Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Falling off the Grafitti Bandwagon

As various Berlin papers have reported, the NY Times has reported slightly breathlessly on grafitti in Berlin. There's a lot of it.

I don't usually have a problem with it. I like spotting the Banksy piece across the river from Hauptbahnhof that probably only about three people see every day. And I like the idea of people interacting with the city, leaving little messages for each other.

But there are times when all the words get too much for me. It's usually a sign that I've been working too hard. To start with, I hardly notice it. It's just the odd "Now how would we say that in English?" Then the occasional "How would we say that in proper English?" And then suddenly it picks up speed until I genuinely can't help translating every piece of writing I see around me.

That wouldn't be quite so bad if I lived in the countryside, I suppose. But in Berlin it's not just the grafitti. There are posters literally everywhere on certain streets. Ads for bands and films and plays and little tear-off strips taped to lampposts by people looking for a flat and bizarre messages pasted together out of newspaper clippings and then photocopied fifty times and stuck to shop windows. There are even spray-painted messages on the pavements, "Tanzn gehn", "Party hier lang", "Tanja ick liebe dir".

On really bad days, I can't look at people either in case they're wearing T-shirts with writing on. That's when I know it's time to turn the computer off and go and experience something - anything - first-hand.

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