Sunday, September 2: The first thing that strikes me about the streets of modern-day Athens is that there is hardly a surface that isn’t covered by graffiti. It doesn’t surprise me that googling “graffiti in athens” brings up much discussion on the subject. In Matt Barrett’s Athens Survival Guide: Graffiti and Wall Art in Athens, the author notes that the word “graffiti” comes from the Greek graphi, which means “to write.” He says that nowadays the graffiti is a cry from disaffected kids who want to be noticed, to have a voice. He adds that nothing is sacred, including restored Neoclassical buildings, ancient stones in the Agora, or even previous graffiti art.
According to Nick Jardine and Adam Taylor in The Dark And Beautiful Graffiti Of Athens’ Disaffected Youth, the wall art, brought on by austerity measures in Greece, affects even buildings such as the 2004 Olympic Stadium, as well as churches and monuments.
According to Time Magazine Photos: Protest Graffiti Art in Athens, the Greek economic crisis and recession has become a major inspiration for street artists in the capital.
If the economic crisis and austerity measures are responsible for what is called “Protest Art” by many publications, then it appears it’s been going on since at least 2008, four years after Athens hosted the Olympic Games. I can find online references to Athens street art going back to at least that date. It’s very possible it goes back further than that, even to ancient times, as Matt Barrett claims in his article.
I’m heartbroken to see Greece going through this terrible economic crisis. It’s too bad for the Greek people, who work hard and normally try to enjoy life to the fullest. I talked to many Greeks during my travels, and I found, without exception, they are quite worried. You can see it in the lines on their faces, in the way they click their strings of worry beads, and in their fascinating street art.