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Wandelism, Berlin

Wandelism is an independent, urban art project that gathers more than 60 Berlin based artists to take over the walls, floors, ceilings and even cars, in a former car repair shop. The title Wandelism comes from the German word ‘wandel’ (to change) and ‘vandalism’, maybe the most frequent word used to describe street art.

Under the slogan “Spray can change” the exhibition refers not only to the changes that spray paint can cause to the urban space but also and more importantly to the social changes that the city is experiencing nowadays. The phenomenon of gentrification is changing Berlin’s population and landscape. Meanwhile, while many artists protest it and even erase their murals, the Wandelism collective chooses to use the fact that this car repair shop will be demolished soon, to their advantage. This is one of the key factors of success for the exhibition; just as graffiti, its fate is to only exist momentarily, and then to disappear.

Each artist was given complete freedom to choose any topic and technique to use in the transformation of their assigned space. There are 15 rooms, two large halls and a cellar, which are all almost fully painted from top to bottom. The art on the walls spans from quintessential spray-painting to three-dimensional installations and the most recent street art incorporations; calligraffiti and tape art.

The Black and White Chamber by artist 75 Scons and Paindesignart is a room entirely covered in words. Calligraffiti is the name of this new form of writing that combines calligraphy, typography and graffiti. Words in this context are used to create a visual composition while at the same time do not lose their original form. The process is not simple, as it is a subtle play between old typography styles and modern expressions, but the result can be astonishing. Each word seems to have taken hours of very precise drawing, meanwhile the effect of the many words and styles overlapping creates a sort of texture, that makes the walls feel alive.

Another artist, Ostap, used one of the second hall’s windows as the site for his tape based work. His installation depicts a large hand holding a spray can, made out of hundreds of little pieces of tape. The overlapping of these pieces creates a special visual texture, meanwhile their direction emphasize the movement  in the image. The light coming from the window helps making the colour appear transparent and gives the impression of a contemporary version of stained glass.  

One of my favourite rooms is Marina Zumi’s. Seven threads hang in parallel, cross the whole space and bounce against the walls changing their directions. Meanwhile, every surface in the  room is painted dark blue, with little sparkling starts that makes one feel as though they are floating in the universe. This work is part of a larger series called Energy Fluxes, which reflects her study on light and symmetry.

Zumi’s main inspiration has always been nature, the cosmos and geometry. Her galaxies have covered the faces of many building around the world. Her last big work in Berlin was the painting of a complete building as part of the Urban Nations Street art gallery in the city centre.

A room that seems to be most popular with visitors (I actually had to queue to have a look inside) is a yellow bathroom on the ground floor. It is the Fuck Fame Toilet by Ron Miller. The words “Fuck Fame” in brutal black letters cover the walls. On the walls, security cameras seem to aim at the person using the toilet. If you are famous, you are always being watched. For the artist, fame brings no joy and means the loss of creativity.

Not all the artists come from a graffiti background. The group of art teachers and illustrators Drink and Draw also have their own space, filled with paintings on canvas, illustrations and even a brain sculpture, part of a video installation. French collage artist Cltarty (Catherine Lupis Thomas) made for the first time a large scale collage on a wall which she named I have nothing to say, just things to shout which depicts a construction site juxtaposed with some female faces.  

Wandelism is also a social project. The organisers do not plan to earn money from the venture, the exhibition can be visited for free and no artist has been asked to pay any fees. Instead, some of the artists are part of an association that helps paint kindergartens in Berlin and will be using the money donated by visitors to buy materials to paint with the children. The artists want to teach these kids the importance of art in public spaces and the value of creating something with their own hands.

Wandelism is the reflection of the here and now in Berlin. The variety of work and at the same time, the power of the collective is one of the many reasons to visit it. It will not disappoint any art lover and will surely stimulate any art maker.

Wilhelmsaue 32
10713 Berlin
Until 30 March

Image by southvibez.de