Graffiti and Street Art in Athens

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Background Knowledge

College is a funny place. You can take a random course that you think will never benefit you, but it ends up adding something to your life two to ten years down the road. In my junior year of college, I took a class called Chicago Street Art. It was just a general education class and I never thought a course on street art would benefit me in any way. Little did I know how handy that curve ball course would be.

Being from Chicago, I am used to graffiti, street art, and tags but when I arrived to Athens, it took me by surprise. I never thought about how universal art is and how it is used to benefit the people. Not all graffiti is beneficial though. Some forms of graffiti are vandalism and it can harm the people in some countries. Because of the class I took, I was able to distinguish between graffiti, street art, and tags.

Culture Shock

The Athens I arrived in was not the Athens I had imagined. Walking downtown one cannot go very far without seeing an aspiring artists’ graffiti or tag. During orientation, they informed us that Greeks come from all over in hopes of putting their mark on the famous capital city. Locals use use graffiti to communicate to the community and address social issues such as the economic crisis, anti-establishment, and pro-freedom messages, usually done in an ironic way.

This form of controversial graffiti is known as protest graffiti. Artists use protest graffiti to advocate for social justice and give a voice to those who can express themselves. In my opinion, it is important to be aware of social issues. Usually, art is an effective, non-violent method of protest. Those from other viewpoints (whether it be from different cultures or societies) believe protest graffiti is used to stir up controversy.

Graffiti in the City

I was wandering around downtown today and a few pieces caught my attention. The first one said “Welcome to Greece: The Land of Opportunity, Taxes, Taxes, and More Taxes”. This piece is referring to the official economic crisis that began in 2007. Many Greeks believe that the country is rich but there is still a high rate of poverty. Back in 2004, Greece hosted the Olympic games and it devastated the country. It is estimated that they lost billions of euros. The stadiums that were built have been abandoned and forgotten. This angers the Greeks because the games did not seem to benefit the country at all. 

This artist is calling out the Greek government in this piece.

As suggested by the second piece I saw, it states, “Greece is NOT for Sale”. This is meant to have the locals think about the country’s worth. Greeks will not abandon their land but some still think that it might sell its land. There are still rumors that Greece might sell ones of its islands in order to pay off its debts. Of course these are rumors, but people still have this fear for Greece’s future. 

This piece refers to the fear that Greece is currently facing.

The Take Away

The use of street art and graffiti is deemed universal. Having some background knowledge, I am able to understand why people are using it to benefit the locals in Athens. Also, during the time I am abroad, elections are going to take place. There are many protests that are taking place in front of Parliament and  I can see how it is affecting people. It is important that I am aware of these sensitive issues.