BOOKS IN THE MCL: EINE STADT WIRD BUNT. Hamburg Graffiti History. 2021

  • by Anne Schmedding

Preparing the graffiti history of a city is a major project. Although the first graffiti in the style of the New York model appeared in many major European cities in the early 1980s, they were only sparsely documented, if at all. The comparatively high cost of analog photography at the time often meant that not even the creators recorded their first attempts. Official publications devoted to the subject are rare, since most outsiders could do little with the images.

It was not until the early 1990s that protagonists began to publish scene magazines, so-called gray literature, from collected and exchanged photos. For the book EINE STADT WIRD BUNT (A CITY BECOMES COLORFUL), which was published in 2021, four of these editors joined forces and traced the first 20 years of the history of graffiti in Hamburg. Since each of them has been active in the urban scene for over 30 years, it was not only possible to gather over 1,300 photographs, some of them exclusive, but also to have contemporary witnesses and experts knowledgeable about the scene contribute texts that place the phenomenon in a larger social, cultural and urban historical context.

The result is a meticulously researched chronicle that sets standards in scope and detail. All relevant places and representatives of the scene are comprehensively presented and also actors without a direct background in writing such as OZ, ERIC or Peter-Ernst Eiffe, as well as political graffiti from the punk era are addressed.

The book also includes various photos of the actors, newspaper articles and concert flyers of the hip hop movement, which was closely linked to graffiti in Europe. While gray literature was mainly published within the scene, EINE STADT WIRD BUNT addresses a broader audience even without much prior knowledge.

text: Sascha Blasche, photos: Sebastian Kläbsch

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