Over and again, when I asked about the precarious future of Greece, people gave me this response: “Greece has been here for thousands of years. It does not die, and it will not this time.” Walking the streets of Athens, I find myself marveling at the beauty and humor and energy of the graffiti I see everywhere, and also feeling dismayed, because it does mar the city, it does make it ugly, and it does make the lives of Athenians who have to encounter it every day that little bit worse. But I also think of that quote, and I know that cities, like people, go through periods of creative destruction. Who knows what will emerge out of the Athens of today, what city will stand on these shopworn foundations? But one thing is certain. The city will be here, and so will its people, and I suspect that much of the energy released onto its walls will also help to feed its rebirth. For in seeing the city so brought down, one can begin to imagine the city reborn.
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For additional photos, see the earlier post, “The City Painted, part one.”
All images copyright 2012 Ranbir Sidhu.
One thing is impossible to escape on arriving in Athens, that in much of the center, and even in large areas in the outlying parts of the city, the walls are covered in graffiti. For block after block, every available space within hand’s reach is spray-painted, and the walker swims through it, drowns in it. This must have been what New York City looked like in the seventies and eighties, a city exploding in color and angst and undirected rage. As I’ve been walking and photographing, it leaves me with mixed emotions. Often, very beautiful buildings are tagged, and their facades marred. The National Archaeological Museum is largely covered with quite ugly-looking political statements. Much of it, however, is beautiful, striking, and compelling, and in the teeth of this crisis, it seems necessary that disempowered youth should take their visions and protests and fears and hopes and whimsies directly to the walls of this ancient city. Where else are they going to leave their mark these days?
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