There’s nowhere else on Earth where graffiti is more prevalent than Athens. It’s the very first thing you notice as soon as you step your feet on the city.
It’s striking. It’s epidemic. It’s screaming for your attention.
But is it art or vandalism?
As a “casual” graffiti appreciator with no formal training in arts, I’m usually intrigued with most street arts. But the random stroke of madness which cover the buildings in Athens do border on eyesore sometimes. In fact, some Athenians I met openly expressed that they loathe these graffiti. Like, if your trash bin is this artsy-fartsy, surely something is a little off.
No surfaces or walls in Athens are spared—whether trash cans, residential homes or train stations.
Every single thing is covered. Beautifully restored houses usually have only a few days before they are vandalized again. Home owners and authorities find themselves in a war that they eventually lose… and they had no choice but to surrender.
Public space in Athens is like a notice board that anyone could post their ideas on. The reality of massive unemployment, economic breakdown, social disorder and political problems have prompted the youth to express their views in this manner.
…which is not to say that all the graffiti are bad. Some are actually quite well-done. The stretch of streets along Psirri, especially around Louka Nika, is actually brimming with colors.
Some of them, I suspect, are deliberately commissioned by restaurant and shop owners to add a touch of character.
When you think of it, there are examples around the world, like South Korea‘s Ihwa Mural and Singapore‘s Kampong Glam, where graffiti are channeled positively. The good stuff adds character and urban belief, while the poor stuff devalues the city.
But at the end of the day, the street arts of Athens is not so much a question of good or bad taste.
In many ways, it’s simply a projection of the unstable, uncontrolled condition of Athens which has spiraled down in the past few years. For the youths, graffiti is inevitably a platform to voice out their thoughts.
For a city that gave birth to modern democracy, I find this ironically grim, yet strikingly interesting.
What do you think about the graffiti of Athens?