By Casey Calvert
3 – People come to Rome to see the Sistine Chapel. They want Michelangelo
and Raphael. They want to see the ingenious architecture of the Colosseum.
As soon as they step off the train or out of the cab, they usually get
Not exactly the picture they had in mind.
those travelers to Italy, graffiti is often an inconvenient backdrop to la dolce vita. But spend long enough in Rome,
and it blends into the background; the fading spray
paint and vulgar phrases on ancient walls and historic facades become an everyday annoyance.
But for the graffiti artists, hidden under the obnoxious color and in unidentifiable words, are personal causes, important messages, political statements.
Graffiti is created by people who “want to make a statement in a way that’s very uncomplicated, immediate, and public,” says Professor of Archaeology Eric C. De Sena of John Cabot University. Graffiti has the ability to grab people’s attention, to act as a voice for Roman youth, he adds.
For example, after the accidental shooting death of Lazio fan Gabriele Sandri, 26, of Rome, on Nov. 11 by police, Italian soccer fans everywhere reacted. For some, graffiti was the preferred medium to communicate their anger with police. As early as Nov.14, graffiti promising "bloody revenge” for Sandri’s death popped up all over Rome, reported Reuters. “Gabriele Vive” appeared in numerous locations throughout Lazio. Images of his face were transferred to blank city walls.
The expansion of graffiti art sometimes occurs in “mini-waves,” says De Sena. “We may see more of it if something major happens in soccer or political protests with younger people getting killed.” In a city where soccer is often equated with politics, graffiti records both the booms and recessions. One day, Italian graffiti artists are painting messages of World Cup victory. The next, their art is threatening and full of despair.
graffiti can blight a city. Look at the black spray paint gracing the
facades of churches in Trastevere, or bubble lettering coming dangerously
close to the Pantheon. But it can also beautify the neglected places,
adding color to deteriorating neighborhoods. Most importantly, graffiti
can give a voice to the people of modernday Rome.
Maybe someday “Gabriele Vive” will serve as a historical record of November, 2007 -- just as the Colosseum and Pantheon speak volumes for those who came before us.