My love for street art took me to Mannheim Jungbusch a place that I would not have bothered about too much otherwise. This is where I met the artist Benjamin Burkard. Actually it was such a pleasant accident to be able to brush shoulders with such a talented person. I am used to walking for kilometres trying to locate an interesting piece of street art, remember there is so much of vandalism around that you really need to look hard to be able to identify the good from the bad.
Benjamin was actually painting the largest mural in the Rhein Neckar area when I saw him for the first time. I could not believe my eyes that I was actually seeing an artist in action. But he was so far away in this cordoned off industrial area where he was at work that it was tough to get his attention. That was when I decided to walk all the way around the bridge to the other side of the Neckar hoping that there would be a path to get closer to him. But after walking for quite some time I realised that the whole area was literally not accessible.
Disappointed but not ready to give up I decided to go across the bridge on the opposite side and vigorously waived my hands hoping to distract him. For a split second Benjamin got up to walk back and observe his latest strokes that’s when his eyes caught me waving out.
I could not believe my stars when he waived back smiling. With a lot of frantic hand movements I told him that it was amazing what I was seeing and his work. I could see that he was smiling and showing me the thumbs up sign. I gestured asking if I could somehow come across and actually see it up close. After a bit of reluctance he actually put down his brushes and started walking towards the fenced barriers. My heart was beating fast and I quickly started walking towards the fence. We shook hands through the fence, I almost could not believe that this was happening feeling like a little girl all over again. My parents and my mother-in-law were part of the adventure and they followed suit.
Benjamin told me that he was not allowed to let us across the barrier as there was construction going on and it was dangerous for people like us. I think it was the sad disappointed face that made Benjamin change his mind. He told us that we need to be extremely careful. He pulled out a bunch of keys from his pocket and to our biggest surprise opened the lock of the fence and actually let us all in!!
I quickly explained to him that I was in love with street art and his work looked very unique to me from all what I have seen. He told me that he also liked Herakut very much. I showed him pictures of a recent Herakut I had discovered in Mannheim and also in Hamburg. He told me he studied art in Landau and this was one of his biggest projects. This is when I met Petra Stamm who appeared literally from nowhere and when she found out that I intended to write about Benjamin’s work she told me that I would have to mention that this was a project sponsored by the Gallery Stoffwechsel in Mannheim. Petra if you are reading this I am keeping my promise J
Benjamin exuded such humility. He let me take pictures of him in action and also take pictures with all of us. I told him I was in Amsterdam the previous weekend and also saw some amazing pieces of art. He told me about his upcoming exhibition in Amsterdam. He also showed me how he was taking a picture of every 13 cms of his work and this was transmitted live intohis website. He intends to make a video of the finished work. Now I know why he turned back to look at what he did as every 13 cms was measured to precision on the floor and photographed. You can imagine the attention to detail this translates into. His project is titled 'Ecosystem' and the mural is close to 900 square meters!!
Benjamin told me like any other piece of street art his also faced the danger of vandalism.
We thanked him profusely for his kindness and also for letting us interrupt his work. I told him I am going to be back to see the completed work on the 24th of October when it will be opened up to the public. In case you are in Mannheim and you would like to check out Benjamin’s beautiful work make sure to go to Jungbusch and across the bridge from the river Neckar you can enjoy his beautiful art work.