Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Imprint of Graffiti


       Imprint of Charlie Chaplain                                       Athens 2012


Graffiti displays variations of what residual of human self consciousness remains accessible in society. By so doing, the images on the wall show what imprint of common knowledge circumscribes the collective mind. As replica of a reality not imagined but perceived, the language on the wall seeks to capture and to address the social consciousness thereof. While the justification for such an act may be that it was done in the interest to share a reminder of something and thereby reactivate a common knowlege, the very imprint thereof comes much closer to what constitutes a residual of social conscience. What is left of past images is also important for linking the past with the present. It is done in a much more subconscious than obvious way. Only when thinking about it a bit more, then certain correlations become evident.

For instance, everyone recognizes immediately what the image of Charlie Chaplin stands for. Alone the way Charlie Chaplin imitated Hitler by acting in a clumsy way, he managed to ridiculize Hitler by over emphasizing certain ways of speaking and behaving. He exposed thereby not only the fault lines of this dictator but people suddenly could laugh. They submitted no longer to the fear they had of this dreaded dictator and thereby alone this other perception hastened his fall.

To see, therefore, his image in the streets of Athens, that is a strong reminder of what it takes for the little man to stand up to a dictator. In the case of the Greek crisis, for many the dictator has been replaced by an invisible force called 'money' or more precisely by 'state debt'. Apparently the latter justifies the taking of such drastic measures, that it has led to countless people being made unemployed and or else forced to go earlier than planned into retirement. It takes only the flash of a second when passing by and throwing a glance at the image of Charlie Chaplin to be reminded of what it takes to overturn an uneven fight. This reminder may well happen more at subconscious level and can only be one further attribute added to a collective wish to overcome the economic crisis.  

Even if merely a residual reminder of something, graffiti can still express best what it takes in this society not to be idle. There is a definite need not only to be active, but to be activated in a certain and special manner. For it goes hand in hand with the need and wish to feel being alive and equally aware of things which make a difference in life. This is all the more so the case since graffiti is itself a part of a freedom of expression to be found only in the streets. Graffiti differs as well from watching televisions or seeing in a cinema images on the silver screen. Nor is the wall used as space for projections; rather artists use the wall in many different ways to reveal what appear to be coincidental connections, even though the material composition can startle anyone so much, that it begins to penetrate the mind. This is still the case even when a person is caught up in daily life. For while seeking to find his or her way through traffic when going to work or returning home, the graffiti on the wall can alter the urban space traveling through altogether and thereby take the person, literally speaking, into a different world. The latter may be filled with ghost like figures or illustrate unusual reversals in the perception of things. Once something leads towards seeing and viewing things slightly different from the usual pattern which had been adopted up to now, uncertainty about anything becomes a liberalisation, a force capable of taking one forward. All it requires are but a few lines as if the wall or garage door can be used as a kind of sketch pad to illustrate some mere ideas or a hint at something else. Once done with playfulness and homour, it becomes even more powerful as a human emphasis upon things which matter.


        "Reverse angel"                                   Oct. Merlien Street Feb. 2014

While graffiti can leave one passer-by guessing if others shall take likewise notice, this affected awareness begins to point in a special direction if of truly spontaneous, equally artistic nature. In a split second a combination of impressions and ideas can reverse the usual accumulation of things, and end up in wonder about oneself when reflected in the image on the wall now acting as if a mirror. Makis Trochidis would explain this impact as a sampling of ideas collected by every individual while going through the streets of Athens, in order to come up with some figurative answer to the question: "but who am I?" Appropriately he called his documentary film of graffiti in Athens: "self portrait". (1)


          "Sleep - dream - writings on the wall"                         Exarchia 2013        

Now the reverse of usual self portraits has to be taken into account before the true nature of graffiti as street art is to be understand. If the times are filled with uncertainties, the images on the wall act as guides over time and reflect in turn what images are most appropriate to replicate these times. They take on a typical form when subjective and social elements of the same image coincide with what seems to shape life in the streets. About this coincidence, or simultaneous act, Descartes thought of finding the personal identity in just that moment when the social connection to the collectivity and society becomes evident in the consciousness, and this in the form 'I see and I think to perform in a certain way'.

All this may illustrate desparation, but it shows as well in a clever way how to oppose the direction society has taken once austerity measures were introduced. Since more factors interplay with what is happening in reality, the statements made by all these images and messages written on the walls create quite a narrative to what is being presented by the official media as to the times lived in Athens ever since the financial crisis broke out into the open from 2009 onwards. The graffiti express a willingness to be open to doubt as no one knows how to get out of the crisis. At the same time, they add a touch of humour and state what can also be a dream realized once urban and social reality is seen out of this specific angle.

A facial expression expressed with few lines              Ermou Street  Feb. 2014

Typical expressions lead to similar associations. Combined in one field of perception, meanings are attached accordingly. This process of associations reveals how impregnation by means of images works. Here can be compared between street art and what is used effectively by advertisement and marketing strategies. For the process is best circumscribed by applying a visual orientated method to curtail collective dispositions, so that only certain images dominate as representatives of the collective subconsciousness. Once that has been established within a given period, everybody tends to respond not to everything, but only to very specific things and likewise to follow just one kind of fashion.

Since all of this results in responding in a certain, even typical way, the image has served the purpose of translating the overall felt 'uncertainty' or anxiety into something more certain, even if only about definite things. They may have something to do with current political state of affairs but generally speaking, they address more a quest for meaning of life. Behind that are numerous signs of despair and helplessness. 

Once a pattern of perception has to set in, typical behavioural patterns make life style predictable. At the same time, most of the graffiti perceives these patterns as being too static and therefore they wish to provoke a stepping out of these endless repetitions. It leads to a flight not into light but images. Consequently the responses to graffiti can be anything from seeking to ignore them to finding them great since they add 'life' and therefore colour to the city perceived otherwise to be grey and indifferent to the plights of everyone. 


     "Fast and beautiful"                            Oct. Merlien / Asklipiou Street 2014

What prevails on the walls may be understood a bit better when images seem to surprise as if figures emerge out of the pavement and therefore transform the urban space.

Like a stream of thought, graffiti concretize in that moment an image which plays with the 'expected unexpected', and which can end up being not a horrible, but a pleasant surprise. This is especially the case when things are painted in terms of an aesthetical sense for beauty. What makes an image so different from a painting, is that the response to the image reflects a fight against constraints imposed by the urban environment and 'this life'. The imagines are often curtailed by clearly distinguished lines which become borders of the image. They had to be painted most often very quickly, and even if a spontaneous act, the limited time means a few lines and a single field of colour may have to suffice to lend reality to this imitation of something much more complex. Hence the image as difference to reality acts like a cartoon to unify subconsciously a much wider range of possibilities. The latter includes a sense of freedom if it would be possible to let the imagination walk freely through the streets. Likewise these images on the wall, in public spaces or streets, reveal the freedom which has been gained by seeking to express something even if at the brink of illegality.

Johannes Agnoli called the overall socialization of society the 'functionalization of intelligence' till all are disposed by following this image to buy but only a certain product. As if people are blind folded by samples of opinions which reflect apparently what everyone thinks, they become inclined to just follow what everyone else apparently desires.

In that sense, Graffiti seeks to counter this impregnation of the collective mind by displaying quite other images. The result may be what someone called 'curved' or 'crooked' memories. They are most helpful when on the look out for alternative ways to perceive what is going on within the system. In that sense, graffiti speak a realistic language and contradict in every way the image making process used everywhere to stifle any protest against how the system seems to work. Graffiti has no commercial value or is included in the marketing sense even when as of late attempts are made to earn money with some of the famous graffiti artists. Graffiti simply bucks and upsets the trend of the market.

On the contrary, market researchers try to find out what constitutes a general trend. Once needs and desires match, a fixation upon a certain brand becomes more predictable. In the end, they can advise which expression of taste shall be followed, and thereby ensure a marketing success of any given product.

All this can be enhanced in the modern media world working effectively with images. All the more power is given to design and the logos while advocates of new strategies for cities call it 'city branding'. Thus Liverpool '08 did everything when European Capital of Culture in 2008 to alter its image from being an ugly port town to a modern and thriving conference centre. Likewise Kaminis, the mayor of Athens, sought to close down the assembly held on Syntagma Square as if tourists want to see only monuments, cultural heritage and clean squares, but not people camping out of protest in the middle of Constitutional Square. Every effort was made not to let Athens be perceived as the city were only riots, demonstrations and strikes rule everything. By the end of July 2011 that spontaneous public gathering had been swept aside by this strategy which wishes to promote the image of Athens as a clean and healthy city, one which can welcome its visitors i.e. the tourists the Greek economy is so badly in need of, if there is any hope to make it out of the economic crisis at all.

The reason why a carefully planned communication strategy can be successful, lies precisely in the readiness of people to follow certain images and then generalize whatever the nuanced experience high-lights upon. It is worthwhile to compare the impact of graffiti with how the media works. The latter extrapolates certain images and blows them out of proportion way up. The aim is to instigate fear if that is allowed to continue. Thus parents in the USA get worried when they see in the news images of demonstrations in Athens. They phone immediately their children studying in Greece out of fear that the entire city has been affected, when in fact the entire skirmish between demonstrators and police was restricted but to two or three streets over from Syntagma Square. In reality, Athens with 4 million inhabitants is a city which spreads over a huge area. The students would be completely safe, indeed untouched by those demonstrations.

The image of Athens is burning


               "Athens burns"                                   Ermou Street Feb. 2014

There are always certain events which leave a deeper imprint upon the collective subconsciousness than other things which might take place, but pass by like a silent shadow if only to disappear completely once the sun has set. Certainly the images of street demonstrations differ from the usual when an entire country is gripped by a crisis and many people take to the street to protest against the austerity measures decided upon, in order to fix the problem of a state debt gone out of control.

There is a subtle difference between images transported by the media and images created by what has been painted on walls. For graffiti seeks to focus on the lived reality. It is already an act of resistance against the usual feed of images. Rather than let the collective subconsciousness be affected exclusively by the images created via the media, what appears on walls seeks other forms of interactions, and out of which there can emerge new communication patterns. The latter goes hand in hand with how memory is being re-organized, and therefore does not let news simply vanish. As such it becomes an act against forgetfulness. 

The problem with images used by the media is double folded: they tend to deploy an over simplified language to send out messages and do so by typifying events in order to confirm prenotions held. The self evidence of the image can only be questioned if sequences of events before and after could be followed, and not just a stone throwing demonstrator be used to underline the message, there had been again street violence. For the latter is then used to justify whatever police intervention there may have taken place to restore order in the streets.

Images can mislead viewers. This is the case once they are used to generalize as if this images applies to the entire city. Once viewers see on television screens demonstrators burning rubbish in the middle of the street, and this in the context of 'breaking news', the media blows it up as being sensational news. It distracts completely from the 'invisible news' as to how thousands of people shall be affected since they have lost their jobs. Rather the image displaces the deeper problems and suggests, or underlines that the street protest itself is in danger of getting out of control.

The result of such generalizations is that parents become anxious about their children studying in Greece, and therefore would not allow it out of security concerns. The imprint of these images has, therefore, an impact with countless repercussions whether now for foreign colleges operating in Greece or tourists coming to the country. 


          Burning rubbish as sign of street riots              Athens Feb. 2012

There is another twist to it when giving too much weight to only certain images. Since a lot of likes and dislikes are pre-determined by what is considered to be beautiful or ugly, it means in fact that taste determines the direction politics will take. With it go fashionable clothes, hair dooes, model of cars driven, etc. It amounts to believing in only certain dispositions, and not willing to take into consideration other versions of what is taking place. All media strategies are designed to make 'appearance' to taken more seriously than what exists in reality. Graffiti seeks to counter this persuasive argumentation and therefore replicate what tension there exists in the world. Altogether graffiti does not seek to illustrate how things appear to be; rather they seek to indicate and to reveal what holds this world together, what not.

Michael Moore in his video documentation 'Bowling for Columbine' stated that a 'business with fear' prevails so that people do not look for themselves but believe in just images as they are real. Once appearance whether now to look strong or beautiful can dictate not merely behaviour and attitude towards others, but more so thinking about possible solutions, only certain options shall be available. People tend to take what is given rather than to develop a chance to become free from such determination through images.

The youth encounters this problem of images in the world in more than one way. Once they take to the streets and decide to communicate through graffiti, it reveals another aspect of what they wish to be taken serious. In so doing, they realize a refutation of dominant images.

Suggested by the images used by the media, business and politics is that this world can and should only be shaped by the successful and experienced ones. In times of crisis, all kinds of justifications surface to make the exception become the golden rule. It can mean Mayor Bloomberg justifying his stay for a third term in office despite being an act in violation of the constitution which foresees only two terms and which was opposed by citizens of New York in a referendum. Nevertheless he stayed on as mayor for a third term and used the argument that only someone knowledgeable about finances like himself being a millionaire, would be able to handle the economic crisis which followed the Lehman Brothers Collapse in 2009.

Constantly modern images of the successful ones point in just one direction, namely that of the strong, equally fast athlete like Bolt, the football star with his amazing free kick and tatoos all over his body like Beckham, the newest smart car etc. By extension, and here begins the true, equally highly suggestive manipulation, all these images state that only when in possession of these qualities, then that person has it made i.e. attained an image which can be used for commercial purposes. Turkish airlines uses the face of football player Messi to advise its services. The advertisement displays his childish like smile by which the player is known around the world, an imagine enhanced by his amazing skill to score goals left and right. With the image goes consequently a certain reputation. If not careful, it can be easily ruined as most recently experienced by the Blade runner of South Africa after he has been involved in the killing of his girlfriend, a well known model. 

Anyone else not following the logic of marketing using design and images is bound to fail. Of interest is that prior to the economic crisis, the virtual economy functioned by firms selling things to people who previously never knew the existence of that product, and hence for which they had no definite need for it till then. All that came crashing down once the housing bubble burst and the economic system was shaken at its financial foundation. The bail-out strategy covered the banks at the expense of common people who had to compensate the loss of purchasing power of the currency in circulation by accepting lower wages or being pushed entirely into unemployment.

Despite of Greece finding itself to be in a severe economic and social-political crisis since 2009, people do not find it at all easy to break out of the binding logic of the system. For the fixation to the system is based on the logos of certain key images. Everything but politics appears to be self-understood. However, the silent and invisible violence which goes with it, is less perceived, never mind understood where it comes from. Against this the youth attempts to resist since it is fore mostly exposed to all kinds of 'invisible violence' and which they seek to demask in confrontation with the police in the streets.

Violence is hurtful and causes all kinds of pain. It can become a coercive power once its very threat is able to force people to do things against their own will. All the austerity measures which have been applied in Greece do fall within this logic of coercion. Above all they tend to negate any sense of freedom and therefore the criticism is heard that this is not a democratic system. Some misunderstanding creeps in as a result. To remind, no one is strong if he or she has not a penny in the pocket since money does matter. Yet that obtruse sense of money has led to much misuse and abuse of certain circumstances which the system brought about. Once civil values are lost or no longer count then accountability and governance as act of responsibility to all people are lost to a highly questionable praxis. The youth growing up in such a corrupt society has gone through various phases of attempting to come to terms with that. Also they have by now lived through stretches of dire thirst and hunger especially if left without money for two years. As youth they may weather this kind of storm but in reality it has become a precondition for them to either revolt or else submit in silence to any job offered in order to have something to eat and a roof over one's head.

In the end, they are left burning with desire for a decent life!

The imprint at Asklipiou 


      Imprint of faces                                                          August 2013

Graffiti counters in a unique way the imprint upon the collective unconsciousness. For example, the faces depicted on one house in Excharia remind of Marilyn Monroe. In realizing she was a tragic star, the informal knowledge the youth has learned to share about all kinds of traps of the system, and chasing stardom in Hollywood is but one of them, the graffiti of one face repeated several times on the wall of a house no longer used says it all. 

A closer look will reveal that it is not the same face being merely repeated as if a mechanical reproduction; rather the face continues in variations along the wall. Each facial expression takes on a different form of semblance. In the end, they do no longer resemble each other.

Once perceived in that way, then the faces remind as well of an imitation of Warhol who used different colours to bring out a variation. Above all the expressions of the faces on this house wall differ greatly from any advertisement or replica thereof as was the case with Warhol. For they seem to be equally autark and sad. That is underlined especially by eyes resembling down cast ones, and nothing suggests that it matters to have success in terms of what the system wants people to be and to do.

Clearly the variations of the same with nuanced differences in expression resonates with Walter Benjamin's thesis about the arts of the 1930's having moved into the age of mass production. Likewise the reproduction of much of the same allows hardly any insight as to what would allow a change of the system. Instead much seems to strive from one crisis to the next without any breathing space in-between.

Of further interest is what appears just around the corner of these three faces.



                 Corner Vas. Voulgaroktoriou and Asklipiou                      Feb. 2014

Asklipiou is a strange street in a strange part of Athens. On it lives the Greek president Papoulias, but likewise it is not anymore Kolonaki nor Exarchia, while in-between the main street heading towards the city, namely Ippocratous and up higher Dafnomili, this street is but a faint reminder of being so close to Lycabettou Hill and nature. For it is completely urban, that is bare, crowded, dirty, noisy and never pleasant to walk along since hardly any pavement exists and where free space exists, it is taken up by parked cars. Through this narrow street flows constantly traffic in the direction of Alexandrous, a main road. In short, this 'in between' everything and nothing leaves buildings in a dyfunctional state. All the more of interest to see by going just around the corner from those faces on Asklipiou this 'tough' woman in black, cigarette in the corner of her mouse and hands tucked underneath her arms to show off her biceps. Both posture and colour express a kind of daring everything while the attitude of not caring much about anything may bring it close to a show of nihilism on the wall.

It is always of interest to see what else exists in terms of graffiti within close proximity for then the imprint becomes even stronger. A glance across Asklipiou Street shows an abandoned house standing at the corner. It has two images within its frames, images which exist already for some time as indicated by their colours showing all the wear and tear of not only weather related conditions but as well what the heavy traffic in such a narrow confinement can do to the adjacent buildings.

 The abandoned little houses and the new but unfinished constructions - a clutter of incomplete buildings



As can be seen from the location of the house at the corner of Asklipiou and Vas. Voulgaroktonou, what beautiful architecture existed in this area in the past. The builing has a human scale whereas the new constructions speak not only the 'language of cement' but stretch up high as if there a better air and more light can be found than down in the dungeon of a street like Asklipiou. Also life styles have changed and what was a hospitable urban centre altered with the coming of the car. Repeatedly graffiti on the wall speaks about the city being a 'murder' of human life. Thus when walking against the traffic along Asklipiou, it comes to no surprise that the graffiti in an alcove speaks about 'URBAN VIETMAN'.






 "Urban Vietnam"                                                                               Feb. 2014

To label the situation in Athens as being an 'Urban Vietnam' says a lot about the affinity to that experience when the Vietnam War prompted the 'Free Speech Movement' in Berkely, and thereafter was the spark to bring about the student movement throughout Europe, except in Greece. That was not possible at that time since there ruled the military Junta. It meant a brutal repression and a total lack of freedom. The outcome of this period, and what happened to Athens thereafter was a mad unplanned building spree. Not architects but mainly engineers were responsible for the constructions. They left little or no space for human beings to breathe and to experience nature. Even the law stipulating not 100% of the plot should be build over but some rest of earth left was circumventing by a simple trick: over the underground garage they created an artificial basin in which they planted some trees or smaller plants, but these were plants which shall never touch the ground. If anything, the term'urban Vietnam' underlines an agony and a struggle of what is conceived to be a defenseless people against an overpowering and dominating force which allows the privileged in this system to live in the cooler suburbs while those without the proper means are left stranded in such an urban grid.


Just around the corner

 When driving uphill to reach the peripheral road going around Lycabettou Hill, you cannot but confront graffiti awaiting you at a crucial turning point in the road. Three faces stare directly at the driver and into which he would crash if he would continue straight. Since a steep uphill that is quite a distraction and risk for the driver.


"Three faces"                                                                   Lycabettou Feb. 2014

And just around the corner, that is besides these three faces, there follows a graffiti made up of forms and shapes like different snow crystals. In combination with the stairs, they seem to climb up or else descend with a bat flying away not into the night, but into the concrete wall. The link to the other graffiti displaying the three faces staring at anyone coming up the hill in a car or on foot is also there: a face with a pointed nose looking up to the scurile signs with 'if' in between the two symbols on either side. Almost it suggests 'as if' a mandate to express some kind of mediation between a blanket and an umbrella not to keep out the stars or the rain, but to fill a void even though emptiness is over powering all along that wall. Re-interpreted at the level of the imagination, it may formulate the question what else would exist there, if this space was not such a negative one. By negative is meant used up space but having no meaning whatsoever either in terms of the building or for what can be perceived at street level. The rounded element of a silo reminds of just containing perhaps a stair case or else a modernist type of building without any correspondence to the surrounding area. For behind that building is the Lycabettou Square. 


   Lycabettou graffiti                                                                 January 2014

Once around that corner, the street levels off and then descends again on the other side towards the French Institute. There is also a turn off to the right since a short stretch of the street leads to the Peripherico going around Lycabettou Hill. Precisely at this juncture any one driving into this little stretch and then has to turn to the right will see a graffiti which exists since 2012. The fingers are imitating as if holding a gun. The drastic message is accentuated upon by a face which is not a face. Rather it reveals a vague reminder of a different age, or else could be from outer space, but definitely it is not a human creature, even if symbolically speaking, there is a strong resemblance. That suggests a kind of message which begins with 'likewise' and comes close to the crescent of desire being transformed into despair, anguish and mechanical like madness. Infiltration of the mind is made possible once subjegated to such an image like representation of a reality which has made people become determined like robots. Other, more simplier images can display this human self alienation.


No human measure - 'metron'

In Ancient Greece, when a stranger entered the polis, there was raised the following question: Who is this man who cometh? It was articulated in the early songs by Bacchylides. In the fragmentary Theseus, he develops a lyrical dialogue, and thereby transforms the response of people to the stranger into a wonder, so that it left them with no other possibility, but to think that "surely a god must speed him":

Who is this man who cometh?

Who are his companions?

Like a great host under arms,

Or wandering alone with slaves,

A wayfarer from far-off lands,

Mighty and valiant is he,

With strength which has slain so many!

Surely a god must speed him,

Who topples the unjust down.

No light task ever it was

To be free of all mortal ills.

All things end in the drift of time.

Who are his companions?

Like a great host under arms,

Or wandering alone with slaves,

A wayfarer from far-off lands,

Mighty and valiant is he,

With strength which has slain so many!

Surely a god must speed him,

Who topples the unjust down.

No light task ever it was

To be free of all mortal ills.

All things end in the drift of time.

Robert Payne cites this poem in his book 'Ancient Greece' (2). The poem indicates something crucial and can further an understanding of the term 'metron' or measure. The latter has become the most dreaded word in Greece every since the Greek state entered a crisis after 2009. As a result of an insurmountable state deficit such austerity measures had to be applied as stipulated by the Memorandum of Understanding the Greek government had signed with the Troika. The latter represent the money lenders prepared to bail out the Greek state, but only under certain conditions e.g. opening up of the markets, reducing the size of the civil servants etc.

The lyrical dialogue of Bacchylides shows that people view the stranger coming into town with ambivalence. On the one hand, they eye him with suspicion; on the other hand, they know their own society is not just and therefore they ask themselves if this stranger may enable such changes that a just society can be brought about? And then comes the most important insight. In knowing that bringing about a just society i s  n o  e a s y  t a s k, there can be deduced such measures in need to be taken which reflect human reality. That would make theses measures into forms of mediation between what can be realized and this notion of a just society, for not everything can be realized all at once. Measures reflect therefore as well time constraints just as the patience of people can be exhausted if there are delays without reason and only corruption but no real interest in reforms prevails. 

In other words, practical thinking on how to get out of the crisis begins with taking measures which lead to a just society, but which shall not be possible here and right now. Thus mediation between the present and the future goal of a just society is as much needed as a vital memory work, in order to know what has been attained so far and where exists the need to continue the hard work towards a just society. Moreover in Ancient Greece the work which needs to be done to realize the just society means no child is obliged to take care of their parents, if they failed to train and to educate him or her to be able to contribute to this all important work - quite the contrary in Germany where children are obliged according to a recent court decision (2014) to support their parents even if they disowned their children and had nothing to do with them. It amounts to a complete reversal from these ancient wisdoms.

All this is said in view of the graffiti in Athens making a deep imprint upon social and human self consciousness. Whether painted along walls of an abandoned houses or on a building fence, graffiti indicates that somehow this urban life has lost all measures. Once that is used as interpretation, then the 'silent scream' of graffiti becomes audible. For all of them say that human proportionality is before anything else at risk to be completely lost. This proportionality between architecture and nature existed before the small houses started to vanish all around Lycabettou Hill.

To tear down an one storey building, in order to construct on a steep hill a four storey building is such a step in the wrong direction. Even if technical possible, it displaces the concept of human living conditions and that only for the sake of making money, but not to fulfil human needs. Likewise the underground garage which may serve the purpose of the tenants living in that building, but it stops certainly the communication with the neighborhood. As Paulo Freie would say once you remove the common well in a village by advancing according to development plans by having water pipes serving each house individually with water, there is a break down of communication. All women would meet at the well to exchange the latest news. 

Imprints of invisible fights or battles



          "What about the no to violence"                     Exarchia Feb. 2014

One way to describe street galleries marked by graffiti which appear one night and are painted over the following day, is to call it a living process. Nothing static here. However, there is a difference between things being painted over since this is a public space and everyone wishes to leave an imprint on the wall, and deliberately blending out or writing over the message of the other. This is especially the case when Anarchists and Neo Fascists battle it out. The wall becomes then a testimony to an invisible fight being staged and which does reflect how polarized society risks to become once there is no longer any mediation and no social dialogue between different groups possible. The city is then transformed into an overall battle field with different territorities being claimed very much akin to street gangs and other superseded organizations which can control certain districts or traffic junctures. It ends up revealing and hiding at the same time an ongoing struggle for power and dominance, and leaves open or rather unanswered the question about state interventions and social structures which would ensure these conflicts of interests can be resolved peacefully!


      Signs of invisible battle between Anarchists and Neo Fascists 

                                                                                         Petrolis Feb. 2014

The question about the invisible fights being staged along the walls is whether they reveal unresolved issues which have been allowed to augment over time, so that they are transformed at a crucial moment into all kinds of vindictive justifications for further going actions. The latter can become an explosive mixture of violence and a lashing out at anything which would stand in the way to such claim of dominance.  

Altogether it seems as if no human measures exist or at the very least no such measures which would make sense. They offer no perspective and have no tangible result. That implies the information flow in the city is disrupted. In the past, the metaphor for that would be the broken record which leads to the tune being played endlessly. Nowadays, given modern technology and all kinds of devices to listen to music, such incidences as someone shouting from the fourth floor to finally shut off that record player may no longer occur. Other incidences will replace those resulting out of broken records, but the model of living will not be conclusive at all, if the urban environment shall end up being dominated by endless fights along the walls.

There is no sign of a meaningful outcome of a long term learning process, a process which would allow to follow what one imagined to be in future and to just live the open questions in order that life may give free from any pre-determination some answers.

When speaking about doubt and convictions, it was Arthur Koestler who reminded in 'Darkness at Noon' that a failed person in a Communist regime was the one who no longer believed the party in being infallible and in having all the answers, but instead was open to doubt.

The youth of today has internalized this doubt and all the perplexities which go with it, but they cannot ignore either the fact that once the Cold War had ended, the "lesser of two evils" (in reference to a book written by the architect Weizman) is the 'humanitarian crisis' which does not say 'no' to violence but instead justifies it and continues to manage it by furthering use of lethal means. A good example thereof has been Joschka Fischer's justification of the bombardment of Kosovo in 1999 as being a humanitarian intervention to stop genocide in former Yugoslavia. The appropriation and misuse of this third pillar does not allow the youth to act anymore in reference to the 'human being' or what the United Nations wishes to uphold, namely 'human dignity' alongside of humanitarian aid. 

Consequently this world can be perceived as being smudgy at best. Things are covered up before the real connections behind the scandal are revealed. Enzensberger pointed out already a long time ago, it is rare that nowadays a scandal - foremost due to a violation of public moral - would ever expose and alter eventually anything. It may, therefore, be a sign of what is entailed when instead of graffiti, walls are tagged or better smudged over with a kind of hand writing which reveals the prime characteristic is derived from the use of a spray can. Consequently the writing remains within the limits of this technological method.



                    Tagged wall against homophobia with the slogan saying:

                              "Fascists Bastards the Gays are coming"

                                                                           Lycabettou January 2014


Given the fact that 'writing on the wall' can be seen everywhere, it amounts to a further going question why 'graffiti' ends quite often in just tagging of walls? Has it to do with a new kind of literacy in a society which refuses so far to read the writing on the walls, or is it merely a matter of domination in terms of seeking to occupy urban space but from a literary angle? It can mean another attempt to organize the collective mind when in fact most of the time the imprint is more on the subconscious, and as imprint it suffices if the messages are short and to the point. That reflects as well a society in which longer texts are hardly read any more and answers have to be given nevertheless to the need for a text, so as to be able to articulate what is of deep concern and in need to be shared. Common knowledge begins and ends with naming the issues of the day and the time ahead.

The protest movement in the United States called 'Occupy Wall Street' erupted out of the common acknowledgement that 1% of the population had all the wealth while the rest had really no free access to common resources. Thus to occupy means also to claim this to be public space and therefore free for all to use.

Naturally everything put on a wall can be painted over, but this rule does not apply all the time. For even the graffiti community has some strict rules when it comes to respecting each other works.

Likewise its widely spread character throughout Exarchia and Athens indicates that this form of expression has left remote and abandoned spaces used in the past and started to grip like an invisible hand any wall which is available in the city. So wide spread has become this phenomenon, that it cannot be ignored any longer when walking through the streets of Athens or after having entered Exarchia where this expression on the walls seems more virulent than elsewhere.


Text and photos by Hatto Fischer

Athens January 2014


1. Takis Trochidis, "Self portrait" (2012) can be seen on you-tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNe3wk57gjo

2. See "Train exhibition: from Ancient Greece to modern Athens" by Hatto Fischer http://www.poieinkaiprattein.org/philosophy/train-exhibition-from-ancient-greece-to-modern-athens-by-hatto-fischer/d-the-stranger-and-tasks-ahead/

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