Photographers' Blog

“Bosso Fataka” turn trash into sculpture

By Tom Peter

Some call it street art; Bosso Fataka call it “joy in shaping our environment.” The environment that surrounds the four young men of this art group is the streets of Berlin, a city that some say has become Europe’s unofficial capital of unsanctioned art in the public space.

Over twenty years after the reunification, there is an abundance of derelict houses, whole swathes of industrial wasteland and railway arches that afford artists with square kilometers worth of brickwork that’s just asking to be covered in graffiti.

But art being art, this scene’s actors have gone beyond the traditional spray can work. There’s stenciling, urban knitting, urban gardening… you name it. The interested visitor can go on a tour around central Berlin, where well-informed insiders will show you the most notable examples of urban art. Bosso Fataka do what you might call “urban wrapping.”

The four friends, all in their early twenties, discovered ordinary cling wrap as their main tool because of its compounding qualities: it is adhesive, tear-proof, shiny and transparent. Cling wrap gives the rubbish they use as components for their sculptures a bodily shape that allows the onlooker to perceive the creation as a whole, melting pieces of trash into an entity without concealing the individual parts.

Humor plays an important role in their work. It’s a humor that is subtle and weird, sometimes thought-provoking, but never meant to please. “Street art is always egocentric,” one member of the group said. “We don’t care if you like it. We just do it.”

The fight over Berlin’s Tacheles

Over the last decade Berlin has been changing more rapidly than most of its inhabitants can stomach. Because of its history, the brunt of gentrification that changes everything (from social fabric to architecture) has hit the German capital more than other cities around the world.

Before the Wall came down, Berlin used to be a mecca for bohemians, artists, left-wing idealists and military service dodgers, mostly from West Germany. The collapse of East Germany resulted in an abundance of neglected buildings available in East Berlin. Punks and artists flocked in and the city became Europe’s capital of squats. A maelstrom of unfettered subculture productivity ensued, bestowing the city with an aura of the urban cool that feeds into its reputation to the present day.

But the Berlin of the wild nineties is long gone. Most of the squatters have been evicted or their housing projects legalized. Some of those whom back then ran underground clubs are well-off nightlife entrepreneurs today. Ordinary people who shared their neighborhood with the artists have had to move away, because rents have gone up manifold. And the influx of bohemians from abroad has turned into a stampede of party tourists, turning the last subculture enclaves into playgrounds for reckless twenty-somethings.

Protests: A study in necessity and choice

Kabul-based, Afghani photographer Ahmad Masood, is spending a month based in Berlin.

On my first day of work in Berlin: a very different city from my city, Kabul, Afghanistan, I covered a demonstration by students demanding improved conditions at schools and universities. I have covered some hardcore protests in Afghanistan, where about 8 out of 10 resulted in death or serious injuries. This time I was in Germany and I didn’t expect any violence.

We arrived at the scene. There were many young men and women gathered with banners and some armed with whistles in their mouths. People were laughing and smiling. There was music playing on a loud speaker.  If that was not enough, some protesters were blowing their own trumpets and other instruments. It was just like a party. The students looked to be in pretty good condition, so I was wondering “Why? What are you complaining about?”.

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