Monday, July 9, 2012

Graffiti in Greece: Turmoil & Self-Expression

One thing that I really enjoy is seeing live stand-up comedy, which is actually quite unfortunate since I have a terrible propensity toward giggling that never fails to attract comedians' attention. Suffice to say, I don't go to a lot of shows and instead prefer to listen to routines at home. Well, one of my favorite bits is by Demetri Martin and it goes like this, " I think graffiti is the most passionate literature there is. It's always like, 'Bush sucks. U2 Rules.' I wanna make indifferent graffiti. 'Toy Story 2 was OK. I like Gina as a friend, but I'm not sure about taking things further. This is a bridge.'" As you might imagine, that routine has inspired some rather tongue-in-cheek graffiti scrawled on wall, bridges, and bathroom doors across the U.S. (You can see some fun examples here.

And it's true- graffiti is an extremely passionate form of expression. It champions political ideologies and religious groups; it expresses love and hatred; it gives voice to hope and discontent.
Source: New Castle Radical Art
I've posited before that incidences of graffiti tend to increase significantly during times of turmoil, whether that turmoil is social, political, or religious in origin. People who see the world, their country, their neighborhood overcome with difficult or destructive changes naturally want to have their concerns and voices heard and, hopefully acted upon. But what can you do when things seem to spiral out of control and no one is listening to you? 

Well, you find a way to make your fellow citizens and those in authority see and hear you. Graffiti provides an immediate, bold, visual answer to this need. When your heartache and anger are scrawled across the very fabric of your land, how can it possibly go unnoticed? How can you go unnoticed? Quite simply, you can't. You will be noticed, you will be counted, you will matter. And so, even when graffiti is seen as mere vandalism, there is no denying the underlying discontent.

Today, we can see this phenomenon happening in Greece. With the country in turmoil, still precipitously close to economic meltdown, still grappling with austerity measures, and, perhaps, inching closer to a departure from the eurozone, Greeks are not happy. Perhaps more significantly, their government seems to be doing little to assuage citizens' fears, as coalitions in Parliaments have continually failed to solidify. So if you live in a crisis-riddled country overseen by an ineffectual government, wouldn't you want to make your displeasure known in the loudest way available to you? 

The Greeks are doing just that. It seems that there is hardly a square foot of Athens left un-tagged. The capital city's public buildings, private residences, and historical monuments have all been put under the spray can to voice the people's outrage. 
Source: The Greek Reporter
As Kostas Kallergis, whose blog documents the crisis in Greece (You can visit it here.), stated, "The last two years have seen a boom as part of the social anger is excluded from the mainstream media and is rather expressed on Athens' walls." Moreover, the increase in anarchist graffiti has served both to reflect the sense of a country rushing headlong to disaster and to criticize the ineffective morass of economic policies. The rise in graffiti in Greece has been directly tied to the turmoil of the Greek state; what remains to be seen if the driving anger will continue to explode in artistic expression alone. 

Ultimately, I think the final judgment on the proliferation of graffiti in Greece belongs to Katarina Adam (who is not an artist but an ordinary Greek citizen) when she says, "The time we live in is aggressive. Art expresses life so if we follow that definition it is reasonable that graffiti is aggressive." Art and graffiti are not entities separate from life; they respond to life.

For more information, check out this, this, and this.

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