Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do



    Inside the Polytechnic in Athens                                           May 9th 2014


Along outside wall of Polytechnic


                   Posters which have weathered various seasons


No entrance



               Layers of different writings - work in progress


 Reason for being at Polytechnic May 9th - 10th 2014




                         May 9&10. Athens Polytechnic (NTUA), Averof Building, Patission Campus

        For more information about the conference, see: http://crisis-scape.net/about

"In today's Athens we can indeed trace the devastating effects the paroxysmic finacialization of capitalist economy has on processes of urban and social reproduction. We can also however discover emerging new forms of resistance to the policies of capitalist crisis, which are connected to acts that transform public space. Such acts shape urban space as a means to create new social bounds and to build forms of collective struggle and survival."

         - Stavros Stavrides, "Emerging Common Spaces as a Challenge to the City of Crisis", in Conference papers of "Crisis-Scapes: Athens and Beyond". Athens, Crisis-Scape Net, 2014, p. 209

Whether or not graffiti is included in what stands for 'struggle' (a highly elusive term when thinking how Heidegger had introduced the term 'fight' or struggle to bring out the Being - and 'Being in the city' to make experiences amounts practically to that), depends on how the language of those who live and experience the city after having turned 'visual' shall be taken up. At least the test for these kinds of theoretical reflections if they can further a new self-understanding of what it means to live in Athens during these times. 

Understanding graffiti can amount to Riceour's 'interpretation' while for Martin Jay what matters more is the impact the political discourse has on perception (see, for example, his book about 'Disenchantment of the eye'). By reflecting what is entailed in a glance of the graffiti which exists inside the Polytechnic, that becomes more than a theoretical exercise. For not so much enchantment, or the very opposite, namely disenchantment is in play, but rather the question can meaning be given, and therefore justice of a varierty of works due to their surprising display of creativity along these walls. The context alters as well the meaning of 'street art'. Inside the Polytechnic, the existence of being a kind of enclave - since 1974 a law prohibits the police from entering university grounds, but which has been softened in the wake of the riots since 2008 - marks the distance from the streets outside. Like the warmth to be felt in the cusp of the hand, so thoughts can unfold even though they might not have been tested as of yet by what is happening in reality.

Nevertheless the graffiti attain a very sophisticated language. This is because the objective connectivity of the Polytechnic to Athens as a city is examined constantly by brilliant students of architecture who know what is going on. It includes analysis of how the municipality tends nowadays to mask private projects by lending them the mask of being 'public'. Most ironic is here the media shop on Syntagma Square insofar as it calls the private enterprise 'Public'. So anything realized in such a city of confusing terms as if gripped by a slave language in which a praise means a curse, and a curse praise, there cannot be referred to a cultural synthesis in the making, and which according to the meaning of a synthesis would energize the various attempts to fill the entire city with signs of a democratic life.

Instead the various metaphors evoked by the graffiti indicate subtle, broken, inspirational and desperate attempts to describe what happens within a city when space becomes at best a Utopian place out of a need to escape to or to take refuge in. The need has to do directly with the kind of crisis people are going through especially since 2008. That has been mentioned before already, namely that a new time framework seems to alter the work with memory, but it makes itself also plain in what kind of memory work is being achieved by the use of graffiti to make something public which otherswise could be easily white washed over and be forgotten.

Even though 'work with memory' to gauge ongoing changes in society and in the university is itself a part of the illusion when trying to be outside main stream marked by all kinds of compromises to the point of corruption, students of the Polytechnic still find themselves studying inside the very system of control. Hence graffiti becomes a display of how this contradiction is being handled. In some cases, there exist expressions on the wall as if the new students are not able to let go of old theories which influence in turn perception of politics as used to be fault lines of the older generations never able to go beyond mere protest. However, there are other expressions which indicate the really new. They show an agony of the present generation. Whether or not they can avoid the mistake Adorno warned about when saying 'the new is sick because it seeks only the new, and then is more often forced to escape into the same old structures', that remains to be seen. Definite is that the crisis has pitted the parents especially of the Polytechnic generation of 1974 into an abstract centre of attention, since the newer generations wish to know what political orientation they can give, if at all, on how to face the crisis other than what they had known already before they were born. Above all, this concerns as most basic element the kind of radicalization students undergo once they enter university, and what they leave behind once they have graduated. It is as if generations after generations shed their political identities after having passed through these years while at the Polytechnic. For sure, the latter stands for more than a mere metaphor, and can evoke many memories when someone sees images of the former place of study now transformed into a different world due to the graffiti having become a seam-like embroidery of the walls constituting the inner court yards.

As a matter of fact, experiences along the making of a synthesis are rare, generally speaking; instead there is another story in need to be told. Already in 1994 Andre Loeckx called the reason for Urban place and flow being the fragmentation of the city. The latter would not synthesize so much as break apart, alienate and estrange the person from both the natural and man-built environment. And this is what amounts to many to be in Athens. Only now there has to be added as to how everyone experiences and faces the crisis both at individual and collective level, and this as best as personal courage allows. For the conflicts are quite hard, as it has always been conspicious that survival in a Southern society is not that easy as it appears from the outside when walking through the streets with the sun being the key painter and everyone apparently just sitting in cafes to enjoy a coffee or another drink.

Graffiti - a spontaneous act or something organized?

All the more is of interest what graffiti has come to exist inside the grounds of the Polytechnic most famous ever since students staged here an uprising in November 1973 against the military dictatorship ruling at that time Greece. Since then many things have changed. Still, Greece is a paradox. On the one hand, it is characterized as being the land in which 'discontinuity' prevails before 'continuity'. And yet repression and resistance live on, fed by countless memories of heroic pasts, but also bitter fights between the Left and the Right. There was after all that civil war 1945-48, while many were jailed or went into exile. The Greek diaspora has as well this political background.

For this reason, one thesis discussed at the conference has some relevance as to how to characterize graffiti: is it like the protest which erupted after 2008 a part of these 'spontaneous acts'? It would mean that is non-organized and still as made evident by all the graffiti can set off more than a simple outburst of energy. For the very act leaves a mark on the wall in a semi-permanent way, and can only be refuted over time by weather or by someone deciding to paint them over.

At the conference 'city in crisis', this became a question, but what is a spontaneous act, and what is already institutionalized before it has become really known to a wider public?

"The limits between the spontaneous and the organised are fairly blurry, hence referring to the social construction of differencex (Bourdieu, 1979) and being related to habitus (Bourdieu,1986). Nothing is entirely spontaneous in the world’s so-called spontaneous neighbourhoods (as the UN would define them in 1976) and in the so-called spontaneous uprisings: they are merely other forms of organising, which may set off as spontaneous manifestations, yet they are constituted through acts that are very much organised: it is for this reason that I name these neighbourhoods as spontaneously-born neighbourhoods. And it was proven that informal economy both played and continues to play an important role in the economic development of cities and of those spaces, resulting in the dropping of the term “spontaneous” by many official documents, too. As I have shown in another text (Petropoulou, 2007) the neighbourhoods of popular self-construction may have often-times been born in a spontaneous way, yet they developed in many and different ways, depending on the role of those actingxi within and beyond these―and they were defined by various writers in different ways, depending on the socially pre-constructed approach they had for the landscape of these neighborhoods.

I therefore claim that the notion of the spontaneous way of expression is not an outcome of pressure, nor of the politico-economic crisis―but that it comprises instead an outcome of the years-long process partially related to the “tradition of rebellion” (Damianakos, 2003) that many people around the world share; between the many collectives or occasional encounters of residents of neighbourhoods of popular self-construction (particularly in the areas where RttC movements developed) and later on, of youth who participated in the recent uprisings of December 2008 in Greece and in the recent movement “Yo Soy 132” in Mexico, in 2012.

That it is more related to the notion of prattein (of creation, of non-alienating “labour”) and the culture of resistance that opposes repressive, alienating labour; not with some stigmatised “marginal spontaneity” that offers nothing and that is supposed to gradually diminish from contemporary society, just like writers of the 1950s had claimed when talking about the culture of poverty as well.

That it is more related to people inclined to create relationships of solidarity in order to respond to living needs, forming cracks in the compulsory relationships of exploitation and of their overall understanding as machines, as imposed to them from the outset of the birth of capitalism.

That it is related even more to dynamic minorities of the “human economies”, which can still feed “nowtopias” (Carlsson & Manning, 2010) and comprise possible cracks in capitalism. I explain this further."


by Christy (Chryssanthi) Petropouloui, University of the Aegean. Athens: Crisis-Scapes: Athens and Beyond, 2014, http://crisis-scape.net/about


Needless to say, graffiti is both spontaneous and a form of resistance against being organised. The City of Athens does try to tame this energy by seperating the spontaneous actors from the 'artists' who are recognized, formally speaking, by getting commissions if they paint on designated walls and spaces. Within the movement in the street, that has a definite connotation, for works which have been paid, are read and understood quite differently from all the other messages being passed around. This self critical awareness as to what makes a difference to being integrated into the system of paid work, and staying outside the realms of paid work, draws therefore its own conclusion as to what can be found along the walls.


First inner court yard

On a Saturday, 10th of May 2014, with a seminar going on about "city in crisis", the display of graffiti in the inner court yards of the Polytechnic reminds of going to school once again. Something distinctive about these graffiti add new elements to the graffiti found otherwise outside, in the streets of Athens. For sure, the ones who did graffiti here had more time. They were protected by both the historical meaning of the place and by the presence of students. One might add as well by a very tolerant staff.


The continuity along just that one wall can be imagined. It is also possible to read (see) the images from left to right, or from right to left. Depending on how someone wishes to read what is painted on the walls, the compositions are as unusual as remarkable. The tone of the colour red, then yellow makes the transition to the wooden board on the left all the more surreal. Especially the blue face on yellow background seems to indicate an explosion around the intestine area. Remarkable is that even though no blood is depicted as flowing, the use of the red colour does provoke such an association. Not clear are the meanings which they graffiti artists in this case wished to give. The surrounding area is one of serenity with the smell of the street remaining outside the gate, so to speak. There does prevail another atmosphere which leads to the question why there is less writing and much more visual materials on the wall, than when compared to what can be found in the streets of Athens and Exarchia? Has it to do with the intellectual demand to cope with suppression due to a crisis being perceived in a mere visual way when seeking to find and to give some answers?


       Why do I feel so lost in space?

Has Babylon of languages caught up with me?

In the meantime, more windows are smashed,

while others run down the streets, as if chased

by the winds of speculation about future gains!

Yet here are the onlookers clad in black robes,

while the key figure is jolly and equally aweful

since his few teeth galvanize the empty space

taken up by an elongated and striped nose

while red spots seem to cover the yellow face

to remind of when children have the measles.

Other memories are of the perculator twist

as a dance which followed Rock'n Roll times of Elvis,

the king of the music scene till he too went

down and under like Orwell would describe

Paris and London, but not Athens of today.



                                      Crucial in this close-up is the fragmented look of the

                                      man in yellow while some of the men in black remind of

                                      Santa Claus staring straight ahead in ironic disgust.


Second inner court yard

Dream like fashions transform the space of universities once the power of discourse no longer knows about critique to be the true art of knowledge.


    Entry to the inner most court yard - preparing for a concert

Note: The subsequent series of photos depicting the graffiti in this court yard starts off by going to the right towards the stairs of the building housing the engineers, and then continues into a sort of enclave, before returning to the wall seen above straight ahead. Each of the columns has a specific graffiti. When leaving the court yard, the graffiti to the left from where the photo above was taken, shall be shown.


View to the right of the inner court yard - with building for the Engineer Faculty


All what can be seen just at this one corner is amazing: from the rainbow like face reminding of Kokoshka's art of making portraits become plastic mirrors of the soul, to the figure seemingly to walk away from the telephone booth. These are cumbersome times. The days can be counted in terms of chemical formulas to predict when the next social explosion shall occur. Stand-offs are not allowed when the octopus weaves through the air as if the sea. The symbolic link to lightening to indicate electrified energy has something to do with what is otherwise difficult to describe in terms of real movements. Not all come and go, but some do stay on for a longer time, or at least as long as the generations who were involved, are still alive. In Greece, it is an open ended process linked to the Polytechnic generation. It is said that the younger generations pick up this political thread and politicize themselves but in a different way since afterall the times have changed best indicated by what other books everyone reads nowadays. Instead of Marx, it may be Foucault.


                                              What texts speak out and still stay silent?


Just around the corner can be found a dominating graffiti. When before listening tuturns into ακούω, now it is the turn of the voice to be heard: φωνή


As if first in a rapper's paradise, but then dark moods make the blood curl, and then it happens: on the night of September 17th 2013, a 34-year-old man died in the early hours of Wednesday morning after he was attacked by a neonazi (member of Golden Dawn) and subsequently stabbed in Piraeus. The victim was Pavlos Fyssas (who went by the stage name of Killah P.), a hip-hopper involved in the antifascist songs. It became a turning point in what amounted to an increasing intimitation of the Greek population by terrorist like methods deployed by Chrysi Avgi who had managed to get 18 of its member be elected to the Greek Parliament in the General elections of 17th of June 2012, and embolded by this success, started to take the law, so to speak, into their own hands. It speaks for itself that this graffiti seeks to honour someone who died after having watched a football game with his girlfriend and friends before ending up in a scuffle with the Neofascist hooligans. He stepped forward to protect his girlfriend. The outcry which followed in Greece had itself a curious tone, because it was said you don't spill your own blood as if that of migrants would not amount to be the same. Till then Chrysi Avgi party members had often chased migrants and threatened anyone who would object to their 'hate language'.

Significantly just beside the graffiti dedicated to Pavlos Fyssas, there can be found a woman's face half of which is like a plant or part of an onion to make this twist in stories about what happens in Athens at a time of crisis more real. Relevant is what the imagination adds or else gives an entirely different meaning to what is being projected from the wall into the immediate surrounding. Not everyone comes onto the grounds of the Polytechnic. The writing above the partly disfigured face reminds of 'Veronika' but it is not sure if this name was meant to be evoked. Even if not, the strange dislocation makes the setting bizarre, and sad.


    "Destroy the machines" 

     As pointed out such a parole on the wall amounts to an ironic twist, for this is the building of the faculty of engineers.


Even crazier is the staircase leading into the faculty for Engineers. No one seems to know the stars, but there are scratches everywhere to be seen. The scrawls on the walls spread like rumours do. Sometimes they are above you, at other times directly behind, and then suddenly they confront you as if a wind fall strokes the land and reminds once again that there existed wide open fields where the wind sings in the branches of the olive trees. So different is this aesthetical creation of protest and alienation, that the chemisty evoked may seem at times to be at best a mad confusion as to what all of this shall add up to in the final end. Or is it a mere struggle to postpone the bitter end? At the very end of the ladder, there may open up but few job opportunities, and thus bitterness can creep into the very corners of the Polytechnic meant to upstage society through critical thought.



Unfortunately the real story of Greece is about so many good and highly qualified talents being wasted. For the land does not seem to offer to many any real prospects for putting the acquired knowledge to some good use, and this for the benefit of all! This is not a projection of only a 'heaven or hell' alternative existing, but the graffiti on these walls depict a third dimension to both 'physis' and 'nomos', and therefore to what law rules the land. For all of the graffiti suggests a different interpretation of the vital link to the 'kosmos': people in their own universe but not left alone! This assurance is given in the knowledge that if they would start to emancipate themselves, then the system would surely challenge them. This knowledge exists as self-dominant factor as explained by Stavros Stavrides:

"The Greek state wanted and still wants to sustain the myth of a locatable marginal 'outside' of dissent because it can 'surgically' intervene when it chooses to crush paradigmatically and emblematically any dissert behavior by giving, at the same time, the impression that these behaviours only exist in secluded enclaves. What the December youth uprising (in 2008) has done was to shift the media and police focus from the allegedly anomic-Exarchia enclave to many other Athens' neighborhoods, and to other major Greek cities. The state could not present the December uprising as one more Exarchia centred incident of 'rioting hooliganism'."

- Stavros Stavrides, "Emerging Common Spaces as a Challenge to the City in Crsisis" in: (2014) Crisis-Scapes: Athens and Beyond - Conference Reader. Athens: Crisis-Scape.Net, p. 210

Thoughts like these within the enclave of Polytechnic underline what it means to be located in Exarchia. Definitely the crisis has gripped since 2008 and beyond not only the whole of Greece, but Europe as well. Finding a common language in order to come to terms with the crisis requires, however, more than mere common space, but which has become a dominant feature of the alternative logic when trying to reason between state governance and the need to be more than mere actions within any given locality.

In the end, we all have to face the 'letter of the law' made by those who constitute the power to enforce that law. Thus it might be an interesting question why the visual protest on walls turns to blog like letters? Is that an expression of opposition to the law being imposed? In the blog letters depicted above, it is most interesting to observe that faces appear besides the letters which can be deciphered, and then not again. Gombrich in 'The Story of Art' talks about this ambivalence in perception, so that one and the same thing can be seen differently, and all depending upon what form is given a priori. As this seems to testify the apodictical judgement as outlined by Kant, such 'a priori' deals with the perception which makes the concepts have eyes. Literally speaking, the rational manifestation of perception of the world can be quickly transformed into ideology, or as Hegel would put it 'people without myth would be blind!' It means the transformation of perception into ideology underlines the bringing about of an one sided dependency upon the narrative. The latter is being told in the form of a myth about the state and accordingly subjegates society to this state. That touches then upon ancient grounds of someone like Virgil who went to Ancient Greece to learn on how they did it to make possible governance through poetry and philosophy. In modern terms, the bondage to the state has forgotten that poetic dimension as philosophy denies poetry as well as the 'senses' to be a source of truth, and therefore of perception. By lifting everything onto the level of abstract concepts, it alleviates to some aspects the state of needing more resources i.e. police force, to govern, but leads at the same time to neglect the real human reason for existing together. The outcome is a loss of human solidarity, but many claim this is being regained during this time of crisis.


It is always interesting to see to which heights graffiti climbs to. Since more and more space at street level is being covered up by graffiti, there can be observed a tendency to climb up higher. The visual effect differs for it can be seen at a distance but it is impossible get a close up. For that would be needed a ladder or climbing up on the roof underneath.


At the beginning of an enclave can be found 'a crowd of letters' painted on an garage like doorway in 2013. The letters appear ghost-like as if children pull bedsheets over their heads . There are belging bellies while the transgression travels from purple to yellow to green. It is always amazing with what aesthetical skill things are manifested. It can be rumors who have come to haunt. Not clearly identifiable, they are both comical and frightening. That lends support to a stance which seems to be divided in opinion as to what to make of this entire crisis.


Even more powerful is this extended hand dropping beats like tears. Just beside that doorway painted in 2013, this graffiti becomes a symbol of kind of power grip since the arm of the hand is painted in the form of an infinite sign. That can amount to quite another metaphorical interpretation of political reality. Of interest is that the space is used as well for putting up all kinds of posters. Intermittency may best describe this state of affairs. Wikipedia provides the following information about possible meanings of the term:

Search Results


Obviously they conjure together: irregular flows of energy due to outside control! It gives all the more significance to the 'infinite' sign or symbol as part of the extended arm leading to a hand drawn with prime emphasis on the finger nails and the mechanical like joints of the finger. What else grips if not fear?






The other side of the enclave leading to a large door by which to enter the building shows a kind of rumbling on, in green. The speaker cannot be heard for the speech has yet to be written. At the golden angle to any position, most clear is the denial that this represents a kind of dead end in the enclave. For the door is wide open. And yet somehow the French term of 'triste' affects, hits home, leaves people mumbling, or just wondering what shall become of their future and still more of the future of their still to be born children. That may seem far away, but it is not so far away as what awaits around the corner, especially if the wrong decision is taken and thereafter the self-understanding riddled by not holes, but a wrong concept of politics. For most of the political disputes erupt after the key concepts have been displaced by a clever use of language which hides the real agenda. And nothing creates more fear than an unknown which lurks behind the next corner.

One such wrong decision can be represented by becoming the kind of person depicted along the next portion of the wall which is still a part of that smaller enclave leading to that door. It shows a masked man holding a self made bomb.


Time and again the sequence of events seem to justify the position taken, namely to throw a molotov cocktail. For sure the debate about the legitimacy or not of use of violent means during protests shall never end. It is the outcome of a refusal to take up a self critical dialogue with the authorities, including the police. Of course, looking back over the course of history brutal repressions by the police are linked to decisive turns whenever people risk an uprising. Thus a famous person like Rosa Luxembourg was killed even though she lives on in name, soul and inspiration, while the police which enacted that repression, is completely forgotten. Political authorities of all kinds, Left and Right, tend to repeat the same mistake once in power. Governments tend to think under the sway of a frightened part of society which has a lot to lose if the protesters would be successful, that use of brutal force can silence the protest forever. That is not the best way to secure staying in power, for as Stavros Stavrides pointed out at the conference 'city in crisis', it is much wiser to establish mechanisms for power sharing and participation in decision making. Thus while walking past this graffiti, a thought occurs about possible solutions to this question of violence, one being how to challenge and equally democratize power. One possible answer given by Stavros Stavrides of the conference 'city in crisis' is to expand the institutions of self-governance, but governance it has to be only possible by assuming responsibility for what one does:

"If institutions of commoning are meant to be able to support a constant opening of the circles of commoning they need to sustain mechanisms of control of any potential accumulation of power, either by individuals or by specific groups. If sharing is to be the guiding principle of self-management practices, then sharing of power is simultaneously the precondition of egalitarian sharing and its ultimate target. Egalitarian sharing, which needs to be able to include newcomers, has to be encouraged by an always expanding network  of self-governance institutions."

- op. cit. Stavros Stavrides, "Emerging Common Spaces as a Challenge to the City of Crisis", p. 213

Since Stavrides puts a lot of emphasis on 'decision', even though this is too much of a single entity, there has to be recognized the interplay between individual choices to respond in a certain way to any situation, and how a situation is being created out of a series of events which eventually form history. In short, historical events are the outcome of a series of decisions made by individuals, like the joining the army to go to war as has been the case of First World War with almost everyone believing they are about to experience an adventure, and therefore never anticipated the cruelty of war.

It is not so much an either/or with either the individual or the social forces which decide, but as Stefan Zweig shows in his collection of short stories under the title "Sternstunde der Menschheit / hours of humanity", that it matters how people are prepared to meet the challenge when it suddenly comes upon them. They will then either decide to follow strictly orders, but will not survive or else they do decide for themselves as shown in his story about how Napolean was defeated by Waterloo. Alone this difference can safe lives and alter the outcome of history. It is like those young school children on that South Korean Ferry boat which sunk, since too many of them obeyed the strict orders of the captain to stay put when it was clear the ship was listing. As if at times people are capable of revolt only in rare moments, most of the time they succumb to the forces of ritual behaviour and nearly blind obedience. That is why awareness raising is not sufficient to overcome this logic of passivity embedded over generations in the DNA of people. Sometimes Marx raised the hope that by addressing human self consciousness, there could be achieved a collective emancipation from the contraditions inherent in the system. Yet his honesty did not safeguard the workers' movements which followed an ideological path from running into pitfalls after pitfalls created by a system just waiting for them to make that mistake. It should not end in the usual saying, 'but they never learn', for the real challenge is to link an uncompromising view with a political flexibility which allows a learning on how to handle challenges of reality in an intelligent way. It means that there is no justification for throwing a Molotow cocktail, as no one has the Right to declare war. Too often all this preceded by an one sided blame game being played to seduce those willing to follow into staging an attack against an anonymous enemy, but which ends hitting in reality all those standing close by.


There is something foolish in this romantic notion of revolt when linked to street fights with the police and Neo Fascists as if these enemy pictures can justify applying a misconception when seeking to question abuse of power at all levels.


Around the corner


A splatter of paints await one after having left the small enclanve and when turning the corner. The question is what to make out of this mirage of images? A more adequate interpretation shall be required after re-visiting the Polytechnic a second time, but for now some curious happy elements intermingle to form a heart, some wings of a bird, and horizontal cross-cut of a snail like form which seems to spin around like one of the big wheels in an amusement park. Horrific are some words as are signs and symbols even though altogether they do not seem to make any sense. There is simply a love for colours, and for some brave statements not hidden, but also not made self evident for an outsider to understand readily as to what is meant when turning the corner and seeing this.


What follows is an interplay between columns and a space in between these columns and the corridor now having a variety of frames as they limit the sight and make the perception into a requirement to move in order to get a hold of the different angles out of which to make further observations.


Many details cannot be seen right away, like the face in the upper right hand corner. There is written 'inferno' as well as 'peristeri', but in this space outstanding is that lamp transforming a well known cartoon figure with blond hair into a flame which becomes a seeing eye - the meaning of light in the real sense. Again space is taken up but also dictated by other features, in this case the window revealing when looking through a garden, so it seems, behind, and not a room inside a building as could be presumed.


Naturally near the gutter, one common theme is surveillance. It reflects the general impression everywhere in the streets are cameras. Often it is said the graffiti in Athens is only possible because the surveillance techniques are not as of yet as far spread as is the case in London and elsewhere. Since Snowdon revealed the extend of surveillance by NSA, all the more the fear of 'big brother' is watching over you. Already before reference was made to a lamp being transformed into a 'seeing eye' to signify light, but now, in this polically charged context, that takes on still another meaning. When theories of the state were discussed with Johannes Agnoli at the Free University of Berlin - he became professor thanks to the Student Movement - the significance of the saying, 'the state must have eyes' was identified as a tendency towards a totalitarian state leaving the citizen with no privacy, no right to seclusion and no way to check what information has been gathered to create what kind of profile?

A counter figure to the one in fear of surveillance is the rabbit in the knowledge to be crafty when it comes to evade the seeing eye of the police and state.


           Rabbit, or a goat? The image of a cylinder hat adds to the confusion

Along that one side of the court yard, with pillars creating frames for the corridor space behind them, it is impossible to notice everything at once. The entire space has to be approached over and again from different angles, since so many details can escape easily one's focus. At times, one is drawn to some outstanding image, at other times, it is like being startled after having stumbled across a small detail but which stands out. It is like the chemistry of time which seems to work with invisible hands along those walls, forever adding, substracting, relating, overlapping and exploring further what other details can alter some detail in connection with a larger piece or the entire setting. Soft is the hair of the girlfriend, rough the edges if unshaven, and time ahead means also time to explore the past. Thoughts come and go. 











   The corridor in which thoughts come and go about "servants"






It takes two to Tango...


          ...and the dramatic twist along the walls continues like diamonds glitter

          wherever the sun shines and the ground gets thirsty for the rain to come


Often some thoughts or associations do not reveal their secrets right away. It takes time before they make sense, so to speak. This is because the art itself allows a dipping into the 'unconsciousness', all while striking an affinity to some far away cultural influences not necessarily from the past, but from Latin America. It reflects as well that the political movement long before arriving where it has, went through different forms and styles of dances, learned another way of expressing hands, face, the body, all while approximating the distance still in need to be transversed before hitting upon reality. That is why the red spot or flare is so dramatic in contrast to the yellow jackets and white pants of the dancers. The music can virtually be heard, so strong an association evokes this unexpected image on the wall. As if from another world, it brings into the present another cultural presence and thereby reaches out to a realistic understanding of what it means to be living in these times, in this part of the world, far away from that dance.





The memorial spot




At the end of the corridor, in the corner, forlorn the hope to find something to bring about a change, there is drawn or rather drafted the outline of a face. Eyxes like square glasses, the nose something which never have crossed 'my mind', while the teeth or rather open mouth shows a full array of what it would mean to obtain a grip on things. Like a trap the teeth are suspended and wait to bite.


 The still life collected in the corner seems hours, no light years away from when they had still a use. Broken down things, left in a kind of disorder, shows what kindness there prevails when they are not thrown away, but become stowaways like fugitives huddling in the corner, in order not to be detected by collectors of rubbish and waste. It is a still outcry, and as imaginary reminding of the unorderly ateliert Francis Bacon used to prefer when doing his portraits of people, it is a clinging to life without wishing to beg for some freedom, some space to breathe.



Someone has put that log in the middle of the mural to provoke the question should this extra item be removed when taking a photo, or leave it as it is? Te figure itself reminds of images some have of a Western type of Buddha. Natural religion is implied whenever there is a hallow around the head, but in Western culture that can stand definitely as well for 'aura'. Walter Benjamin refers to that when discussing art works even though he had on his desk 'angelus novus' painted by Paul Klee: the angel blown by strong winds away from earth, and this backwards as if the future looks back to the present already the past which shall be doomed in future. But this mural does not make such a prediction in terms of time, but rather the semi squatting like position can imply just sitting there and doing nothing without having entered contemplation will do either no harm or a lot. Most telling about the figure is the red nose since not really depicted as a clown or as an alcoholic. However, it can remind of the many grey figures which pass in Brussels in front of the building housing the European Commission. Only they would not be naked from the waist up as many football hooligans would display themselves while watching the game in the stadium. Rather the shrine effect of the yellow light surrounding the figure is a part of the aura created to emphasize especially the look in the eyes. They can be seemingly so cunning as the line of the mouth underlines a crooked look to demand: "what do you demand?" Fortune does not come easily that way. In short, it is a long way to go before Athens and Brussels are really connected, and then not in the perfect setting of a twilight like zone. After all, there is still the hope for some innocence in  world beset by many fault lines. And feelings are trampled over all the time as if people are in a rush to forget the times in which they live but time flies by once caught by those who love to put human beings like birds into golden cages, in order to let them waste the time away without doing anything against their imprisonment. Invisible as is the fear not to be able to exist outside the system, it poses the crucial question but how to reconcile the difference between the dream of humanity and a cruel system the outcome of which can be depicted by a figure like this just sitting there like Buddha.


Just opposite, or on the side of the court yard, but on the way out, there is this large mural of three different faces since one appears to be like a mask (on the left), while the face on the right reminds strangely enough of President Jimmy Carter even though the hair-do can give away another sample or type to be seen nowadays in the streets. Not sure what these faces stand for, still, from a composition point of view with regards to the overall layout, it is interesting that on the other side of the court yard, that is when entering and then going to the right to where the building for the Engineer Faculty is, there can be found as well the black and white mural dedicated to the killed rapper Fyssas. Consequently this mural at that location gives something like a completion to the entire array of graffiti to be found within this particular court yard.


Presumably the break up of the system requires something like 'magic realism'. If in doubt about this interpretation, then lets focus first on smaller details depicted in between the two faces. There are indications of railway tracks but as pieces they lead to nowhere. No train can come along. Out of their pattern, once more interwoven like a spider's web, there follows a grid underneath a piece of paper standing up like a tree or a figure about to put one foot outside the camouflage. Most important this metamorphosis of paper into tree and disguised human figure becomes a window leading up to a curtain like shade which can be lowered at will. There is this powerful suggestion that all of this takes place within one space, or a black box given that the entire background is painted in black. Thus the two heads have their own tale to tell. The one on the right is more straight forward as it is as much about discontent as about a deep satisfaction about something having been done. The freedom from momentary pressure is expressed by having the eyes closed. On the other hand, the face to the left is in reality one face coming out of the other like those puppets on a stick. This leaves the viewer in a certain puzzle, for the lower face is that of a man while the one on top that of a possible boy or girl. The heightened ambivalence seems to indicate how far the search for identity can go when introspection is psychoanalytically motivated as never before even though Freud has died a long time ago. Sweet harmony, as suggested by a song, is long gone. Instead conjured up images within one's own head becomes the topic and the riddle even if there cannot be detected a strong inclination of mysticism or some other black magic. Rather the image which has been conjured up inside of the first head is distinctly as rational as the counter figure. When Peter Handke attempted in literature to look from the inside of the outside at the inside, he was merely mocking the audience. This time the audience is the individual viewing him- or herself in the mirror of such graffiti capable of outdistancing any doubt that this is real. This is why the entire setting cast in between corner and pillar due to being a part of a corridor set-back, lets more than footsteps echo as time passed by and still no one seems to notice this magic realism is here to stay.


Along that same corridor a series of relationships between persons, situations and objects are depicted. It makes this outer part of the court yard, to be imagined like a part of the neck, into interesting reading.





Text and Photos by Hatto Fischer

Athens May 2014








^ Top

« Exarchia | Writings on the wall »