London-based culture magazine Huck has a history of pulling in great people to work with—they've had issues curated by Mark Gonzales, Ed Templeton, and Dave Eggers in the past—and to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, they sat down with Thierry Noir, an artist originally from Lyon who settled in West Berlin when it was still an island of creativity in a sea of the German Democratic Republic's oppression. Noir was the first person to paint the Berlin Wall in 1984, when the "deathstrip" was still heavily policed and the ground within five metres of the wall was still considered East Germany. Noir once described wanting to "demystify" the wall, and being driven to paint it by the "sadness" he felt it represented, and in the interview he describes what he feels the wall's legacy is, and how it has affected European culture.
Check out an excerpt below and head over to the Huck website to read the full interview.
How has the city changed?
Berlin has changed very much in 25 years. Especially the nature. There were two walls with about 50 metres of death strip in between, and all this area is now full of trees. And those trees are 25 years old so they are quite big and there are new streets with new names. Everything has changed very much. It’s a completely new city compared to West Berlin, which was kind of an international village. Now Berlin is the capital of new Germany.
How has the culture changed?
The culture is very strong. Ever since the West Berlin underground scene in the ’80s, the culture has been very strong. I think the attraction of Berlin, because it’s quite cheap compared to Paris or London, is that you can make happen what you have dreamed of somewhere else. That’s why a lot of young people are in Berlin now and it makes the culture very strong.
Was it dangerous to paint the wall?
Yeah it was illegal to paint the wall. The wall was not a border. Both sides of the wall were East Berlin. The real border was five metres before the wall. So the soldiers were allowed to jump over and arrest me if they wanted to. But I was young and quick at that time so they had no chance against me.