Considering the original intention of this blog (yeah yeah, its broadened its horizons a little recently), it was with genuine excitement that a copy of Blickfang Ultra - streetart edition 2 fell into my hands.
First impressions, the cover is excellent, with a collage making up the title with styles that would grace any of the pages inside. This, disregarding the quite frankly ridiculous statement on it, of “ultras! No fans!”. I could understand “no consumers”, but sometimes ultras could take themselves a little less seriously and concentrate on pushing things forward rather than getting snobbish about the term “fan”. I am an ultra but i will always be a fan. As its short for fanatics, its more than fitting.
The content documents artwork from a great number of football ultra groups in Germany, as well as elsewhere on the continent. There are even examples from groups supporting certain ice hockey clubs, which is an interesting development.
The introduction (very useful), tries to explain the aims and difficulties of compiling the book. A lot of this seems to stem from certain groups not participating due to the involvement of other groups or inclusion of certain pieces from rivals. I havent got the first edition, which may well include a number of the groups and indeed pieces I would have expected to see in any publication on streetart in football. Nevertheless I must admit I was surprised not to see St Pauli featured. Im biased but with links to very famous graffiti groups, St Pauli’s street art scene is both broad and extremely inventive. Likewise it was odd not to see Boyz Koeln (odd group but it has to be said with some great street art work) and absolutely nothing from Dortmund (a big, arguably pioneering graffiti city, even if not necessarily always BVB related). I dont know whether these missing elements are for “beef” related reasons, lack of contacts amongst the editors and those groups, or that those groups or pieces have already been too well published in other sources e.g. the Los Piratos book, Supra etc, but its a shame.
In the meantime several teams are featured, where regardless of how good their ultra scene might be, graffiti clearly isnt their strong point *cough cough* Karlsruhe, Bayer Leverkusen etc. Lets face it we are hardly Pablo Picasso here, but Bayers scene seemed to consist of little more than a couple of parcel stickers and a tag.
Some weaker content is however made up for by some excellent examples from the likes of Carl-Zeiss Jena and Dynamo Dresden. Although relatively new as a group, Coloniacs also have some good examples featured.
The excellent and very extensive coverage of the likes of Dresden, did however lead me to my next question. Who or what decides how much a group is featured? Is it contacts to a particular group, that the group is very active on the street art scene i.e. quantity of pieces in real life, or simply the quality of their work? For example the work by Chosen Few of HSV had, I must admit, some quality shading, but one piece was featured several times from several angles, filling a number of pages. Meanwhile in the real world, it is only when you venture in the direction of Stellingen that you actually see anything HSV related on the walls. Is this therefore a realistic reflection of the Hamburg scene?
Likewise Lokomotive Leipzig get a couple of pages, even though one work included I remember seeing in an edition of Erlebnis Fussball around 5 years ago. Does this mean that they are particularly proud of it, or is it that the ultras there are not very active in the world of streetart?
Where no doubt is left, is the excellent coverage of streetart in the Polish scene. Yes they are a bit too obsessed with painting Knights on horseback or bulldogs with human torsos and muscles (although these are growing on me bizarrely! J), their work shits all over most of the stuff offered by the German groups featured. Wonderful shading and extremely complicated pieces either means a nation of natural artists (who like knights and boxers) or the police aren’t so keen to clamp down and so the ultras can linger long enough to produce a really special work.
This book cant truly capture in time the Ultra Street Art scene, as so many major players are missing, but considering it is one of, at most, a few publications that have even attempted it, its not a bad stab.
I would have appreciated greater explanation around the compilation process, and perhaps a little text from each group explaining (genuinely) the level of involvement in streetart by the group, types of pieces favoured, repression from the police etc. as that would have allowed a little more context. How possible this would’ve been I don’t know, as previous examples of interviews within similar ultra related publications have rarely offered unbiased or frank answers from the groups involved.
Bias in general is a problem, even from the reader’s perspective. Great work by one clubs ultras will always be somewhat tarnished in the eyes of the reader if they happen to regard those fans as a bunch of knobends. Perhaps for this reason, the idea of streetart in football is always going to be a more complicated affair than a review of graffiti scenes in general.
Despite my reservations, the book with 210 pages, contains some great work in parts and at just under 5 Euros, its well worth a look. Its certainly done enough to make me want to track down the first volume.
You can buy volume 2 here…