Look at it! Just. Look.
A most depressing graffiti, a work of art
This piece of urban art surely speaks for itself: a stabbed man, a crocodile eating a person, a derailed train falling to its demise are just a few of the small drops of horror that hit you in the face without mercy. The more you observe the piece, however, the more you realise that no matter how morbid these things are, they are a part of life. Hard to deal with, true, but nonetheless real.
At the same time it could be interpreted as a social critique. Are there some instances of technology going wrong, or rather technology controlling murderous people? Could the fat elephant with multiple arms being fed cow’s milk be a criticism of how babies are being fed all sorts of milk but their mothers’? I may be correct in my inferences regarding the depressing nature of this graffiti, or I may be extremely wrong, but that is the beauty of this work of art. As uncomfortable as it may make you feel, you have to admit that this graffiti certainly makes you think as you try to understand what the artist wanted to convey to his audience.
Other aspects I find most interesting about the graffiti are its form and its medium. It is pretty unusual for a graffiti to show something like this, just as the colourful, cartoonish nature of it is normally associated with happy, funny, children’s productions. These discrepancies only add more to the picture’s daunting allure and jarring impact.
Last but not least, I find the composition and the extension of the piece outside of its frame genius. I couldn’t capture the entirety of it in my photo, but you can still see enough of the process. Could it work like some kind of spotlight? These dreary horrors of life are passing us, blending in with the other greys of life, unless someone shines a light on them, bringing them to our attention.
The graffiti’s surroundings
There is unquestionably a lot to say and discuss about the depressing graffiti whose title I do not know, but for now I will stick to what I said above. Nevertheless, I will share with you its location and how you can find it, which is yet another intriguing fact.
I live in Erkrath, which is a little town on the outskirts of Dusseldorf, in the West of Germany. The area is probably more familiar to you under the name of Neanderthal. There are about 8km of road connecting Erkrath to Mettmann, which can be quite a beautiful walk on a bright day, like the one I had today. The place where the famous bones were unearthed is also on this very road, accompanied by a museum, a fast food kiosk and a couple of car parks. Once you pass these, before almost reaching Mettmann, there is a bridge towering the path. On the left wall of that bridge you will be able to find the gloomy graffiti, dated ’95 and signed by a certain Baltscheit.
The artist and the explanation
*The following information was found and written after the previous text, so you can read my thoughts before actually knowing the artwork’s full story.
Of course I took advantage of the name on the wall and looked it up. The author is one Martin Baltscheit, from Essen, who currently lives in Dusseldorf. Acclaimed illustrator, speaker and writer, he painted this in 1995 by using news stories that appeared in Bild, one of Germany’s best selling newspapers and esteemed yellow press publication, during the month of September 1995. Baltscheit wanted it to be like a sort of modern cave drawing, especially in the whole Neanderthalian milieu. Nonetheless, this still leaves some of the graffiti’s elements unexplained, like the metallic banana in the bottom right corner or the floating women holding hands.
The inspiration now explains the framing. The coloured central composition flowing into the black and white frame could be an allusion to the timeline – this is a visualisation of the events of September ’95, which is but a fragment of the bigger picture. The distressing fatalities of life are numerous, ubiquitous and without an end and the graffiti does a tremendous job at exposing this fact.
If you have any thoughts or questions, please comment and I will duly reply. In the meantime, keep observing the artwork and try to figure it all out!