During the Christmas holiday I visited Lisbon, Portugal.
Nothing better than taking pictures for a few days in a city filled with anecdotes of the glorious past, the dark past, the “carnation” resurrection, the economic downfall of the last two decades and the stalemate the city is in at the current moment. This history is present everywhere, in the architecture, the state of its buildings, the maintenance, or dare I say it the lack of it, of the public realm, the hustle and bustle of daily life and.......... the graffiti.
Oh the graffiti, a bless in disguise, but a curse in daylight at the same time.
I remember the early eighties when in Amsterdam and every other European city, the inner cities were all but dilapidated and of diminishing interest to businesses. Working life was fleeing to outer cities, seeking efficiency in new buildings, direct access to highways and airports, leaving the city centers without the necessary liveliness and also income to support itself.
The old neighborhoods were taken over by angry young people (me included), with no real prospect of employment, mostly filling the day demonstrating against the establishment.
And by doing so, every subway carriage, every wall was a creative outlet. Every inch of every surface was sprayed, with the cans nicked from the local paint shop. Proletarian shopping we called it. Most graffiti was not more than a feeble attempt of "visual" shouting against everybody. Most young "creatives" were just content with their own “tag”. Only a very few were active with a creative merit, let alone trying to make something to be called “art”. Obviously Keith Haring springs to mind.
Nowadays, Lisbon seems to be exactly in the same state again as most cities were in the eighties. The renewal and redevelopment of the inner city is stalling, beautiful historic buildings are abandoned or waiting for a new future and function. The local government is seemingly not (financial) capable of keeping the public area under control and thus clean. Social life has retreated in some parts. It has become the ideal breeding ground for seedy activities and ……for graffiti.
Walls, originally rendered in nice pastel colors, are sprayed with fluorescent greens and orange paint. Thus making the, fine quality, plastering almost irreparable. Inhabitants of nicely renovated apartment buildings are getting discouraged to repaint their freshly painted walls again and again.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against expressing yourself of your discontent with the state the city is in and the way it is run. Far from it, it is good way to change things on a local level. When walking through this magnificent city, there seems certainly a reason for a change in the way this city is run.
But I suggest that instead of using the tin cans with paint of the old days, with its irreversible consequences, we start using crayons. It has the same effect, but doesn’t it look much better on those rendered walls in pastel colors?