Even if I arrived only two days ago, the abandoned factory VEB Spezialmaschinenfabrik has already changed a lot.
I remember the first-day feeling of walking on glass debris while venturing into the empty belly of the whale and through its dark bowels.
When the afternoon light entering from the broken panes and cutting diagonally the air was the most tangible thing in a room.
When the whale was asleep, and unconscious.
Empty, but full with possibilities.
When the time was still stopped to the day of the factory’s closure, and the only thing bringing me back to the present was a train clanking past every 15 minutes or so.
Today, the VEB Spezialmaschinenfabrik is anything but empty.
Dozens of artists bustle around -painting, building, welding, and experimenting- and more are yet to come.
After a lot of roaming around and a bit of arguing, now everyone has found their own spot, that specific wall that “talks to them” -quoting Wartin Paintois– and to them only.
The whale came back to life.
Its rusty skeleton vibrates, hit by hammers and drills.
As a snake shedding its old skin, the mouldy walls were peeled and now a more colourful skin is growing over them.
Even the air is more substantial -a thick mix of spray-paint, solvent, acrylics and dust.
Now, every time I walk past a room, I can spot something new, witnessing this organic mutation that spontaneously comes from the whale’s bowels.
Although everyone is working on their corner, they are all working at the same thing –and I’m sure the final effect will be more impressive than the sum of its parts.
Staff members walk through the big, empty rooms saying sci-fi things such as “here there will be the beer garden” or “this is where the art market will take place”. They are so convincing that we all already call these dusty-and-rusty caterpillars with the names of the future butterflies.
There is music, a lot of different music. Even though there is a preeminence of hip-hop and punk-rock, there is also someone painting on classical music or melodic piano songs.
There is energy, a sparkling vibe connecting all rooms.
From time to time, every artist will leave their wall and go check on what the others are doing. Some of them already know each other: there is an artists’ hard core that takes part in every edition of the festival. However, every few handshakes one is meant as an introduction.
The artists already at work are so many that I haven’t spoken with everybody yet.
I chatted with the Italian Luca Di Maggio, who is painting one of his iconic cyclists at the entrance of the factory. He promised me we will have a day-trip to Halles, a German city nearby where he lived and painted for three years, so stay tuned to read more about him!
I followed Kenneth Letsoin (a.k.a. naamlooozz) around the abandoned factory while he was looking for dismissed objects to build his installation. He is recreating his first impression of Chemnitz, a “city of abandoned buildings one next to the other”.
I met Billy Colours, an English artist based in Berlin. She is painting the outside wall of the factory in her iconic, very colourful style, while talking about van-life and all the amazing trips she had.
I spoke with Lauri –one guy outta the Tape Over crew– about media and how people became unable to just live their own lives, since they are glued to their smartphones either to live-stream what they are doing or to look at what other people are doing -and feel miserable as a result. He also told me about how difficult it was for him to find a proper wall on which his tape would stick, as here all the walls are wet and crumbling.
And I found out that Wasp Elder is the organizer of that amazing street art festival in Cardiff I wrote about last year, as well as the author of my favourite murals in Cardiff, which he signed as Colour Doomed.
From that moment, I’ve kept peeking into his room, as I’m curious to see his post-Colour-Doomed style, which –quoting him- is “more realistic and coherent with what he paints on canvas”.
He picked a very nice room, where each wall has its own character. A room that gives you the feeling of entering a defined space, which is totally different from the rest of the factory. His room is cozy, quiet and pervaded by a peculiar vibe. He keeps it neat, with all his brushes lined on the protective ground cloth that he had lied down on the floor.
He waters the wall before painting it, so that it will look like a fresco (he actually does it because he is used to working with oils rather than acrylics, but still what he is getting is the frescoed effect: the impression that the wall is taking his art in).
Then, he slowly moves his brush on the wall as if he were caressing it, following the stroke with his gaze. He focuses on one square at the time, totally absorbed in his drawing but –at the same time- relaxed.
I like how his piece is developing, especially the vivid contrast between his black, white and greys and the red of the bricks of the holes in the wall. It somehow makes the wall alive, like throbbing flesh under the skin.
…and this is just because, yesterday night, he asked me how ‘comprehensive’ my articles would be ;)
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SEE YOU AT IBUG 2017
25th to 27th of August & 1st to 3rd of September
SPEMAFA – former VEB Spezialmaschinenfabrik
Lerchenstraße 12, 09111 Chemnitz
Opening hours: Fridays from 3 pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am
Admission: 7 Euro per day, 5 Euro reduced price
Festival ticket for the whole weekend: 10 Euro
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