This post is also available in: German
This is my third visit to Berlin. What is left of the wall and its artworks, created by over one hundred artists, remains one of my favourite places in the city. I’ve made it a point to stop by and visit the stretch of concrete between Ostbahnhof and Warschauer Strasse every time I’m in town.
Unfortunately, many of the great artworks on the Berlin Wall are spoiled by morons writing and spraying all over it. Only four years after an elaborate restoration of the paintings, the wall now seems to be almost ready for yet another refurbishment.
As I walk down the long stretch of concrete that once divided East from West, I think to myself, that I hardly recognize the place. I stood at this exact spot less than two years ago and yet everything looks different. When I visited Berlin last, in the winter of 2012, most of the paintings were still clean and unspoiled. Now, many of the artworks by known or lesser known artists are vandalized almost to the point of no recognition. There doesn’t seem to be a stretch of wall that hasn’t been doodled on, sprayed on, scribbled on or otherwise damaged.
Sometimes the graffiti seems to add a special artistic element to the paintings underneath, but mostly it’s just plain annoying to see amazing artworks destroyed by names written all over them.
The reason behind this surge in vandalism can be found in the lack of action from the municipality. With the restoration of the wall back in 2009, the paintings also got graffiti-protection. Graffiti and scribblings on the artworks were reported and soon after removed. But the program ran out only a year later and regular cleanings stopped. Now the municipality and the district are busy blaming each other and pushing responsibility of the East Side Gallery to other authorities. There seems to be a certain lack of political will to do something about the situation.
While I have huge respect for graffiti artists who create real works of art, it eludes me why people feel the need to try to immortalize themselves on every available flat surface with cognitive ingeniousnesses such as the typical “I-was-here” doodles. I’ve seen whole birthday messages written out on the historic site, there are the usual penises and even whole conversations are carried out. One person writes that they want the wall back, while another apparently furiously tried to scratch out the sentence and another five people annotated what an asshole guy number 1 was.
Apparently the visitors of Berlin have lost even the last bit of respect of the historic past. Decency is gone and probably soon a wall has to be built to protect the wall.