Sunday, August 1, 2010

Roman vandalism

Graffito, n. Antiq. and Art. A drawing or writing scratched on a wall or other surface; a scribbling on an ancient wall, as those at Pompeii and Rome. orig. U.S. In pl. with sing. concord. Words or images marked (illegally) in a public place, esp. using aerosol paint. [It. graffito, f. graffio a scratch.] - excerpted from the Oxford English Dictionary
The word (we use the plural) has its origins in Rome and it is that ancient city that is having a modern problem with graffiti and vandalism, according to an AP report last week. The often drunken vandals regularly uproot or break off the noses of statues in parks on 2 of Rome's 7 hills - Pincian and Janiculum, have twice thrown dye into the Trevi Fountain, and most recently scrawled an anti-pope message on the Scala Santa. Monuments like these are around every corner, making Rome a tourist destination but also making monitoring of the entire city impossible - especially when it takes a mere 30 seconds to do damage to a monument that costs $2,000 to repair. Daniel Berger, an art consultant with Italy's Culture Ministry, says, "You'd need an army of 20 million people to be there every day, every night. You have to somehow protect them by encouraging people to understand that it's their heritage, and that it's the Western European culture."

To combat the vandalism, the Italian government has increased patrols by uniformed and plainclothes police officers, and is installing surveillance cameras. "[M]uch of the spray-painted graffiti seen on the noble marble edifices of old Rome may indeed be rooted in anarchistic reaction to old values and centuries of government hypocrisy by youths living in slum tower-blocks on the outskirts of Rome," writes an English resident, who more squarely places the blame at the feet of spoiled MTV-watching middle class Italian youth. For the many connoisseurs of street art, vandalism is destruction, but graffiti is culture.

1 comment:

  1. Although I certainly don't condone such vandalism of monuments, these artists feel, as one young man stated in the video, that the city isn't just a place for tourists to look at, it's a place to live in, and perhaps these young people feel there is no place for them in their own city. I do like the walls reserved just for graffiti artists! That's what they need, a place to express themselves.


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