Graffiti — Placement

Violet Beau
5 min readFeb 13, 2021


When walking through the streets of Berlin I have been increasingly turning my attention towards street art. In this article I intend to share some thoughts on the significance of the placement of graffiti. I hope after reading this you have a renewed interest in street art and I hope this adds depths to repetitive lockdown walking routes.


Recently my partner and I were walking through Tempelhof enjoying the wide open space. He noticed some large painted letters on the path beneath our feet. He had to tilt his head to read them and only when we had walked for a minute or so was he able to read the whole word. The word read “Patience” in simple white capitals. We talked about the significance of the size and style of the text and how it connects to the meaning behind the word itself. From an aerial view the word would be clear but when walking across the flat runway it was only readable if you take a moment to hold each letter in your memory as you walk to the next. It was only readable if you exercise patience.

See here an example from a wall on Sonnenallee. When I was walking past this wall close up it was patchy and seemingly chaotic but from the right angle or from a distance a message and a pattern appears.


Berlin is a unique city with every area having a unique style influenced by the population that lives there. Consider the area around Boxi in Friedrichshain and its high density of squats. It’s clear to me that the people in this area value anarchistic, anti-police and anti-capitalist ideals. This is clear in the sentiments on the art in this Keiz. The sheer quantity, colour and boundlessness of this art I feel mirrors the people who live here.

“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing”

― Banksy, Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

I feel I could build up a general idea of the people in an area based on the graffiti that exists there. Those in that area who don’t participate in making street art have their input in what they decide to paint over or stop and take photos of.

Does the street art in your Kiez represent you?

Anti tourism street art also has an interesting influence. It is a way for locals to express their irritation at tourists. The irony of a tourist taking a picture of some anti tourism graffiti makes me cringe.


A friend suggested to me that graffiti is territorial. I loved learning that little nugget and I’ve been thinking about it a lot when looking at tags. I have really enjoyed looking at each piece individually as I walk around the streets. Messy doorways or kebab shop fronts have slowly become exciting for me as I recognise and try and decipher the secret codes. I learned last week that ACAB is “All cops are bastards” This is a really common one.

I have been taking notes of other acronyms that I see a lot to try and make sense of this art. I have come across “FCU” a lot. Coming from the UK I guessed that it was a sport related tag and recognised the possible territorial significance of this. Growing up I witnessed horrific violence and crime spurred on by the feud between football teams. Belonging to one team indicated your religion, values and status.

Recently in my Kiez I’ve been following the progress of a tagging war of sorts. Ablue spray painter sprayed over all of the “FCU” tags with HBSC. The red FCU sprayer was not happy with this and soon afterward not only sprayed FCU again but coloured the whole square red and over it in white letters defiantly sprayed his letters again. I found this fascinating. It was like following a story of a feud.


At the top of the hierarchy of where to have your art seen by the most is ( probably unsurprisingly) on trains. I highly recommend the Berlin Kidz documentary on YouTube. For those of us non-native German speakers it’s still a great watch. It’s a deep dive into what it takes to make these, sometimes highly detailed pieces on Uban and Sban train cars. You can be fined up to 7,000 for spray painting a wall in Berlin. A heavy risk when you stop a train full of moody commuters to paint the side. This kind of art takes planning and involves serious health risk.

“If the penalty for a crime is a fine, then that law only exists for the lower class.”

— Final Fantasy Tactics

This is not to mention the giant pieces that artists scale the side of buildings in order to complete. What dedication I say! They did it for free and they did it for us. Again the Berlin Kidz are a crazy example of this and likely one of the widest known creators. Now that I have started paying attention to their style I spot them everywhere! I feel connected to them through this. In the same way I’d follow DJs I love through clubs in Berlin.


I hope I can transfer to you one iota of the fire that burns inside me for this style of art. Maybe some graffiti looks messy and unimportant and maybe it is but I wonder what stories hide inside them. It’s a modern day cave painting. The size, the audience, the perspective, the placement and the risk

Quick Recap/TL;DR


  • Is it big? Is it wee?


  • Who will see it? How does it represent the people in the area?


  • Where are you and what are you doing when you look at it?


  • Risks and fines