The Law of the Street

Writing Hessisch 3

The third issue of Writing Hessisch magazine has recently been released and this latest addition is as good as ever. Once again the format has been tweaked slightly so that the magazine returns to a similar layout as in Issue 1. The work of several individual writers is presented over short sections while in-between the atmospheric ‘Yellow Light’ essays make a comeback. All this is followed with a fascinating look at abstract-graffiti, and then finally the magazine ends with a bit of urban field-archeology.

Although most of the photographic content is made up of particular artists and crews the magazine actually kicks off with a tasty ACAB special! This is followed by small chapters focusing on the work of writers such as Ahoy, who has an original style spread along tracksides and across trains, or Cpuk whose often humorous ideas are realised in a range of funky styles. Between a dozen other segments showing the work of individuals there’s also a nifty look at GPC members whose contribution is exclusively made up of train panels.

Writing Hessisch came about as a way of representing this regional scene beyond the standard form of social media. While many German mags do have a fairly local focus Writing Hessisch is proud of the fact and lets its readers know. One expression of this is the representation of the Ultras from Eintracht Frankfurt. These Eintracht pieces appear in every issue; looking really nice in prominent places along railways and over motorways. I asked the editor of the magazine a bit more about it. He reckons that “Frankfurt undoubtedly has one of the best Ultras groups in Europe.” Away from the terraces their support takes the form of a graff campaign that’s gone “all city and is well respected.”

“Frankfurt undoubtedly has one of the best Ultras groups in Europe.”

Aside from representing the current activists within the regional scene Writing Hessisch 3 also delves into a bit of graffiti archeology. At the back of the magazine original photos of two pieces created over twenty years ago are reproduced. They are placed alongside current pictures of these sites. Although faded and damaged these historical works have managed to survive for an unusual length of time. The creators of these aged artworks provide a short text with their thoughts on their survival. One of them, Kae, observes his piece with slight detachment as just one part of the history of the wall. Recording graffiti in this way actually has an historical precedent. Writing in Photoworks magazine Kitty Hauser describes a trip made to 1930’s Berlin by a photographer and field-archeologist called OGS Crawford. With archeological attentiveness Crawford surveyed the urban environment and recorded the graffiti that he saw. Many of his pictures show the remains of communist slogans that had been covered over by the Nazis. As a Marxist he believed he was recording what would be the remnants of a pre-revolutionary world. As it is his photographs, like those in Writing Hessisch, give an idea of how urban space has been used and viewed, and also the institutional responses to this use.

abstract graffiti

This brings me on to the really fascinating part of Writing Hessisch which discusses abstract-graffiti. First the artist Raub describes the evolution of his style in four distinct phases. The first of these phases is titled “robot mind” and shows an increasingly complicated ‘grimdark’ style. Gradually the forms dissolve and develop into blocks of shapes which Raub labels his “formfinding” phase. Overtime these block-letter forms stop acting as a border to the colours of the fill and become more of a highlight on top of it. The final phase explored combines this last one with adjacent blocks of lines over blank colours. It’s great to look at the progression of Raub’s work and read his thoughts on it. While biting is viewed with contempt, graffiti convention is actually very conservative. Raub is able to break free of this paradox combining original letter forms with images that wouldn’t look out of place in some modern-art gallery.

Putting aside any aesthetic argument the next article examines abstract graffiti from a legal perspective. Dr Gau, a renowned graffiti lawyers in Germany, suggests that unconventional graffiti that doesn’t use letterforms can cause problems for an inflexible police force. When one particular tag or moniker can’t be pinned onto an individual then it’s difficult for the police to prosecute for multiple offences. It is also pointed out that abstract graff can have advantages in court too as the graffiti can’t necessarily be presented as merely narcissistic tagging but rather an creative act that may appeal to the upper-class artistic sensibilities of the courtroom. However, through a quick comparison of German states, Dr Gau shows that the law can be applied completely differently depending on the geographic location.

This latest issue of Writing Hessisch is another hit. While combining quality pictures and interesting writing, with a distinct regional emphasis, not too many publications also have articles from a lawyer, or quote 19th century toffs alongside ACAB pieces and photos of football firms. Number 3 in the series is bigger than the last and the only drawback for me was the lack of English translations – but then that’s not really an issue for this outspokenly local magazine! Meanwhile the team behind the publication have some plans in the pipeline so I’ll keep an ear to the ground.


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