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burning down the house

2007 – 2012

Norman Behrendt

“To be a writer is a big secret. It’s the biggest secret that I keep from my parents. You don’t tell many people, you only tell people who you can trust. There’s a big impulse to maintain secrecy.” duko

A photographic study of Berliner graffiti writers.

Excerpts from the photographic section of the book burning down the house

“The lifestyle, the intensive attitude to life, the uninterrupted urge to realize one’s potential – these are the essential aspects of the phenomenon that is graffiti that, in their particular concentration and saturation in individual persons, interest me and appeal to me photographically in portraits.” n. behrendt

Excerpts from the photographic section of the book burning down the house

The photobook burning down the house offers an in depth look at Berlin’s graffiti writer scene for the first time. Against the backdrop of publicly accessible and non-accessible surfaces being continually written upon, a constant presence of the subject in the media in relation to the surveillance of public space, the increasing costs of removal on behalf of transport companies and the accompanying harsher penalties for graffiti offences, the author Norman Behrendt has over a five year period approached the subject of graffiti writing in his own way. Detached from stereotypes and with the conscious decision to forgo the depiction of graffiti, Behrendt aims to introduce the anonymous authors of Berlin’s public space and give a human face to the often-discussed subject of the illegal writing on the wall. Instead of accompanying the graffiti writers on their nocturnal adventures and photographing them in action at the scene of their work’s execution, Behrendt decided on quieter alternative – a portrait.

“It’s a question of the distribution of property and the representation of residents in the city’s public space. It’s also about an excess of writing, the conversion of surfaces and consequently having an influence on the course of a city’s development. People can simply snap and suddenly paint flows all over the city, just as road networks flow all over the civilized realm.” exot

Excerpt from the photographic section of the book burning down the house,

The photobook burning down the house includes about 80 portraits of very differently operating graffiti writers. It consists of two different photographic portrait series. For the first series Behrendt met the writers with an analog medium format camera and a precise concept, which included two important questions: 1. In which location should the portrait be created? and, 2. How would the person like to reveal themself? For the second series Behrendt photographed the writers with a Polaroid camera so that they were recognizable, and thus possibly identifiable, in the subway stations of Berlin. He then gave them back the Polaroid photo and asked their permission to use the image, so that it could be published. The resulting portraits testify in an illustrative way to the tense relationship between visibility and anonymity, between possible recognition and the accompanying possible identification by third parties, or, ultimately, even the police. Finally, the book contains 76 interviews with the individual artists. It creates an intimate picture of the protagonists, which manifests itself in their answers to the questions of motivation, their own representation and their selected locations.

, edited Polaroid, June, 2012

In October, 2012 Behrendt received top marks and a distinction from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, Department of Design for his project burning down the house and the photobook of the same name, thereby completing his studies in communication design and photography.

“I want to create the opportunity to engage with the people, their identities and their places of personal significance. These are the places that on the one hand serve as a stage for the writers in the portraits, in which they present and create themselves, and on the other hand are places that represent scenes and spaces of possibility, which carry with them the potential of allegory and can be used as a metaphor of certain stories.� n. behrendt

“I’ve realized that for me it’s a very central issue generally, what I do, or more specifically that I do something, produce something and have an effect. A crucial factor in doing so is the achievement, only when I’ve achieved something do I feel good. I think that the graffiti scene in Berlin and the achievement-oriented society exhibit a number of interesting parallels. For achievement you receive recognition, through recognition I form my identity.” east

“Graffiti and photographs are, whether created with paint or with light, cultural techniques of visualization. Out of a coloured mist or a chemical bath materialize signs which reveal the surfaces of the world.

je spurloser

Excerpt from the textual section of the book burning down the house

Photographers seek out extracts of reality in order to reveal them in a certain light. They observe from a distance and look for the moment in which the ‘pencil of nature’ can be immortalized. Earthly writers, however, seek direct contact in that they write upon the world by fixating almost immediately to the formats of the urban design with spray cans. Their signatures populate the impeccable undergrounds of public transport, walls, glass surfaces and street furniture and as a result make them visible. Their projections arise out of the desire to see their names everywhere. Mounted in shadows, in daylight they reveal extracts of the city in a certain light.”

Fakten & Besonderheiten burning down the house / author Norman Behrendt / hardcover / original BVG upholstery binding book case with white silkscreen / four different paper types / thread stitching format 21x 26cm / 191 images / 380 pages / 76 interviews / foreword CITY , LIMP.H , EAST , , EXOT , DUKO / epilogue FACH , BURN , CHIKA , BMOS , SOE , printed in Germany / number of copies 2

»Burning down the house«  

Norman Behrendt

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