Graffiti and Street Art as a Cultural Practice: The Case of Athens

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Geleneksel Yayincilik Ltd Stl

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Thinking about the social meanings of images and visuals arising from the public and accepting them as objects of ethnographic knowledge provides a rich framework for understanding culture. In this context, graffiti and street art are worth considering both as a cultural unit with its own folklore and in terms of its relationship with social institutions. Graffiti as a form of cultural expression was born in New York in the 1960s as a way of proclaiming the existence of youth who were deprived of opportunities in cities. Urban traces that started in ghetto neighborhoods and trains started to gain visibility in many cities of the world in the 1980s and it has reached today by establishing various partnerships with the dominant culture. Parallel to this, it has moved away from its subcultural nature; art feature has become prominent. It can be said that this practice, which transforms daily life with creativity with its unique procedures and tactics experiences a kind of taming and popularization and cooperation with art galleries, museums, municipalities and various organizations has increased. In this context, the aim of the study is to understand how the relevant cultural area is experienced in Athens, the capital of Greece, the reflections of change and the dynamics in production. Media attention on the density of the urban traces in the region, academic studies demonstrating the effect of growing political and economic crisis after 2008 on the increase of production in graffiti and street art, the neighborhood Exarchia which is the central location of historical and political movements with its walls covered with graffiti and street art are the reasons why Athens was chosen for this study. Within the framework of the sample of the study, an ethnographic method has been adopted and in-depth interviews and natural observations were conducted with 15 graffiti and street artists living in Athens. In the field research it was found that Athens graffiti and street art exhibits a hybrid character in terms of production methods and motivations; the socio-economic structure dominates the agenda of this cultural expression field and there is a trend towards public recognition in the social sphere in the transformation of graffiti into street art. While each of the actors in the field strives to create and compete their unique style with different motivations, on the other hand, their styles become an element of consumption culture and are integrated into the market. However, this situation indicates that the rules of the game have changed, not that the unique style and culture of the group in question have come to an end.


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Graffiti, street art, culture, subculture, Athens


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