Crafting Beauty from Decay: IBUG 2023's Abandoned Factory Showcase in Leipzig

Written by Giulia 'Blocal' Riva
Photos by Susan Fankhänel

Since its inception in 2006, the Ibug urban art festival has been held every summer within a distinct abandoned industrial building in Saxony, Germany. This year, the festival took over Leipzig’s former yard and train repair factory, known as RAW, nestled within the Engelsdorf district.

Gathering over 80 street artists from across the globe, the festival grants them control of the forsaken buildings of Leipzig’s former train depot, converting it into an immersive gallery spotlighting the diverse facets of urban art. From graffiti to muralism, stencils to posters, and installations to video projections, the Ibug exhibition showcases the myriad forms of artistic expression.

Unshackled by constraints, artists are free to materialize their visions on any resonant surface without necessitating sketch approval. Every theme is open for exploration. These artworks are intrinsically tied to the location, with each artist forging a deep connection to both the setting and their fellow creators.

Ultimately, the synergy of these interconnected works surpasses the individual pieces. This collective artistic endeavor, crafted over a fortnight, was appreciated at the Ibug temporary exhibition across three festival weekends: August 18-20, August 25-27, and September 1-3.

Below is a shortlist of artists who unleashed their creativity at Ibug 2023. Consider it a little teaser and visit the festival for more!

Nikita Nomerz (RU)

Art by Nikita Nomerz // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

Nikita Nomerz, a site-specific street artist hailing from Russia, departed his homeland precisely a year ago, seeking refuge in Germany to partake in the Ibug festival of 2022. Fleeing a nation where he faces persecution for creating anti-war murals, Nikita has been on the go ever since.

The immersive installation he created for Ibug 2023 serves as a visual testament to his year-long journey, both in its literal depiction through a large-scale calendar and in a metaphorical representation of a somber forest. Adjacent to this forest, a mural poses the question “Where is Nomerz?”—a query posed not only by policemen in search of him but also by his friends, who seek to track his journey.

Within a side room, Nikita portrays himself concealed within his home, shrouded in darkness, awaiting the departure of a police officer. In this space, a black box holds a peephole that unveils an image of the very officer who sought Nikita, captured by his house’s security camera. On an adjacent wall, an image depicts Nikita’s flight into the dark forest.

Finally, in the factory’s main warehouse, Nikita suspended a giant representation of the train ticket that carried him to Germany a year earlier. This not only forges a site-specific connection with Ibug 2023’s venue but also commemorates the one-year anniversary of the liberating train journey. One notable modification distinguishes this ticket: the destination is absent, symbolizing his current condition of perpetual movement.


Art by RMYR // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

RMYR is renowned for his intricate stencils that capture the allure of industrial architecture. His work sheds light on the often disregarded beauty of these structures, even though their initial intent was more functional than aesthetic.

At Ibug 2023, the artist ventured into uncharted territory. In a departure from his usual aesthetic approach, he crafted a conceptual piece evoking a sense of longing—a sentiment he experiences upon entering an abandoned factory. He created a diptych using two distinct photographs of industrial spaces, one by him and one by an urbex photographer. Instead of stenciling the complete images as he usually does, he focused solely on the upper sections and applied these stencils on two walls with textures that complemented the concept he aimed to convey: the notion of absence, akin to the feeling evoked within abandoned structures where only remnants remain, hinting at a lost entirety.


RMYR proceeded to craft another artwork within the main hall, taking on a floor piece for the first time. He utilized materials found within the building, particularly cobblestones strewn across the main hall, and this interaction with the building itself is a first. Utilizing stencils, he adorned the cobblestones before placing them within a large hole on the floor, aiming at shifting visitors’ focus from the walls to the ground, introducing a new level of engagement.

Tina Certova (GE)

Art by Tina Certova // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

Hailing from Georgia, Tina Certova passionately champions human rights and gender equality through her impactful murals. Her celebrated “Women of Georgia” series portrays diverse professional women, igniting inspiration in young girls. These women become Tina’s wellspring of strength.

In her mural for Ibug 2023, Tina honors Clara Zetkin, a German activist from Leipzig who inspired countless feminists across Europe. The artwork gathers stories of kindred feminist souls from Georgia, spanning a century. From Maro Makashvili, a 20th-century Red Army resistor, to modern trailblazer Tekla Tevdorashvili, founder of GrlzWave, the mural unites women across eras in their enduring struggle.

Tomislav Topic (DE)

Art by Tomislav Topic // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

Both as a member of Quintessenz and a solo artist, Tomislav Topic has created numerous site-specific installations and murals across the globe.

At Ibug 2023, Tomislav Topic created two of his vibrant, site-specific installations. These creations, according to the artist, are a way to distill art to its essence: color and form. Moreover, the yellow installation introduces an additional dimension: motion. Suspended from a massive industrial beam, this artwork comes to life through the gentle caress of the wind, giving rise to a harmonious dance that readily captivates and resonates with visitors.

 Vladimir Abikh (RU)

Art by Vladmir Abikh // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

Vladimir Abikh blends text and sporadic images into visually poetic spaces, thus bestowing them with a voice. His art renews our focus on language, often neglected yet omnipresent in our lives. He frequently transforms language into the core of his creations, making it tangible and palpable.

During the Ibug festival, Abikh’s creative expression flourished in two distinctive artworks. One piece combined curved rails with the cryptic phrase “the next station is anxiety,” delving into concerns about the future.

The other artwork, named ‘TIME REPAIR FACTORY,’ offered an imaginative premise—not for fixing machinery, in contrast to the Ibug 2023 environment, but for repairing time itself. This concept stems from our collective sense of challenging times. It hints at the intriguing prospect of someday mending time rather than material objects.

 Benjamin Duquenne (FR)

Art by Benjamin Duquenne // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

Benjamin Duquenne specializes in crafting site-specific installations centered around the rewilding concept, aiming to reintegrate nature and its elements into the public domain. He embraces the concept of the Total Work of Art, characterized by the simultaneous integration of various artistic mediums and disciplines, laden with symbolic, philosophical, or metaphysical meanings. Through the fusion of sculpture and graffiti, Benjamin strives to mirror life’s inherent unity.

His contribution to Ibug 2023 materialized as an installation composed of lengthy branches sourced from the surrounding forest, embracing the festival’s location. This portrayal evokes the impression of nature reclaiming the space once occupied by the former train repair factory. Rewilding, often observed in abandoned settings, finds a grander representation in Benjamin’s installation, transcending boundaries.

Ibug 2023: Bisser (B)

Art by Bisser // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

Influenced by Belgium’s rich comic strip heritage, Bisser, a Belgian street artist, has cultivated a penchant for narrative painting and a fantastical figuration that skirts surrealism. He derives inspiration from the location itself, allowing it to catalyze the creation of characters and stories.


Within Ibug 2023’s main hall, Bisser masterfully crafted diverse narratives. He created a sound installation with rusty weights suspended from the ceiling, on which he drew funny faces, and he merged reality and imagination to transform a little room into a futuristic robot that, mirroring the room’s contours, transforms empty spray cans into smaller robots.

At the end of the main hall, Bisser painted a larger mural with his gentle, pencil-like drawing technique, conjuring his imaginative creatures through a delicate approach conveying a magnetic sense of emotionality.


Art by DTA // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

Hailing from South-West Germany, the graphic design duo known as Die Typografie Abstrakte (DTA) brings a classic graffiti background to their craft. Their work continually draws inspiration from letters, which they reshape into abstract and distorted forms, transcending readability. Despite the distinct styles, their individual creations harmoniously blend, ultimately converging into a unified whole.

Their contribution to Ibug 2023 finds its genesis in the very texture of the wall they worked upon. The surface bore the traces of rain exposure, marked by dampness and several leaks. However, they ingeniously harnessed these conditions, transforming water’s effects into an inventive and unconventional masterpiece. The end result is a mural that encapsulates the rainy days that nurtured its creation, seamlessly blending with the surface as if it had always belonged, beckoning the two artists to unveil it.


Art by Lapiz // Photo by Susan Fankhänel

LAPIZ employs his stencils to highlight the world’s injustices, infusing vibrant colors that burst beyond the neat confines of his designs, at times deliberately breaking free to amplify truths and spark discourse.

At Ibug 2023, LAPIZ presented two distinct pieces. In the festival’s main hall, he crafted “Liberté,” born from the aftermath of Paris’ Bataclan attacks in 2015. The artwork emerged as a response to the pivotal choice presented to the French people at that juncture: opt for more freedom or heightened security. Their decision for increased security led to escalated surveillance measures. This piece remains pertinent today, resonating with freedom’s erosion in numerous other nations.

A concealed room on the mezzanine floor hosted LAPIZ’s second mural, a creation he had yearned to bring to life for some time. Other festivals had shied away due to its controversial nature. At its heart, the mural features Xi Jinping masquerading as a businessman. To his left is Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, a staunch critic of China. On the right, are representatives of marginalized groups targeted by Xi Jinping: a girl in a traditional Taiwanese dress, a Uyghur man (the Muslim minority from the Central Asian region), and a Hong Kong street protester. Positioned within an overlooked corner of the factory, LAPIZ selected this setting to emphasize topics that Western audiences often overlook due to their eagerness for business dealings with China.

LAPIZ’s echo of creative freedom within the Ibug festival was part of a grand chorus that reverberated through the festival’s air. At Ibug, the essence of freedom is omnipresent, interwoven with every piece. It isn’t merely about the privilege to represent any concept, regardless of how controversial it might be.

Stepping into Leipzig’s former train repair factory with eyes aglow, artists discovered a realm teeming with boundless potential. With each stroke, they inscribed their personal stories of freedom onto the weathered walls of the forsaken factory—a playground for imagination to roam free, a testament to the infinite potential that awaited within.

Giulia BLocal Riva is a writer and content creator on a mission to unveil the artistic and rebellious heart of cities. She creates content for creative enterprises and museums, and her writing was published in street art catalogs and art publications.
Since 2011, she has run the independent street art blog “BLocal”, which has become the media partner of important street art festivals around Europe.
Rooted in the ethos of “Be Local,” she spends long periods in different cities around Europe, narrating their tales from the perspective of the locals on her blog.
Over the years, she has worked and written for museums, art galleries, tour operators, street art festivals, magazines, websites, travel guidebooks, publishers, urban art blogs, and DMOs.