Street Art or Graffitti?

On a recent trip to Greece for a wedding of two friends of ours, we spent an entire day wandering around the streets of Athens.

My husband lived in Athens for ten years, and as a result knows the city quite well, and would in many respects regard it as home.

Having been there myself several times, I too have come to love the city.

It’s hustle and bustle, the noisy comings and goings, the “ella malaka” to be heard everywhere over the sound of traffic – I had come to like this within an ancient city with so much to offer.

Leo and myself at the Acropolis in Athens back in 2010.

Our most recent trip both saddened and angered me.

I was sad to see this once proud city slipping to its knees, a shadow of its former self. The atmosphere in the city is tense – people who once walked with eyes firmly ahead, proud of their city and what it stood for, now walk with their heads down, eyes downcast on the ground. The city is much quieter than when I have been previously, everybody just seems to want to keep their head down and stay out of trouble. Yet there is a undertone in other parts of the city, where you feel a vague undercurrent of something much darker at work. People are angry, and a lot of that anger has materialised on walls, buildings, windows, billboards – any surface available – where the feelings of Athenians are expressed in the absence of any real presence of anybody listening to what they have to say.

Theodor Adorno said

The task of art today is to bring chaos into order.

If Adorno was right, then the artists of Athens will have to put in a good few extra hours.

My question is – does this freedom of expression help or hinder? Does a daube of paint expressing hatred of the police assist the people in getting on with their lives? Or is it simply inciting more bad feeling?

Some of the articulations are certainly beautiful, and created by genuine talent. Some messages however may be doing this city more harm than good.

I for one, hope that things will only get better for these wonderful, warm, funny and proud people, and certainly, sooner rather than later.

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