boats in the time of graffiti

after months of hiding out in a village on a mountain on the biggest island in the cyclades, i finally decided to get my ass back to society.

i grew up in los angeles. it’s not a city proper, but it’s all i really knew. i’d come to greece every summer to visit family and stay in athens. i never really liked it, up until a couple of years ago when i visited and saw the insane amount of graffiti all over the fucking place. i fell in love w the graff. graffiti is the art of the people. it is public, it is free. it is a way for the masses to express love, discontent, frustration, political views. it is a way to connect to the silenced underdog. it is how the world speaks. graffiti is an ancient art and was prominent even in cities like rome, the center of the empire. phallus, curse words, derogatory comments towards senators all graced the buildings we now think of as pure white marble relics of a life long forgotten.

latin-graffiti-4
Tagging in Ancient Rome

even in athens there was graffiti, and to see it’s resurgence come about in the last decade is something to be marveled. while modern graffiti has reached a height in artistic technique and beauty, and i love it, athens is covered also with tags, paste ups, angry comments, praises for ur fav football (soccer) team, and even laments of youth wrongfully killed in police violence. the city is alive. it’s something to be revered, certainly, that a city this ancient is still around and kicking, especially in the shadows of an economic crisis that’s been drowning the people for many years. and this in fact has made the graffiti scene all the more vibrant. the crisis brought with it the need for expression, and thus the resurgence of graffiti in a city older than i will ever be is something that somehow, in the midst of all the turmoil, is reassuring. the people are not laying down to be trampled, the are vocal and they are fighting back and reclaiming their voice.

while i still believe whole-heartedly that athens has a heartbeat that cannot be silenced, i must admit the prospect of coming back in light of my newly found sensitivity and introversion was nothing if not terror inducing. in the past year and a half i can barely sit around in a living room with my mother for longer than 2 hours, or to go out in the sprawling suburbia that is the greater los angeles area which is far more sparsely populated than a real city. when i was in the village on naxos i didn’t even want to have a drink at the local cafe. how on earth am i to navigate a city of over half a million people?

and yet, there i was yesterday morning on a sold out boat full of tourists making the 6 hour journey from naxos to pireaus. it’s a strange thing, to live ur entire life believing ur an extrovert and at 31 to develop an agoraphobia and exhaustion after just half an hour in the company of others. i suppose that in my 20s, when i’d feel these things coming on, i would just self medicate. weed, alcohol, hard drugs. more weed. more booze. i had to constantly numb myself to be in public. i didn’t feel comfortable unless i was high. and then, when i stopped everything, my true self emerged. i am no longer the free loving care free party girl. i am a loner. i feel comfortable away from people and nearest animals.

so in light of this newly developed sensitivity, being in athens has put me on edge. i’m already exhausted bc of the proximity to people. it’s absolutely insane. there is a pull. while i want to feel the pulse of the city, i also don’t want to be here. people are sad, they are anxious. people are stressed. and i feel this. all of it. i look at you and my heart falls to the pit of my stomach. i hear people yelling and my 5 year old self takes over my body, trembling in fear. i sit in a room full of people and become overwhelmed with emotion, on the verge of tears. how to reconcile these two selves? the one who can be the life of the party, and the other who wants to get under the table with the 3 year olds and hide from the grown ups?

i want to see my cousins, nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles. i want to go out and snap shots of graff. i want to navigate the metro without having a mental break down. and so i need to be cautious. i need to move slowly and carefully, listening to my body and its needs. i have to exhibit self-love and self-care. to protect myself from the negativity of others. to be safe and healthy in the midst of the madness that is the city of athens.

 

a few more shots from exarheia, the area in athens that has the most street art. all photos taken by me in 2015.

 

 

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