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Graffiti – is it a good thing?

20161007_150920We arrived in Rome about 2pm, checked into the hotel and had enough time to cruise around Rome for an hour.  I was very excited but also disappointed at what I saw. . . graffiti all over the  ancient buildings as well as garage doors and walls.  Everyone on the bus noticed it and were as shocked as I was.  This led to my research on Graffiti (Graffito being the singular form).

Graffiti is actually an Italian word which means writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a wall or other surface, often within public view. Graffiti range from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and they have existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. 

Michelangelo and Raphael scratched their names into the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea; American settlers heading west carved inscriptions onto Signature Rock on the Oregon Trail, now a national landmark. Even Lord Byron couldn’t resist, scratching his name onto the Temple of Poseidon in Attica, Greece.

This is also what is known as Street Art or Urban Art, but more elaborate.  Visual Art created in public locations, usually unsanctioned artwork executed outside of the context of traditional art venues. The term gained popularity during the graffiti art boom of the early 1980s and continues to be applied to subsequent incarnations.

Putting historical graffiti aside, it is not particularly a good thing, but instead an eyesore in addition to it not being good for old buildings.  As a side note, there were several churches, including the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, who banned picture-taking in the interior of the church for the sake of preservation.

Rome has a campaign banning graffiti Penalizing the artists 25€ to 300€ and must clean up their creativity, but not everyone is on this bandwagon. Critics has pointed out that graffiti has been around for a very long time and preventing Romans from spray painting the walls is like forbidding them from ever using slang.

Rome gets 7-10 million tourists a year who want to experience the history, the architecture and the beauty of Rome. Since I am now included in the statistics, I am not impressed with multi-color spray paint all over the cities we visited. 

I have to agree with some who feel that graffiti is a narcissistic crime.  Why else would people deface property that is not theirs by leaving their name, their logo, their gang insignia, etc for the world to see?

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