As a single adult who lives alone, I am surprised at how smoothly this communal living is going. Each night I float off to sleep in a sea of sighs, harmonic breathing and snores that loop in a calming way. Today I had my first shower. There are two windows during the day and I kept missing them. Over breakfast we jokingly hashtagged mixed showers. I asked if that meant hot and cold water and they said it meant male and female, but I really didn’t believe them. Yes, it was true. We’re very lucky to be able to shower at the locker rooms for the local soccer team. There I was in the away team’s dressing room. 3 boys and 2 girls. Luckily the boys were already underway, so it was just us girls on deck and I made a new bestie.
The energy here is very much about sharing. Many who normally don’t work together are collaborating on work just for the festival. Often they are from different cities. There is, however, one couple who are here from Belarus. They actually became a couple before they started doing street art. Sometimes they work together on one wall, but here they are doing their own pieces. Their style is quite clean and precise and fantastical, but reality based (albeit an alternative realty).
Have you ever noticed that often artist’s work resembles themselves? That’s what I noticed first when yubaba turned to face me: those eyes. Her pieces are very much a reflection of modern girl culture. One might mistakenly see these candy coated versions of femininity as submissive, but she is a strong woman who knows her mind. In a field dominated by men, she is painting a strong woman who’s power is in her eyes rather than her measurements. Envision a kittenish dominatrix.
She and her partner key detail have similar styles. That’s because she learned from him. With his work the curves are replaced with jagged edges and the theme, at least for the IBUg work is more folkloric. He shows an old wolf master with rotten teeth and the wolves in a trance. Is he rebelling against the status quo? Suggesting we should think for ourselves rather than listen to rhetoric from leaders?
yubaba and key detail were a couple before they started spraying. It looks like we can coin a new addage, “the couple who sprays together stays together.”
Mexican artists Farid Rueda and Benuz are a long way from home and yet not so far away. Benuz’s work was one of the first things I noticed when I arrived. It felt familiar as being North American. I couldn’t exactly place what made it so and I started searching until I found Mexican embroidery and connected the two. He actually works with caligraphy, often fleshing out the image with the intricate lines to form a sort of lace. I love it!
Farid paints mainly animals. He painted the fox because people told him there were a lot of foxes in Plauen. He is concerned with where he is at the moment, but also where he comes from. On another wall he painted a Mexican mythical creature that only comes out when it rains…..it was raining that day.
Two friends who are also very aware of their surroundings are Leipzg tattoo artist Miez Wars and Berlin graffiti artist Foglejunge. They like to build up the works with things they find in the surrounding area. Last year they had to leave before the festival began. This year Miez Wars is looking forward to sitting in a corner and seeing how people react to what can only be described at a monumental work. It screams Picasso’s Guernica on so many levels from its 3D cubistic nature, use of line, lack of colour and theme. It also resonates Kathe Kollowitz’s work where the haunting eyes of mothers as they attempt to protect their children in a WWI world…only the images are very modern and relevant to today, just as the topic. Last Monday while they were here painting, right-wing Leipzigers threw an incendiary device into a space preparing to receive refugees.
The more than 50 meter long mural depicts a mother and child attempting to hold hands in war torn world exploding around them. In the distance is a pristine civilisation where nö (the short gruntal form of NEIN) seeps out. They can’t even be bothered to devote an entire syllable to the fate of those lost and searching for refuge.
Turn the corner and there’s another piece on the same theme, but in an entirely different form. In caution yellow and black paste there are three loud knocks at the door. With the text “60 million people in the world are seeking refuge” and pieces of yellow, black or black with yellow screen paper, Plauen based graphic artist Michael Stüber pastes what reminds me of Matisse’s paper cutouts. They so resemble print that unless you get right up to them you won’t see the craft. Similarly, until we actually interact with the refugees who come to settle, as long as we lock them up in ivory (or faux ivory) towers, until we hear their stories and the pieces of their lives that have brought them to this point, we will see them as just a picture of who they are, an immovable image. Unless we let them in the door will stay forever closed.