Spread of graffiti rankles Berliners
May 18, 1997
Web posted at: 11:24 p.m. EDT (0324 GMT)
From Correspondent Jackie Shymanski
BERLIN (CNN) -- In Germany, a country notorious for order and neatness, a messy debate has surfaced over how to handle the spread of graffiti.
"It's fun, therefore I do it," says Valt, a graffiti artist whose work can be viewed from Amsterdam to Berlin.
But not everyone agrees with the artist's depiction of graffiti as a harmless pastime and vehicle for self-expression.
"It's not art," says Hans Heino Dubenkropp, a government official. "It's young people which like to spray, which like to make some action, but it's not art."
Graffiti is, however, everywhere in the streets of Berlin. High visibility is considered a mark of pride among graffiti artists.
And the most sought after canvas is one that moves: Berlin's subway cars.
Artists admit there's not much of a message in the lurid artworks -- just the satisfaction of a large audience.
The public displays more than irritate authorities. There's a special unit in Berlin's police department assigned to wipe out the streetside art. The city's government spends millions of Deutchmarks each year cleaning up and painting over the spray paint.
That hasn't deterred the other 200 or so serious sprayers in Berlin. And there are as many as 10,000 more suspected of spraying just for fun, a source of amusement that authorities could do without.
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