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who in May of this year was obliged to leave the United States after having instigated several leaks about the full extent of the NSA’s PRISM program of Internet data acquisition. In the United States, Snowden is officially a wanted criminal; many people around the world (as well as a good many people in the U.S.) don’t see it the same way.

The crazy thing is, Janzer’s action may result in an actual Berlin street getting its name changed to “Snowden Strasse.” If Berlin ends up doing this, one suspects it won’t be the last city to do this.

Janzer was identified in the Berliner Kurier as a “Spaß-Guerilla,” which translates to something like “Prank-Guerrilla”—like Abbie Hoffman or Banksy. The police removed the sign before even a day had passed.
Snowden Street
The gesture by Janzer has sparked a legislative initiative to give Berlin’s Behrenstrasse between Wilhelmstrasse and Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse, which corresponds exactly to the block where the United States Embassy is, the name Edward Snowden Strasse. Given the vagaries of high-stakes geopolitics, it’s difficult to imagine any municipality in Germany snubbing the United States to that extent, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. However, just as New York or Los Angeles isn’t under the personal control of Barack Obama, it’s possible that Berlin can do what it wants. We’ll have to wait and see.
The purple line is the section of street that would be renamed “Snowden Street” if the measure passes. On the map, the U.S. Embassy is the area above it.
Here’s a video Janzer shot of his nighttime provocation. At the end of the video he says a few words—what he’s saying is: “This is most likely the first ‘Snowden Street’ and ‘Snowden Alley’ in the world. This should serve as an inspiration to do this anywhere in the world as an expression of protest against the fact that we are bugged so mercilessly and that Snowden is being punished because he revealed it to us.”

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Berlin’s Ampelmännchen, symbol of ‘Ostalgie,’ is objectively superior to the competition
08:52 am



In Berlin, the little illuminated red and green fellows who signal the all-clear for pedestrians are a beloved and fiercely protected symbol of the city. The Ampelmännchen (little traffic light man) and his iconic two-dimensional graphic pantomime is one of the few remnants of the former German Democratic Republic that has not only been tolerated since 1989 but has risen to near-universal acceptance—even love.

Perhaps the closest American analogue is “Rich Uncle Pennybags,” otherwise known as the Monopoly Man. From a political perspective, it’s difficult to argue that East Berlin’s more humble everyman, with his stocky gait and functional fedora, isn’t a preferable symbol than the moustachio’d plutocrat—who after all has been known to commit transgressions serious enough to land himself in the clink.

The Ampelmännchen was invented by Karl Peglau, a “traffic psychologist” who sought to create a visual icon that would be appealing and comprehensible to young and elderly Germans alike. For many years East Germany had its Ampelmännchen, while West Germany made do with a sleeker, more generic homunculus. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a lot of West German practices in signage and so forth, many of them endorsed by the EU, began to replace the old East German ways—and even the Ampelmännchen was threatened. The East Germans responded with a fierce public outcry to save the little dude, the force of which in 2005 even led to the adoption of the Ampelmännchen in West Berlin as well.

The widepsread impulse to save the Ampelmännchen became a primary exemplar of Ostalgie, a German portmanteau word combining the words for “nostalgia” and “East.” Another prominent example of Ostalgie is Wolfgang Becker’s engaging and internationally successful 2003 movie Good Bye Lenin!, which focused on the herculean efforts of a young man to create a kind of Potemkin GDR within the confines of the bedroom of his mother, recently awoken from a coma and therefore entirely unaware of the transformations of 1989.

As we move inexorably further from 1989, the Ampelmännchen’s political edge tends to dissipate, as his inherent distinctiveness and cuteness move to the foreground. Commenting on the “comeback” of the Ampelmännchen in 1997, its creator Peglau rather high-mindedly noted, “It is presumably their special, almost indescribable aura of human snugness and warmth, when humans are comfortably touched by this traffic symbol figure and find a piece of honest historical identification, giving the Ampelmännchen the right to represent a positive aspect of a failed social order.”

The latest news is that the Ampelmännchen offers not only cozy feelings of nostalgia—it also boasts superior design, in a purely objective sense. Psychologist Claudia Peschke and her team at Jacobs University in the German city of Bremen recently conducted tests involving both the Ampelmännchen and the traditional, more anodyne figure seen in the rest of Europe, including versions with the “wrong” color imposed. It turns out that people respond more to the shape, or function, of the symbol than they do to the color, and it also emerged that the Ampelmännchen outperformed the regular, svelte figure in terms of identifying whether it’s time to walk or stand still.

As noted, the Ampelmännchen’s status as a beloved totem of nostalgia has also (paradoxically) meant big business, as this nearly wordless video featuring some of the industrial production shows:

As with any good icon, there are few contexts in which it looks truly out of place. As proof, we offer this reworking of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in which the Ampelmännchen and his politically correct counterpart, “Ampelfrau” (introduced in 2004), both do that galloping thing that swept the globe last year.
“Berlin Ampel Style”:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
People losing their shit on New Year’s Eve in Berlin
12:01 pm


New Year's Eve

There are some folks who like to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and then there are some folks who really fuckin’ like to celebrate New Year’s Eve. This video captures some of those latter types in action.

Remind me to never be caught in Berlin on December 31st.

Via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Sig Waller: ‘Our capacity for cruelty and suffering is timeless, as is our ability to look away’

Parlour Games is a series of stunning pen drawings by artist Sig Waller.

‘The drawings are based on some sixteenth century engravings called Theatrum Crudelitatum (Theater of Cruelty),’ Waller tells Dangerous Minds.

‘I’ve appropriated some of the imagery and drawn directly onto antimacassars and napkins. These cloths are generally used to wipe away and protect from grease and dirt and in this sense the series is about denial (personal or societal). Our capacity for cruelty and suffering is timeless, as is our ability to look away.

Waller studied Fine Art & Art History at London’s Goldsmiths College, before moving to Berlin, where she started her career as an artist under the alias Sig Waller’s paintings explore “the dark borders of our culture of excess, drawing attention to human destructiveness, human frailty and the delicate balance of life on Earth.”

Now based in Berlin and Brighton, Sig is planning her next artistic collaboration with her dead grandmother (using some of her sewing) and writing a book The Day the Women Stopped Listening.

See more of Parlour Games and Sig Waller’s brilliant work here.
More of Sig’s superb ‘Parlour Games’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Peaches’ free ‘Free Pussy Riot’ track & video

When it comes to feminist-punk, there’s none more femme, nor punk, than the mighty Peaches.

So it’s no real surprise to learn that Peaches has been following the Pussy Riot trial closely, and has turned her hand to making both a video and a track in support of the persecuted Russian rock group.

A YouTube casting call went out last week, asking for fans to send in their own, pro-Pussy Riot footage to be included in the video. Well it is now done and dusted, and available to watch online. The track itself, called “Free Pussy Riot”, is available as a free download, and all Peaches is asking in return for her work is that everyone sign the Free Pussy Riot petition at

This is the statement Peaches and friends have made to go with the download:

Peaches, Simonne Jones, and tons of musicians, artists, activists, and free-thinkers are came together to make a video for this song in support of the russian punk feminist band PUSSY RIOT! Now that you have heard about the song and video, we want you to take action! Here is why:

In March 2012 three members of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevitch, were taken into custody by Russian authorities for their participation as part of a protest at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. Their punk prayer is and was an act of free speech and the charges of “hooliganism” and detainment of the three women are seen by the world as a cruel heavy handed act of oppression, are being carried out to discourage free thought and speech in Russia.

If Russia wishes to be a part of the modern globalized world it must adhere to the standards and principles of a free nation where its people have the right to have a free and open dialogue about all subjects. Discussion, debate, and action are the basic building blocks of a free society. By following through with the prosecution of these women Russian political bullies are currently making a mockery of free speech, free thought, and Russia’s own country’s constitution.

We, the citizens of the world and advocates for free speech, DEMAND the immediate release of Pussy Riot. The verdict is planned for August 17th - let’s show Pussy Riot our support!

The charges and punishments facing Maria, Nadezhda, and Ekaterina are nothing more than a political stunt by the Russian authorities and Russian Orthodox Chruch to retain control over the Russian people and instill fear into the free-thinkers, political activists, and artists of Russia.

The world is watching, and we do not like what we see.

I do, however, like what I see here:
Peaches “Free Pussy Riot!”

And here is the track itself:

   Free Pussy Riot by Peaches Rocks
You can sign the Free Pussy Riot petition at:

Donations are also accepted at:


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Ana Lola Roman: Even Assassins Have Lovers and Romances

A is for Ana

Ah wanna tell ya ‘bout a girl…

Ana Lola Roman is a singer, a musician, a dancer, a choreographer, a curator, a writer. She’s talented and beautiful, funny and smart. Has the looks of a silent movie star, a Louise Brooks in a Pabst film, with a hint of Audrey Hepburn, via Maria Callas and and Frida Kahlo. 

An only child born in the early 1980s into a large Spanish family, that had emigrated to America, “during the whole Iranian Revolution Post-Oil Boom Era” in the late 1970s. The first 5 years were spent in a ghetto of Del City, on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. The family worked hard, worked harder, until they settled into a middle class suburb of OKC.

Her home life was European by nature, American by inclination. A heady mix of European sophistication and American pop, which informed her musical influences.

‘I’d have to say my first influences were a heaping helping of various flamenco singers listened to while in the back of my Grandmother’s Cadillac. It was a weird mix of environments and influences. Gracia Montes and Lola Flores…well, these women had soul, heartache, moxie, and power.

‘Mixed with that and the impending sensations of early MTV. I fell in love with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” video when I was only 5 years old, developed a keen fascination with Numan’s “Cars”, and felt delightfully inappropriate when I witnessed Billy Idol’s curved lip.

‘I was only 5 years old when these things happened to me. And I knew right then that I wasn’t going to last long where I was. I was going to be restless for the rest of my life and end up somewhere as crazy as New York or Berlin.’

‘Then of course being 10 years old and seeing Siouxsie….that’s when everything fell apart and got worse, then I felt bitten by the vampire when Joy Division came along. That was the end of the road for my Oklahoma Journey.’

More from Ana Lola Roman, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Dinosaur Graveyard of East Berlin

It wasn’t an asteroid but the fall of the Berlin Wall that wiped out this amusement park and its life-size dinosaurs in 1989. The Kulturpark Plänterwald was the only theme park in the German Democratic Republic, and once the wall was gone, the park soon sadly followed, eventually closing its doors (after a brief revival) in 2002.

More dino-carnage can be seen here.
Via Kuriositas
More abandoned dinosaurs, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Michael Caine: Behind the scenes of ‘Funeral in Berlin’

I always preferred Len Deighton’s anonymous spy to Ian Fleming’s James Bond. There was something too glib and unexciting about Bond, like Superman you knew he could never be defeated, which made it all rather pointless. Whereas Deighton’s spy was fallible, awkward, funny and quite often messed things up.

When it came to the films, it was a more difficult choice. Sean Connery made Bond his own, and has never been equalled. But Michael Caine was equally successful with his interpretation of the Deighton’s insubordinate spy (now named) Harry Palmer in a trilogy of brilliant spy films. Of course, he later nearly blew it all by making two sub-standard Palmer films in the 1990s, the less said about which the better.

Here is Michael Caine with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the second Palmer movie, Funeral in Berlin. The quality of this video is not brilliant, and yes, it does have an irritating text written over it, but there is enough fascinating things going on to make Man on the Wall very watchable.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

The true story behind ‘The Mackintosh Man’


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, from 1927
10:06 am


Walter Ruttmann

Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City is a beautiful portrait of a day-in-the-life of the German capital. Made in 1927, the film is perhaps too beautiful, its carefully composed images present a story of the city’s aesthetics, rather a biography of its inhabitants.

Based on an idea by Carl Meyer, who withdrew from the production after disagreements with Ruttmann’s “superficial” stylized approach to depicting life in the city. Ruttmann saw the project as a “symphonic film [made] out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city”.

It took over a year to film, with cinematographers Relmar Kuntze, Robert Baberske and Laszlo Shaffer, hiding their cameras in suitcases and vans to achieve an incredibly naturalistic effect. The camera is passive, like Isherwood’s Herr Issyvoo, observing with little comment, creating any sense of drama through use of editing and montage, a style inspired by Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov.

Eighty-four years on from its release, Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City is still a beautiful and compelling film, which captured Berlin in its last days before the horrors of Nazism.

Unfortunately, the original score to accompany the film has been lost, so choose your own soundtrack to create your own mini-cinematic experience.

With thanks to Stefan Arngrim

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
High Noon on Friedrichstrasse: The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

Let’s start with the painting, for that was the sign something ominous was about to begin.

In East Germany during the Cold War, you didn’t join the Stasi, the Stasi asked you to join them. This is what 19-year-old Hagen Koch discovered when the Stasi approached him and said, “We need you to help secure our country’s peace.” 

Koch arrived in Berlin on April 5th 1960, to a city without a wall, without barbed wire, without division. He had been chosen for a specific job and was soon promoted to Head of Cartography.

It was a warm day in August 1960, when Stasi Private Hagen Koch arrived at Checkpoint Charlie and started painting a white line. No one took much notice, which was understandable, only in the following days would the enormity of Koch’s actions become apparent. For unknown to Berliners and the West, Koch was marking the ground for the building of the Berlin Wall.

Years later, Koch said the Wall was not against the West but “against the population of East Germany.”

It was also the first sign that East Germany’s so-called “Workers’ and Peasants’ Socialist Heaven” had failed, and marked the start of the slow and difficult demise of Soviet bloc Communism. 

Further, the creation of the Berlin Wall led to a standoff between Russia and America that nearly caused World War Three.

How the Berlin Wall nearly led to War and how holidays brought it down, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Alan Cumming tells the story of ‘The Real Cabaret’

In The Real Cabaret, actor, Alan Cumming goes in search of the people and places that inspired Christopher Isherwood’s novel, Goodbye to Berlin and the muscial Cabaret.

Starting with Isherwood’s arrival in Berlin in 1930, and taking in a visit to his original apartment (immortalized in the opening paragraph of Isherwood’s novel), Cumming takes the viewer through the sex clubs and cabarets, to the performers, and writers who turned the Berlin stories into a multi-award winning musical. With contributions from Liza Minelli, and Ute Lemper.

Alan explores the origins of the Cabaret story in the writings of Christopher Isherwood and uncovers the story of the real life Sally Bowles, a woman very different from her fictional counterpart.

He talks to the composer of Cabaret about the inspiration for the film’s most famous songs and discovers the stories of the original composers and performers, among them Marlene Dietrich. Finally, Alan reveals the tragic fate of many of the cabaret artists at the hands of the Nazis.

The documentary pays tribute to the magic of the original film and explores the fascinating and often shocking reality of the people and stories that inspired it.

This is an excellent documentary, and Alan Cumming is quite superb as our host,

Previously on DM

Revealing portrait of Christopher Isherwood: ‘A Single Man 1904-1986’

Parts 2-6 of Alan Cummings ‘The Real Cabaret’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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