Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do



         "Fifi, fola..."                                                      Exarchia Park Feb. 2014


Entry points

There are numerous entry points into Exarchia. Many of them can be easily recognized since a heavily armed anti riot police stands guard. They mark these specific street junctures as an 'invisible' border drawn especially for those who seek to cause 'trouble'. They should not dare to cross that border, if intended to act in a 'violent' way primarily against property. Still, one wonders what the police is doing there every day and night? They are, so it seems, on permanent duty: 24 hours. These young men stay inside a crowded police bus which has always running the motor - a definite contribution to the pollution of Athens' air. They can be seen playing cards or else just talking with one another. Up front a television screen has been turned on to alleviate the passing of time. Most of the time, they resort in their loneliness to their mobile phones to call someone.

Outside the bus, in heavy gear, they stand guard and are made to look in just one direction, that is from where it is assumed that the anarchists shall come! It is a freaky sight with the police standing guard next to crowded cafes since filled by young people and mainly students from the nearby Chemistry Faculty. Naturally this specific riot control has over time its ups and downs.

When coming from Kolonaki, often perceived as the area of the rich and the privileged, by walking down Skoufa Street, and once Ippokratous Street has been crossed becoming Navraniou Street, the urban setting changes. It is as if entering a poetic realm breathing a different life pattern.

Already at the next corner, namely where Mavromichali crosses Navarinou Street, there can be seen on the left the University building for Chemistry. It is marked by graffiti, but also by characteristic signs of one political group which dominated for long the university sphere, namely KKE or the Communist Party. That organization does not seem to be shy when it comes to use freshly painted walls of an university building for propaganda purpose, the main aim, so it seems, being to show presence.


                        KKE slogan on corner of university building  Feb. 2014

One graffiti on the wall along Mavromichali depicts two flying women - an image to be found elsewhere in Exarchia. They seem to indicate a lightness of suspension. Interesting is to observe that for the belt special material was used to give it a 3 D replica.


         Flying women upholding a flower             Mavromichali Street Feb. 2014

Along that same wall, when walking away from the street corner, various forms of graffiti expressions appear. They indicate a surprising sensitivity. For one, they differ greatly from typical images and symbols. Moreover they make that wall come alive to tell stories of quite another character. They entail a sad note and may even touch upon remorse.



            Second part of the wall                                                Feb. 2014

Graffiti poem

Gradually standing there, at another birth place,

while rumours fly by, followed by shouts, then

shattered glass and running feet,

all while the old air conditioner continues

to let peels of time descend like flower petals

as if to count: the city loves me, the city loves me not?!

It takes the time to study, to catch a flury of thought

often thrown up into the air like an old hat

even though the university building

leaves its imprint if not on the hand,

then on the wall on which is written in detail

that no one copes with the language of cement.



            Muted bust in window frame                                        Feb. 2014          

The figure, presumably a nude seen from the back, is difficult to make out, but being within a frame, it is not touched or encroached upon, but respected by usual writings on the wall. What the figure really represents can be subject to many interpretations. It seems as if she has lost resemblance with a full human. Especially the head seems unclear, or is represented as if it has vanished just as thinking in such a state of affairs seems hardly possible. It may reflect one ugly word circulated in the news whenever hostage taking has taken place in the Middle East, and later they are found after having been 'decaptivated'. Why such an association? It is the times in which a deeper unrest can be sensed, for life has become mainly precarious. There is too much killing happening in the world, even though killing which makes no sense. There has to be added one difference, for while in the Middle East bombs go off almost every day, in Athens this kind of violence is largely unknown.

Thus when death does spill out into the streets, then all are shocked and back off. It underlines that there is still active and does exist a collective sense as to when things have gone too far. Once that point has been reached, then everyone agrees while scaling back in reactions, that something has to change. To back down is then not a trait of cowardice, but an integral part of a common logic which seems to prevail most of the time. Naturally there are differences, for when migrants are killed, the rection is not that strong or hardly the same as when a member of the Extreme Right Party called Chrysi Avgi kills a rapper as was the case in September 2013. For the spilling of own i.e. Greek blood is not tolerated for one moment. These then are sensitive points, and they are discussed not merely in cafes, but equally along the walls of Athens.


                     Survival on earth - where they hang people                Feb. 2014

A lot more can be said about what is depicted along this wall of the university building. For once a closer look is taken, then important details are noticed like the hanging of a man. It lets the imagination to take off, literally speaking. Amazing is the fine nature of these expressions. Their sombre tone seems to reflect a wish to be distinguished by form and contents of expression from the usual shrill political language students supposed to follow, once they become party affiliated to KKE or some other political group.

This specific graffiti for the sake of identification called 'survival on Earth' comes ever closer to two kinds of despair: environmental desaster and injustice. As if the Spielberg like creature from outer space finds it hard to believe the earth has become just that: an unjust place, no longer a home, the very barreness underlines what is left as fateful outcome, namely the death sentence visualised as being hung from a tree! Earth marked by one lonely tree left standing, things are depicted as being far worse since from this tree without any leaves, there hangs one man. It says something about destitute on earth, or what shall remain as 'footprint' of mankind's doings or passivitiy. Alone such a graffiti does provoke real thoughts about what is happening to this world due to man's negligence.

Something more needs to be said about this specific graffiti, for it reminds of Albrecht Dürer's 'Apocalyptical Rider' who rides through devasted villages. Only in this case, the reference to hanging adds another variation to an apocalpytical vision. Subculture may suggest an affinity to a song like 'Tom Dooley'. The song is about a mysterious murder case and subsequently the song recants, in: "today they are going to hang you!" Strange encounters like these can be experienced all the time when walking past such graffiti.


  Windows of the Nakas Music shop just across the street                  Feb. 2014

By taking then a look just across the street, no better contrast between graffiti and commercial graphic language can be found. While the writing and paintings on the wall instill a subjective reflection of what life stories are all about, the graphic design used to give a music shop some emblemic figures reveals much more what is assumed to reside within the collective subconscious. Hence a musician can be typically displayed by playing an instrument. Thus the graphic depicts a modern version of aesthetical appeal to common senses.

Naturally a lot more needs to be said about this contrast between graphic design and graffiti to be found in the street, but it indicates already an interesting contrast. As revealed by the graffiti 'survival on earth', all these art works on walls give space for furher going reflections. They do not appeal to the subconscious as does advertisement language, but explore in public space, equally in the street what ressonantes with human emotions and human reason. That is most important. Graffiti does not seek to divide and therefore does not wish to manipulate. Rather it comes much closer to expressions of the human soul and shows what the soul is tormented by.

To continue this imaginary walk through Exarchia, there can be seen on the other side of Navarinou Street, that is vis a vis the Chemisty Building, a print and copy shop. Like many once business hours are over, and the shutters down, then these closed eyes reveal still another make-up as if another kind of graffiti comes out at night, one not to be seen during day time because then the shatters are pulled up.

Obviously here is a signature to underline this artist claims responsibility for this act of declaration. While the left portrait seems to show relunctanly masculine expressions in a face, the graffiti on the right side is more of a puzzle, since part of a fantasy landscape while innocence is declared in the form of flowers and birds.

Just beside those two entrance doors to the store, there starts a hallway leading towards the corner of Navraniou and Mavromichali Street. Till recently that hallway had been by homeless. Now they are gone due to sweep by the Municipality of Athens. To where these homeless people were taken, no one knows. The fact that the consequences of the austerity measures are removed from direct side at street level, this adds weight to the argument by Michel Foucault, who said when the state wishes to deceive people as to the reason why there is so much unemployment, those kept in prison and in psychiatry are released into the streets. It leads to the wrong conclusion, not society, but the individual is at fault for not finding a job to sustain him- or herself by being able to afford the rent of an apartment. 

Indeed, the deception of society as to the real state of affairs continues in March 2014. Alone an ambivalence in what is the specific reason for the crisis can make people hesitate in their response, and thus governance becomes easier as not all people act together in solidarity with one another. 'Divide and rule' applies also to Greece in crisis mode since 2008/9 or 2010 at the latest.

At Intersection of Mavromichali and Navarinou

As to graffiti and tagging of walls climbing up higher and higher, there is evidence of that at this specific intersection with one corner leading directly into the park.

Here can be seen the hallway referred to - a simple free space underneath pillars upholding the building.



Chemisty University Building


High up goes this signature on the wall of the Chemistry Facultry builing

Entrance to the park

Shop "Living Green" on the other side of the street where the park begins

Alone this corner shows what different worlds do coincide and coexist, and therefore it creates an atmosphere of cohesion despite a lot of reluctance being shown by those passing simply by the park as if afraid to enter this common space. For this vibrant diversity stands for those still afraid as a sign of chaos and therefore they take these expressions as endangering the existing order, even though they do believe themselves in this order. Here different worlds part with those just passing through by driving down Mavromichali Street left lost in their thoughts about Athens as city, since most of them work downtown, but live on the outskirts. Yet what can unite the diverse streams in the urban population is a concern for what values have been given up as a result of the austerity measures, and what new values may be adopted as they make sense e.g. Green life or pro environment. 


The graffiti on this particular store shows in its over exaggeration that the carving for an alternative way of life, i.e. 'living green', is at risk to become more a fashionable slogan. The contrast to that dream world can be experienced at that corner alone by looking just across the street to where a novel park has started to exist since March 2009. It was then that a group in a spontaneous act started to tear up the pavement of the parking lot, and began to convert it into a park to make true that Athens has too few green spaces. To see how the trees have grown since then, and this day by day, month by month, that is itself an experience with deep impact when looking how much shade they can spend already in March/April 2014.

The transformation of a parking lot into a park

After the death of Alexandrous on 6th of December 2008, the streets of Exarchia were transformed into pitched battles with the police. The uproard subsided only towards Christmas but the 'rage' especially of the youth continued to simmer underneath an apparent calmness in the streets, as demonstrated by people going out to do their Christmas shopping. But the fact that the Christmas Tree on Syntagma Square burned down three times, and then was never again put up again by the Municipality of Athens, says a lot about the stand-off. Greece entered anyhow a crisis mode with no one sure about the outcome. It included speculations about a melt down of the Euro and Greece leaving both the Euro-zone and the European Union. The atmosphere was rife with all kinds of rumours and claims.

All along the rage was directed as well against all forms of corruption and misuse of urban spaces for all kinds of activities but none of which would really serve the interest of the people. Even more so, the critique of the lack of planning in Athens had been swelling on for such a long time, as if the tight streets over congested by use of cars left no one with any breathing space to speak of. This was especially the case in Exarchia. 

This rage entailed the danger that things would turn ever nastier. Repeatedly the question was asked why smashing of windows was the only expression conceivable, why not do something constructive and creative? In March the answer came spontaneously and surprisingly so. Some had taken the initiative and seized a huge parking place. They started to break up the pavement and initiated a call for everyone to donate a tree. Out of this emerged a new park. The parking lot had been owned by the Technical Chamber of Commerce, but luckily they did not insist on the police to move in. Not what happened in the two weeks following the death of Alexandrous. Somehow the moment was ripe to let this creative outlet flourish instead of suppressing it. Since 2009 the trees in that park have grown. (1)


March 2009

 Feb. 2014

Looking towards that intersection in the right side of the photo

 The parking lot transformed into a park                                           2009 - 2014

An interesting depiction of a woman marks the entrance to the children's playground. It reminds of certain paintings Picasso made. Already in the background can be seen the snail house made out of natural materials which was constructed towards the end of 2013.


Fifi, Fola - the song continues in slang to admonish the Fascists


Corner Trikoupi and Navarinou

Park along Trikoupi street looking towards Navrinou Street

 Before entering Navrinou Street away from the park, there is an empty plot of land at the corner. It marks still another entry point into Exarchia, for now a more dense language of graffiti begins to speak clearly from every conceivable space available.




















Looking towards Navarinou Street

Similar in Detroit an artist would collect the stuffed animals people would place especially on a make shift shrine if some child had been killed. Here the bear beside the deadly face shows a contrast hard to be compared with anything else.

 Entering Navrinou Street, graffiti appears on the right side to be a composition of many textures, languages (of cartoons, of portrait, of symbols), while the various natural spaces are used in a most ingenious way. Especially the use of former window frames gives the paintings within this space a special artistic note. It distinguishes itself and sets it apart from the entire surrounding as the glance can be absorbed just by that one portrait.

 Wall of a closed down house on Navrinou Street in Exarchia               March 2014




Memorial site for Alexandrous


Memorial plate at corner Navarinou and Z. Pigis Street                    2013

Alexandrous, a fifteen year old boy, was shot by a policeman on 6th of December 2008, and died as a result of his wounds once he had been brought to hospital. That evening the entire Exarchia area exploded, and with it Athens and the rest of the country. Significant is what was erected in his memory. Besides the memorial plate, this corner at Navarinou and Z. Pigis Street has become a significant spot to remind what everyone has to face at any given moment when it comes to clashes especially with the police.

When reaching that spot on a Saturday evening, 5. April 2014, a significant change was immediately evident. After Berkin Eflan, likewise a 15 year old boy, had died, it sparked an act of solidarity in Exarchia with what was also the fate of this boy. He had been hit by a police cannister on the head just as he was buying bread. Skirmishes with the police had erupted in Istanbul, Turkey at that time i.e. in June 2013. This is when people wished to protect the Gezi park, a public space and park, against further encroachment of speculative enterprises. He remained thereafter for 269 days in coma before he died on March 11, 2014. Consequently his funeral took place on the next day. Since Alexandrous and Berkin were both fifteen year old boys, and shared the same fate to die too young to have been able to claim that they had lived, this link as shown at the memorial place for Alexandrous is not merely symbolic. Rather it goes far deeper and creates a common shared memory in relation to what police violence and a repressive regime stands for. Side by side their portraits are shown.


                                                                                        Exarchia 5.4.2014


Alone within this space political history unfolds and resonates with those who know what has happened ever since Alexandrous was killed. As one passer-by said that evening on 6th of December before the riots erupted, there was an irry silence.


  Street war memorial                                                                      5.4.2014

On the opposite side of the Z. Pigis street going towards the cafes at the next corner, a banner underlined what deeper connection between these two fifteen year olds exist.

"Children of the same sea"                                                              5.4.2014

Underneath the banner countless messages, leaflets, political phamlets adds to the sense of intense dialogues with a situation as it unfolds. Ever since the Arab Spring started in Cairo thanks to the new media, it was significant that Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, not only shut down Twitter but denounced Berkin Eflan as having been a 'terrorist'. By implication, it would mean that his death can be justified, for the police was endangered by such a dangerous fifteen year old. Alone this demonstrates once again how politics can distort the truth, in order to safeguard those in power, even if it means the killing of an innocent life. Afterall Berkin Eflan was just on his way to buy bread. Likewise Alexandrous made his way through Exarchia that evening on 6th of December 2008, in order to celebrate with two friends named Nicholas their namesday. 



It is significant when a figure of revolt is shown as being masked. It appears as if showing a human face would endanger that person due to the possibility of the police to identify those persons demonstrating in the streets. Quite the opposite was the case at the start of the Arab Spring. Then the youth started to step out of an anonymous contexts and put a face behind their messages in facebook. By standing up in public, they took responsibility for what they articulated, and expected that the freedom of speech means at the same time everyone has the Right to articulate his or her opinion in public. It would mean a public space open for public debate. Since 2008 in and what happened then in Egypt following the crack down of the Muslim Brotherhood by the military, and the subsequent Iron Rule like suppression, freedom of speech is again a precarious matter for those who dare to express their opinions openly and directly. The masked face is nevertheless highly problematic.

One additional observation has to be made onhand of the group signing as responsibile for this depiction of a masked face. They call themselves the 'Nihilism team'. As this evokes an association with Nietzsche and the phenomenon of Europe being the home of Nihilism, it might be helpful to remember here what Robert Musil attempted to find out when writing his book 'Man without attributes'. At one point, he describes how the main character, the man without attributes, ends up in a party of the youth. He finds many of them sitting on the stairs, and thus enters a discussion with them, in order to find out why they find Nietzsche to be so highly attractice. He comes to the conclusion that this youth is lost because they have send many ideas into the world, and worse than criticism, they did not receive any answer or feed-back to their ideas.

Untested are many ideas when children turn into young adolescents and seek a way into the world. It resonates what another saying on the wall explains about their limited horizon, for although they were born in a bus stop, they never learned to tavel in order to explore the world. It is crucial even to understand where this negative or rather nihilistic attitude comes from. One characteristic is that those belonging to the larger movement calling itself Anarchists does not believe in the government; instead they aim for self governance.


    Self governance as 'street memory work'                                       5.4.2014

Naturally to find a philosophy which would give creditability to such an idea, there needs to be found an open, if not a 'magic' door. Of interest is that along with these deeply political graffiti in remembrance of Alexandrous, and now of Berkin, there can be found underneath an art work in itself - a rusty plate running along the top of a fence - such an impression of a door.


     "Wait, I am coming, Re!"                                                               5.4.2014

Self governance includes as well a good sense of humour, or at the very least the graffiti depicting the robbery of a bank can be taken as an extension of 'lucky luke'. The cartoon like figures are made to appear all alike. It is a common resoluteness which leads to the idea, if the state and all the banks do not help, then help yourself. For money is there to be grabbed. That perception of money says also something how those with money are perceived within the movement on how they obtained that amount of money, namely not by doing a lot of hard work.



Return to the park - Side street

When returning to Trikoupi Street and then walking towards Didotou Street, there comes first on the left side a small passage. The houses are literally plastered with graffiti.

All these expressions have come about under some very definite circumstances. Some are spontaneous expressions, others follow what they find already on the walls and still more comes as a result of events circulating Exarchia like the police helicopter whenever anarchists take to the streets.

Whether called transformation of a city, or a reflection of the fact that the city is undergoing a transition due to the ongoing crisis since 2008, graffiti underlines one simple fact: outer spaces in the streets are no longer able to escape from being touched by the 'invisible hands' of time. 


A study of details would reveal numerous illustrations are like a part of an open diary of the city and what happens in the streets. It includes cemetery like memorials even though that can be perceived as statements of irony, and not necessarily reflections of real events. Simulation and circumstances intertwine to define the so called happenings being transformed into events. Often that is equated with when the police came and was beaten back. Small but significant heroic gestures like these count in such a diary as contributions to retaining the autonomy of Exarchia.

Against Valentine's Day                                                        Exarchia Feb. 2014

It is not difficult to image what counter positions can be articulated along the wall, but definitely with autonomy of Exarchia a given priority, it matters how then creative contributions to upholding such a spirit are valued. There are definitely some binding norms at work, even if they are overturned like rubbish cans when engaged in battles with the police. This may be even called the laws of Exarchia. Curious to see then a grotesque Capitalist like figure beside some delicate ornamental decoration. While the figure belching in smoke and holds a beer glass in his hand reminds of Otto Dix and German Expressionism in the 1930's when deriding society as being full of lies, the decorative element underlines immediately the other cultural context in Greece. It seems not to be so much a clash between different spirits i.e. Protestant Ethics and Mediterranean cuisine, but rather various time modes remember things, so that they suddenly pop up like objects floating in the sea. The convulsive nature of the forces which bring over time various things to the superficial surface of society, that has a long tradition. But in Exarchia the volatile nature can be best understood as Makis Trochidis would describe it after having made his film called 'self portrait', namely there was a volcanic eruption and all its ashes were splattered along the walls. The question remains if such an outburst shall retain the lust to do more and more graffiti on the walls, or it will fade out with time as if just another kind of fashion, more politically teinted and anti commercial in orientation, but nevertheless a short lived fashion?

The answer depends whether an intrinsic value is being discovered over time, and therefore efforts shall be undertaken to retain some of the most outstanding graffiti, and therefore to leave those places and spots on the walls virtually untouched. Naturally time has its own laws and will work continuously on the walls, weather conditions included. The wear and tear makes it also into an interesting question within what dimension of time and space memories thereof shall fade, and like the street theatre, everything disappear once the lights go out, the stage removed and people go home. But compared to some of the fast fading scenes and graffiti in Berlin, for example, the political condition behind these expressions seems more enduring, and therefore some of the graffiti has been around for more than two to four years.

Street scene

Just on the other side of this street, there is a huge opening in the wall of the houses. It opens up into a parking lot reaching on the other side Didotou Street.


Parking lot - between small street and Didotou street


         Entry point to parking lot

Some ingenious act brought about this figure looking around the corner. Since naked, all the sensitivity is expressed by the spine. The back shows a play of muscles. It reminds again of man in nature, and as such can easily make forget to be in a congested urban area. No more needs to be said how artful the figure clings to a wall which has been broken off.



7up at the very top, and underneath two strange caricatures. As to the figure on the right, it seems to be an anarchist all too willing to show the 'v' for victory. Still his face is a bit detached and estranged. He has some features which are very similar to the figure beside him. Like a parallel action. The emphasis on sharp teeth becomes a refrain within the curtailment of the imagination before it could wander off. Once the eyes wander off to th left, amazing the spiral stair case beside this huge fire wall while in the far right corner there stands forlorn an orange chair. A drama can unfold here anytime, even though as a parking spot the one guard does prefer to sit in the shade and just wait until the next customer drives in - most of the time from Didotou Street. Nothing else moves - except the figures on the walls on the two sides of the parking lot. There are only these two walls to the left and the right since the parking lot is open on both ends.


"Bottom line - remove first the lice!"

So often when newscasters press the person being interviewed with a quick, short, concrete answer, a tpyical question by the journalist or anchor man making the interview is: "tell me briefly, what is the bottom line?" This instilled impatience makes the system unwilling to listen to anything more than a few sound bites. Anything longer shall be turned off. This leads to a disability not really defined in society but once people are no longer willing to listen, altogether reflections going into the substance of things are too easily and too readily dismissed. Thus a thought can be incurred when seeing the contrast of the two figures to the left who appear to be like monkeys in the zoo and there ready to delice each other. They make the other two caricature figures appear like spectators, but not merely passive ones. They seem to shout or wish to suggest what should be the next move. Yet those monkey like men on the left seem not to be preturbed. Rather they look into the parking lot, towards the person viewing them. It is a penetrating glance which says a lot about confounding questioning eyes with probes into issues of the day. It can be imagined as people drive into the parking lot and leave there their cars, that they will not walk away untouched by this graffiti on the wall.


  2 figures - cleaning out of lice

A closer look at the left figures shows he holds in his left hand a hatchet, while with the other he seems to pick out if not lice, then a piece of hair. The other guy has some towel around his neck as if at the barber shop. They say, listen to what is being rumoured at the barber shop, and you will know what is going on in the city or at least where there is a problem. Still, the thought that the barber will cut the hair with a hatchet, that seems more a comment along futility line when trying to resolve issues as if attempting to split a hair. Such differentiated comments to what prevails in everyday life of politics may be amusing for some, but for others who are bitter serious, this will be taken not as a critique but more like an insult. The 'angry bear' made to stand on his hind feet and dance in front of spectators was a long tradition by gypsies when seeking to entertain, and thereby earn some money. Most of the time some of the metaphorical expressions remind of these customs and transpose them onto political settings. Only the difficulty of Exarchia as autonous region is to define exactly what would be a common understanding of politics? For there seems to reign as much confusion as anger in the streets - while the graffiti sets a tone apart from the usual controversies, but like a good artistic reflection it points out as well follies and weaknesses. In that sense, they make aware, yet in a quite different way to usual critiques, as to where the risks lie once man deceives himself as being the greatest.


              Towards the corner of the parking lot - entry Didotou street

              It should be noted the German word 'Laus' for lice on the left.

                            Crowded in letters underneath an imaginary garden of colours

Whatever the setting, the combination of parked cars, stair cases, graffiti and houses lived in, makes up for an urban environment which could never be called completely 'home'. For the estrangement not from things which alien a person, but rather the stirring of the imagination which can set off dreams, alters the make-up of the city. It is not defensive nor offensive, but does impose, demands space and seeks forms of expressions which relate to life in the streets, but not in a way that it could be considered a direct replica. Precisely it cannot be deciphered easily as a puzzle it makes a difference in how things can be interpreted. It demands even in a silent way a new approach to the arts, and therefore as to what defines the arts until recently, if not continues to do so through official galleries and curators.


    Entrance to parking lot (underneath the graffiti of a 'laus' - lice         5.4.2014

In this parking lot, the open space replaces the confined space. And not only parked cars may be curators who have still a say in the outcome i.e. as to what goes onto these walls. Usually parking lots are temporary spaces. The owners wait till they have the money and the building permission to construct there instead a new building. Or the movement takes over the parking lot and transforms it into a park as the case just around the corner.

What sparked all of this graffiti now already dating back to 2008, may never be explained sufficiently. For human creativity remains a mystery especially when those who were involved in the act stay anonymous. As a creative collectivity, it will be of interest to see if the same spirit shall prevail in the years to come. Already the approaching Municipal elections have the prime candidate Kaminis declare he wishes to continue and to intensify his war against graffiti as he considers it to be a mere 'pollution of the eye'. Not only does such a stigma do unjustice to the variety of expressions to be found, and which can be called truly a 'street theatre of memory' displaced on walls, but as everyone knows Kaminis will lose surely that battle for the aesthetic of resistance cannot be squashed so easily, and especially not if the conditions caused by the austerity measures along with what caused the crisis in the first place, namely a lot of injustice and corruption, shall continue to prevail.


      Opposite corner of parking lot

On the opposite side, at the very corner, there can seen in the lower part of the wall hands in chains, screaming faces, someone pointing out cash can be found around the corner. All desparate signs of frugality, and not even a heart beat away, there is pasted on a poster of someone walking into a corner as if an edge of shadow. The only contrast in that poster is the spot of red. Compared with, or in contrast with the various layers of painted signs, it indicates a lot to depict immediately above mountain peaks with birds flying over. To peak to the right, and already the blue sky above Didotou Street - when looking in the direction of Exarchia Square - leaves a lot to be said about the power of the arts to create such an illusion within space. The contrast cannot be greater between looking down the street and at the graffiti.

A comparison can be made in terms of what self forgetting is evoked by which glance or perception - the wall murals have their own powerful language and immediately this imaginary world is entered on the basis of a strong self forgetting. A look down the street even though more real in one way does remind how forlorn the individual is within the confines of a city. This self isolation does not allow for such a positive self forgetting in order to give space to remember things worthwhile to remember about life. 

Also another contrast can be found on the opposite side of the parking lot, for there is posed one crucial question: should we open governments? Written above it is 'lathos' - mistake. It seems then to be not an open question, but one which has a definite answer after all the experiences made in recent times. Still, the question of government is perplexing enough, that it might lead as well to the outcome, as long as we are left alone, not intervened with, then everything is OK, at least for the time being. A measure of time can be, therefore, how much time the anarchists and others give themselves before the rise up again to the challenge and use means by which they do not necessarily open, but rather the opposite close down the government, but then for reasons of riot police guarding the entrance to Parliament at Syntagma Square. Human sentiment has it that mistakes are made by the politicians, but the individuals have to pay for these mistakes, if they do not get together and go against measures which seem only to hurt but not necessarily pave a way into the future. At best, it means social peace is a kind of acquiescene to waiting for the time being what else shall follow. "Let us see what will happen next!"

Lathos - should we open governments?

In reference to the discussion about self governance as a key philosophical line of the Anarchist movement, it is an interesting question in view of two prime issues to be faced: Neo Fascism and loneliness as a single figure within urban space.  These two aspects can be seen in the graffiti displayed along that side of the parking lot.


View towards the end of the parking lot - scenes along the wall


Can that be the lost boy from the countrysite in the city?



        "To boot Neo Fascism in the face"

Klaus Heinrich in Berlin wrote an important book when looking back at Germany and the failure to stop in time developments towards Fascism during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933). He called it "The difficulty of saying 'no'", and meant when faced by Fascist, it is important to distinguish between action such a person is about to undertake, and the person itself. If the action is to be stopped, and this can include the killing of Jews in concentration camps, then one has to create a partnership with that person, in order to say jointly 'no' to this intended action. When discussing this with people who do not even belong to the movement of Anarchists, they would readily admit such a distinction between action and person is most difficult, if at all possible.

Also some literary depth of observation may serve as critical line of reflection. When Uwe Johnson described people how they behaved during the Weimar Republic, period of Fascism under Hitler, and then entered East Germany under the rule of Communism, they adapted themselves to the relative circumstances, but always underneath these roles there could be perceived their human nature. It is crucial not to deny the human being even when at superficial surface that human being is being determined by roles and identifies enforced upon the masses of people to make a difference in how power can and does shape the outcome of a societal development. 

All this is said in view of the graffiti displaying merely violence as the only way to stop this tendency in society towards Neo Fascism as indicated by the existence of Chrysi Avgi, but not only. Far more telling is that those who belong to the Anarchist and wider movement active especially in the Exarchia area believe that Greek society is altogether inclined to follow the lead of the Extreme Right than adhere to principles of solidarity and self-governance.

Messolongiou street


    Antifa - free the energy to fight Faschism

Interesting to note is that the letters are in yellow colour and a blue background, as if a matter of a magician or wishful thinking to do away with this what has brought shame upon Greek society: the rise of Chrysi Avgi, and neo Fascists carrying out battles in the street with anarchists.


    Death stalking in - with Hitler's Swastika crossed out

Along that same wall, so much scribbles on the wall make it hardly possible to find space for any new craft! Still, a look through the open window can reveal inside an ongoing business called "Libro d'oro", unpreturbed by what has transformed the walls. If one takes just advertisement as a necessity for business into consideration, then the replacement of signs by graffiti to mark the entire wall takes on quite a significance. For then the correspondence between outside and inside is no longer dictating solely by the ongoing business, but what at street level needs to be said.


      Doorways transformed

Everywhere graffiti challenges and makes anyone approaching such a doorway to be no longer a mere onlooker. For a more precise orientation is needed to find the door.


      Conjoined figures - from rabbits to little man in clothes ready to sleep


    El Paso and other writings intermingle - to make up a display of yellow-green


   Green man - "Jesus was a Zombie too"

A glance through the window into an office could easily bring out the difference between inner and outer aesthetics. Again the fact that work, business, living seems to go on unpreturbed by what has covered the walls outside, that is an interesting observation to make. In Mesologgiou Street the houses are not abandoned, but used.  

Exarchia Square



  Exarchia square as common space for all                     Exarchia 23.Jan. 2014


Before the park was created on the former parking lot, there was but one meeting place: Exarchia Square. It went through many turmoils and transitions. For some time, so it seemed, it was the place where those on drugs would congregate. For a while it seemed as if only the anarchists ruled. They even determined whether a music group could play even if sponsored by the Municipality of Athens. Then, the neighbors and shop owners adjacent to the square got together and liberated the square, so to speak. An action to clean up the space followed. It became even a place where children could play. In 2014, there is an uneasy peace prevailing, and still the cafe neons around the square offer but a frame to those sitting on benches in the middle of the square. Their posture reminds very much of sea gulls sitting along the pier of the harbour just waiting for the next fishing boat from coming in.


   Street protester                                   Just off Exarchia Square 23.Jan. 2014

There is a definite language being spoken, and asserted in Exarchia. It is as tolerant as it is a hard bite. No one seems to understand from where all this comes from. Outstanding has always been the reference to the Polytechnic and what this special university for architects and engineers stands out for. In memory of the student uprising against the military dictaturship in 1973, culminating in tanks crashing through the gates on Nov. 17th, and therefore remembered each year on that day, resistance has taken on different forms over the years. Like Jürgen Hofman, playwright in Berlin, would put it in his collection of essays about the student movement in Berlin, and the subsequent drift off into the Baader-Meinhof group, violence is like a snake which slides through the cafe, ready to bite at any moment anyone willing to take up the cause.


    Anarchist chasing a neo Fascist                                             Jan. 23 2014

In 2014 the atmosphere is tinged with constant fights with police and neo fascists while the so called wild life in the bush, or in the autonomous district of Exarchia, takes its own toll. At times, it means an outburst of anger, at other times, this snake just sleeps in some warm place. Altogether it electrifies the atmosphere to the point of no one ready to take any nonsense, while tolerance is wide spread for those seeking an alternative route through life.


Valtetsiou Street

Gate and wall of the 5th Lyceou school bordering on Valtetsiou Street


Valtetsiou Street runs down from the pedestrian part ending at the wall of the compound holding the French Archaelogical Institute and the French Institute. At the other end, there is the Platia of Exarchia.


                        Corner of house at Valtetsiou 23

Every street passes through different layers of experience, all of which combine to let Exarchia vibrate in its own particular way. It takes time to get to know who works there even late at night to feed the hungry souls, and why there is this particular stretch which has been adopted by those who want to sit out in the street with bottle of beer in the hand and talk?






Images along one house wall

Images ranging from a man looking over the edge of a wall to an owl, and in between a Zebra reminding of the mythical animal called by the poetess Ann Borne 'unicorn', and a jelly fish that looks more like a floating mine - all connected by the word 'lefta' - money, which is missing in this world of phantasy. There are many more signs and symbols adorning these images and giving this particular part of the wall the impression of having opened up a book to be read while passing by.

When standing beside these images, there pass by many young people, in pairs, or alone, some with their rucksack, others with their mobile phones and ear plugs. One sturdy fellow appears to be from China. His heavy shoes have metal rings around the edges. An atmosphere of being all alone, without parents, in this world, and yet somehow at home in this specific quarter of Athens ready to embrace the stranger just as he or she is. That atmosphere is conveyed by what can be found on the walls, and yet sets a tone apart from the surroundings, for what these images offer is a complex other world not easily found in restaurants or just sitting around on stairs leading up to a house which has been closed down several years ago.

In Exarchia many exceptions can be found. For example, on this street there is the large taverna called 'Rosalia': strangely enough its kitchen is located across the street which has been transformed into a pedestrian walk, so no cars to fear but only motor bikes especially those who bring food upon orders made by phone from the near-by Souflaki place. The kitchen is on the ground floor. Above it is another restaurant not to be accessed from Valtetsiou street, but from the main road crossing the street. The Souflaki place is on the same side as the kitchen but just a bit further down when walking towards the Platia. A scramble and hustle by the waiters can be observed when they come out of the taverna 'Rosalia' or else return with some hot plates. It says a lot about the weather conditions in Athens that this takes place the year around for weather hardly impedes such outdoor activities except in the colder months of December until Easter when the weather usually turns towards the sun which stays till the rainy season begins around October or even later.



According to Wikipedia, it refers to a literal or figurative state near death, but it may also refer to:



            "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust"                           March 2014

Many refrains of songs played by various bands can evoke counter images as to what the house of the parents wishes to uphold. 'Heavy Metal' is just one of the many musical categories. These musical streams give an idea by which identification processes of the youth can be described. It seems often the case as if they are swept along by a tidal wave which destroys anything else standing in the streets. George Frangopoulos, in his essay about 'Aesthetics of Graffiti', would attribute this to the fact that the city turns out to be completely alien to what this youth had imagined to be the case when still children. Now that they plow, literally speaking, through their disappointments, out come the cigarettes in rejection of the parents' house, but still confined to whatever determined their state of minds by this imitation of being a grown up person now.

"Things go up in smoke just the same". No wonder, when the youth feels to be near death and decay especially in a period of crisis. It means the search for 'substance' is own, but how to define substance otherwise than being 'honest'?


 Anarchist demand

The difficulties of growing up in a city, especially when all societal problems are compounded by evasive ideas about reality, can be measured by a stick called 'affinity to life' compared to closeness with death. It may be only a figurative measuring sticks. Like blind people, when nothing can be foreseen, the only reliable source of information is the sense of touch. It goes with intuition and amounts, therefore, to a reflection of certainty about the senses. What can they tell one, and is something else needed to verify them?

Given the perplexity of life at times, when running low on money, and more often angry with the father who does not seem to understand what one goes through as a sixteen year old, there can be heard the so-called 'swan song'. At least, this seems to appear on the wall.


    Face of a boy with three swans                    Exarchia Valtetsiou March 2014

Sometimes specific locations bring about unusual connotations. Swan songs - musical instruments - inner/outer relations overturned, since a city redesigns itself constantly as to what is private, what not. And whenever the public is being referred to, then these images on the wall question that term too often misused or in reality something people feel deprived of, when they have no longer access to the real meaning of what was not merely the village square with one monument standing in the middle, as if De Chirico would come along and let the sculpture step down after mid-night to illuminate the metaphysics of the city. Rather circumstances would allow certain elements to prevail while others would be neglected or rather be discarded as a cigarette but once the smoking ritual is over.  So quite in contrast to that is the clean face of the young man being portrayed beside the swans. Perhaps a particular location does have an influence, and like those musical instruments on display in the shop window call for a refined sense, and therefore to another way to respond to circumstances.


         Emblematic poster                                        Valtetsiou March 2014

The anarchist sense of response is not to give in to legal procedures by which the state manifests itself, and which is reflected by the presence of the police in the streets. There is the anti riot unit stationed just around the corner or even they stand at one corner up higher on Valetsiou. Their presence makes a difference to the overall atmosphere as to how Exarchia conceives to be by itself a liberal entity and enclave, while the police declare this to be a danger or outlaw zone. Yet not anything goes, even if some images on the wall manifest the readiness not to be intimitaded by the violence of the state.

Anarchist antifa - the sling shot                                        Valtetsiou March 2014








Text and Photos by Hatto Fischer

Athens March 2014



1. Something similar took place in Iceland

"There's a square in the middle of Reykjavik with a beating heart that's fighting for its life.
The park is called Hjartagarðurinn, literally translated as "Heart Garden," and fondly known as "Heart Park."

A community of artists headed by Tómas Magnússon, Tanya Pollock and Örn Tönsberg, cleaned up what was formerly a derelict abandoned lot, in the center of the main shopping district of Reykjavik. A stage was built, benches and tables were brought in, playground equipment was set up, skateboard ramps were constructed... and, as the park came to life, the crowd gathered"

The article by Pam Peterson includes photos taken by Jelena Schally of the graffiti which exists there. See




Elena Beis, „Der Ort für alle Menschen – im linken Viertel von Athen“ TAZ 21.08.2012 http://www.taz.de/!100050/

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