While out biking I took a spin through Wersten, a working-class suburb of Düsseldorf sometimes criticized for its lack of charm (g). Now, I'm not going to lie to you: Wersten's not a feast for the eyes. Lots of nondescript 60s and 70's architecture and charmingly amateurish storefronts. But like almost anywhere in Germany, even this slightly rundown part of town has more parks, playgrounds and plazas than most cities elsewhere.
As I rode down the Kölner Landstrasse, these two graffiti caught my eye. They're on each side of a projecting building facade at 221 Kölner Landstrasse. They're the work of Shogun1, a graffiti artist from Düsseldorf. The manga influence is evident, but I liked the abstraction, the asymmetry, and the complex, cross-cutting rhythms:
The Corneliusstraße train overpass, one of Düsseldorf' many hideous underpasses, was recently stripped of its advertising hoardings, exposing squares of long-hidden posters and graffiti, including this advertisement, which appears to be for a long-ago performance of Swan Lake (Schwanensee) by the 'Ballet Classique de Paris' (extra points for anyone who can date this poster):
Just above that I spotted the words 'raus aus Vietnam' (get out of Vietnam), barely legible in light-green ink:
The first word was hard to read, but it's got to be the USA, right? The Vietnam War was, to put it mildly, not very popular in Germany (g) at least among the sort of people who paint underpasses with graffiti.
But on closer inspection, the first word turned out to be China (!):
That narrows things down. I'm sure I don't need to remind you that the last time China invaded Vietnam was in the 1788 Battle of Ngọc Hồi-Đống Đa, so this graffito is 226 years old!
On closer inspection of Wikipedia, it turns out that China invaded Vietnam (again) in 1979, during the Sino-Vietnamese War. No wonder the Vietnamese still distrust their giant neighbor.
Now the question is who wrote this? Perhaps a Vietnamese. But I like to think it was a member of a tiny Marxist splinter group, perhaps the Autonome Autarke Syndakilistische-Solidaristische Volksfront.
Witzelstr. 55 is the address of a mixed commercial and industrial trade area in the middle of Duesseldorf that was entirely abandoned in mid-2002.
Since then, lots of interesting things have been going on there. I’m working on a more ambitious project, but until then, here is a slideshow of images taken in October 2007, April 2008, and August of 2009. However, I recommend that instead of watching this glorious decay through a little window, you follow the link below to my Picasa photo album, and run a full-screen slideshow.
Pure loveliness, found at a train station in Duesseldorf. You can almost hear the waves caressing the tendrils of seaweed this way and that:
Note the balding egghead to the right of the graffito with the question mark over his head. You see him everywhere — does anyone know his story?
There seems to be a lot of outstanding graffiti street art in Germany. Has anyone written a book about it that one of my good-looking, cultivated readers can recommend?