MCL PRESENTS #4: Political Graffiti

Talk with René Kästner, Sven Niemann, and a member of the street art crew 1UP

February 29, 2024, 6.00 to 7.30 pm
URBAN NATION Museum | Bülowstr. 7, 10783 Berlin

The event will be held in German and is free of charge.

Vandalism or message? Sprayers reach for the can when they want to convey a political message to a broad audience in highly visible and public places. The volume “Political Graffiti” was recently published in the Guernica Society’s “Art and Politics” series. René Kästner and Sven Niemann discuss graffiti as a tool of political agency with a member from the internationally renowned street art crew 1UP.

Sven Niemann, author of the book’s contribution “Bomb the System! Politische Pieces als Partizipationspraktik im öffentlichen Raum” (“Bomb the System! Political Pieces as Participation Practices in Public Space”), works a research assistant at the Institute of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Paderborn. He is part of the team of the DFG project INGRID (Informationssystem Graffiti in Deutschland), a research database on graffiti. He is also involved in the graffiti scene in Paderborn, where he explains the works in guided tours.

René Kästner is a curator, filmmaker, author, blogger, podcaster and publisher with a focus on graffiti and street art culture. He has co-organized festivals such as splash! and Write4Gold and curated exhibition projects such as CONS Space BLN and HALLENKUNST. He is the founder of the podcast series and produces various documentary films and series for ZDF and with his own film production company Red Tower, including the 22-part series “RISE OF GRAFFITI WRITING – From New York to Europe” and 5MINUTES.

Photo: Nika Kramer

1UP – or One United Power – is an internationally active group from Berlin. 1UP and URBAN NATION have been working together for some time: In May 2017, 1UP “attacked” the URBAN NATION Museum, which was still under construction, with spray cans – and the crew left their names on the museum walls. Their works can be seen on thousands of walls, trains and other surfaces in Berlin and elsewhere. In this way, discovering a city suddenly becomes an artistically charged activity. This is why 1UP’s art is such an authentic, urban experience. An impression that is reinforced by the deliberately unconscious political message of their art – namely the question of who owns the city. 1UP are also openly politically engaged when, for example, they cannot stand idly by and watch thousands of people at Europe’s external borders. The Berlin graffiti crew joined the protest actions that took place three years ago under the motto #LeaveNoOneBehind with their own graffiti.

The current exhibition at the URBAN NATION Museum, “Talking… & Other Banana Skins“, also shows the political impact of street art and graffiti. A film by 1UP can be seen that draws attention to the destruction of corals due to global warming.