(Book cover “Η ιστορία του graffiti στην Ελλάδα” [The History of Graffiti in Greece]. Source: Google)

“Η ιστορία του graffiti στην Ελλάδα 1984-1994” [The History of Graffiti in Greece 1984-1994], edited by Orestis Pangalos, research by Charitonas Tsiamantakis, 2 volumes, Futura, Athens 2016

Texts in Greek and English

A cleverly designed book with an ecological cover, made to resemble a typical concrete surface of an Athenian wall, embossed with a majestic fat cap surmounting an original lettering graffiti, the creators of this first attempt historically map the course of graffiti in Greece starting in the right order. After the greeting of Chariton, one of the “progenitors” of Greek graffiti (old school), and the dense and rich introduction of Orestes (leading theorist) to the “stories” of graffiti as a universal cultural phenomenon, the “wall” of the narrative “is written” by the creators themselves, in storytelling mode and in a timeline, up to the pivotal 1995, to which the entire 2nd volume is dedicated.

From the “lone wolves” within camaraderie type groups, in teams, crews and those from the hip hop culture to the polynomial transcription of a global phenomenon in the Greek dimension, forms both a fragmented dynamic but also a consistent one.  

What follows is the transition from illegality to sporadic works and looming gentrification, when what you hate and fear becomes what you do for a living. This is how a fascinating mural of faces, where trends and versions unfold, a rollercoaster of the most provocative and, as it turns out, inexhaustible, modern Greek ‘subculture’. The project aims to convince the many graffiti artists and street artists to speak with words and not with spray, but, perhaps most importantly, to gather a hoard of ephemeral intangible cultural heritage, at this present time, of the Greek cities; thus, it is a piece in itself. We await the sequel.

(Book cover “Graffiti and Political Assertion” [Γκραφίτι και πολιτική διεκδίκηση]. Source: Google)

Dimitris Theodosis and Pausanias Karathanasis, Graffiti and Political Assertion, [Γκραφίτι και πολιτική διεκδίκηση]. Perithorio Publications, Athens 2019

“Smudges”, “dirt”, “noise” or “small resistances” to the aestheticization of the city, desiring Athens to be touristic and “clean” “capital of street art”? Theodosis and Karathanasis subscribe to the second, in a succinct book, animated by the diversity and energy of iconic Athenian graffiti with political connotations, many of which no longer exist. Every aesthetic act counts as de facto politics. Images and meanings, gestures, narratives, “smudges”, all unlicensed, reside, suddenly born, mainly in the public urban space, and dynamize the duplicitous dominant discourse, which wants them exclusively as a result of the “crisis”, by-products of discomfort and captured degradation agents, “written” witnesses of collapse. And yet. As the authors underline, areas with several “interventions”, mainly unlicensed, seem to flourish in terms of tourism AND due to the tourist attraction – these audiences become spectators of the phenomenon. Of course, commissioned and licensed “street art” is also flourishing, a new tool in the capital’s “touristization” toolbox, in conflict with “free” graffiti. Could it be, after all, that the mass and “all-over” interventions themselves work in the same direction, in the end result?

The alternative critical discourse advocated by graffiti-as-political-intervention constitutes, for the authors, a valuable counterpoint to the dominant discourse, aesthetic-political, of “gentrification”, the brigandage of urban public space, the “cleansing” of any political counterpoint and of the generally galloping “aestheticization” of Athens as a tourist destination, with its intangible and material legacies in an apparent conflict, which primarily serves the commercialization of the capital. 

The questions raised remain open to public opinion