Scratching - Kratzen



Print of an S-Bahn window

Video Live Performance


an exhibition project of Martin Zawadzki in collaboration with
Ursula Scherrer and Moritz Fehr

The installation SCRATCHING – KRATZEN took place in October 2013 at AFTER THE BUTCHER a non-profit space in Berlin. In the entrance hall of the gallery, fifteen prints of decommissioned windows of the S-Bahn in Berlin were hung, printed in their original size onto handmade paper. In the adjacent room the walls were lined/covered from floor to ceiling with 'Anti-Graffiti' patterned vinyl that used to cover the seats of the S-Bahn. Designing this pattern was the first response of the S-Bahn executives to the writing and tagging of the seats. On a monitor, one could witnesses the act of scratching of an S-Bahn window. The video was recorded during a live performance that took place on several days as part of the exhibition. For this performance an unscratched S-Bahn window was sprayed with black spray paint. A camera was installed underneath the glass which transferred the act of scratching – with the help of video projectors – directly onto the ceilings and walls. The scratching became visible through the traces of light, that the destruction of the black surface left behind. The projections of the live scratching overlapped with the printed scratchings of the unframed prints. The sound was captured directly from the glass with contact microphones and was played back through sound exiters, which were attached to the windows of the former butchery. These sound recordings became part of the exhibition.


It was during the film shoot of the documentary 'Der Vierte Sektor' that for the first time I became aware of the phenomena of scratched S-Bahn windows. I conducted an interview with Uwe, one of my protagonist, during an S-Bahn ride. At the time the cars were equipped with faux wood paneling, vinyl seats with anti-graffiti pattern and windows that were still scratchable. In this interview Uwe reveals his view of the world, existential fears and experiences of a life lived partly on the streets and which was characterized by violence. The surroundings of the S-Bahn and the atmosphere in the rail car seemed to mirror Uwe's own awareness/being, how he saw himself. Since then quite a few things were undertaken to change this atmosphere and to suppress the scratching of the windows.

Today, through surveillance cameras and a special foil on the glass windows, this kind of expression is undermined and is mostly prevented. Thus, the installation SCRATCHING – KRATZEN deals an almost historical phenomena. The most excessive time of scratching windows in the U- and S-Bahn in Berlin was in the mid 1990ies. In spring 2013 I had my last chance of obtaining scratched S-Bahn windows. I was interested in the kind of archeological work of printing and 'making visible' on paper and the preservation of these anonymous signs over a long period of time. By using a culturally connotated technique (dry point printing) in combination with seemingly worthless windows, value is created, respectively ascribed. Scratching has never found its way into the art market to the same degree as Graffiti or Street Art did.

The exhibition of the prints is contextually linked to a video- and audio live performance which reflects the activity of scratching as a form of expression. It is an integral part of the discussion within this documentary work to highlight other miscellaneous pieces – which add to the story. First of all the anti-graffiti vinyl, with which the S-Bahn seats were upholstered to hinder Graffiti. It occupied the space with its own normed and repeating pattern, industrially manufactured doodle pattern.

This exhibition project was created in an artistic dialogue with Ursula Scherrer (video) and Moritz Fehr (audio). The dialogue continued with the visitor and lead to a stimulating exchange.

Ursula Scherrer is working as an artist in New York and also organizes the performance series OptoSonic Tea.

Moritz Fehr is working as an artist in Berlin in the realm of sound art and experimental film.

Martin Zawadzki /


berlin The exhibition was realized with a grant of the
Senat für kulturelle Angelegenheiten Berlin