Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Public defacement or post-modern masterpieces?

When I was studying abroad (a bit of a contradiction in terms), the streets of Florence really confounded me. Even towards the end of my 6 month stay in the Renaissance city, I could still end up literally walking in a circle three times, struggling to find my photography class. I had different methods of survival:

1) Attach myself to someone who knew where the hell they were going. This would often work out beautifully. Problem was, I would be so busy blabbing to them about random things on the way there, I would never learn the way myself.

2) Before bed, I would study a map of Florence, using a thin yellow highlighter to delineate my path through the maze of cobblestones, wine bars, shrines to saints, and little pizza shacks filled with Italian teenagers. Ok, that didn't work. Turning a 2D geographical model into a real-life solution - well, not my greatest strength.

3) The winning method. Graffiti. That messy, hectic, winding explosion of lines and colors. I've always hated to see it stain a city, make it less beautiful. Less clean. Amazingly, miraculously, Italian graffitti seemed fresh and artistic. It was likely my tourist eyes, but I was drawn to each line. It's almost like the spirit of Michelangelo was wavering around the city lines, infusing each artistic expression with grace and importance. I swore by these landmarks. Picture of toothy monster? Yep, I'm three blocks from my tiny apartment on Borgo Pinti. Stenciled image of the Little Prince? If I wait until 8 pm, jazz will start issuing out of the building across the street - and it won't die down till the wine runs out. Graffitti as signposts, graffitti as something helpful and beautiful. What a novel idea - if only the Italian dog shit on the street charmed me just as much...

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