Alyssa GoodmanComment

Kilroy is here: Athens walls awash in painted squiggles

Alyssa GoodmanComment
Kilroy is here: Athens walls awash in painted squiggles

Kilroy is here, and lots of his friends too.

Their illicit spray-painting forays leave an often indelible mark on the Greek capital’s public and private buildings, street signs and bus stops, while public artworks and even ancient ruins are not spared.

Some parts of central Athens are so afflicted with graffiti _ largely undecipherable squiggles in bold, broad strokes _ that few facades remain untouched and property owners give up on repainting.

Municipal authorities have repeatedly voiced determination to address the problem, with poor results so far. Anti-vandalism laws are rarely enforced and arresting perpetrators doesn’t sit high among police priorities.

People stand on a graffiti-covered pedestrian bridge over railway lines beside the ancient Kerameikos cemetery in central Athens, July 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The ubiquitous but enigmatic squiggles are a fairly recent trend in a city with an old tradition of graffiti which, when not pictorial, consisted of slogans broadly classifiable as soccer-linked, political, amorous and whimsical. They had a short wall-life, rarely surviving more than a few months before being erased.

The new onslaught came during Greece’s 2010-2018 financial crisis, which forced mass closures of shops in the city center and provided acres of uncared-for walls that could be daubed with impunity.

While Athens has acquired many striking murals by artists commissioned by public bodies or private property owners, most of the new graffiti is unsolicited, devoid of visible meaning and cacophonous _ a jostling mass of individual “look at me” cries on somebody else’s wall.

And instead of being cleaned up, it usually stays in place until the next squiggle is sprayed over it.

A man walks next to graffiti covered houses in Plaka district, Athens, July 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The facade of a building and an electricity pole are covered with graffiti in front the Gate of the ancient Roman agora in Plaka district of Athens, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A man stands in a street next a shop and houses covered with graffiti in Athens' Plaka district, July 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The fence of a renovated building and part of the wall are defaced with graffiti in Monastiraki district, central Athens, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A building and its columns are covered with graffiti in Exarcheia district of Athens, July 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The shutters of shops are covered with graffiti in Monastiraki district of Athens, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Monday, July 22, 2019 photo, a fence and buildings are covered with graffiti outside the ancient Roman agora in Plaka district of Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The doorbells of a building are covered with graffiti in Psiri district, central Athens, July 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A marble-topped wall round the 11th Century AD Panagia Kapnikarea church and a shop that has been closed for months are covered with graffiti in Athens' Ermou main shopping street, July 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A shop is covered with graffiti in Psiri district , central Athens, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

People dance tango against a stone bridge covered with graffiti in Thission district of Athens, July 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A modern copy of a statue of Aphrodite, ancient Greek Goddess of beauty, is chained to a wall outside a closed antique shop as shutters of other shops are covered with graffiti in Monastiraki district, central Athens, July 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A woman opens with her key the entrance of a building which is covered with graffiti in Psiri district, central Athens, July 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)