Macedonia: Graffiti Art in “Times of Revived Antiquity”

A short documentary on the Macedonian graffiti scene in the context of the state-sponsored art/construction boom, made by two female scientists and bloggers–Vasilka Dimitrovska and Ilina Jakimovska–has been shown at the renowned archeological conference Buffalo TAG 2012.

Entitled “Lions, Warriors and Graffiti Artists: Counter-Culture in Times of Revived Antiquity”, the documentary juxtaposes (an important visual arts theory word!) information about the vigorous efforts of the government to impose new, polished classicist/baroque visual identity on the center of the Macedonian capital through the Skopje 2014 project (which features bronze lions), with interviews of people from the graffiti scene.

A co-author, archeologist Dimitrovska, wrote this [mk] on her blog, injecting a disclaimer often heard by people who dare to speak in public in Macedonia:

We made this documentary… in order to document with love part of the graffiti which disappeared or are about to disappear due to the new urban concepts implemented in our country, primarily in Skopje. The project has no political dimension, nor did we intend it to have any political connotation. This small project on Macedonian graffiti was made with modest finances, and we intended to present–without any censorship or montage of statements–the voices and opinions of the graffiti artists who shaped or are still shaping the visual part of this subculture, which is punishable by the laws but is also used (not abused) by the political class in power.

In the film, the interviewed artists also feel the need to decline any interest in political life. They talk about being torn between the threat of punishment if caught “writing” on their own (EUR 50 at least), and becoming a sell-out for commercial reasons or in local government projects, which sometimes involve co-opting graffiti artists to legally adorn specified public buildings. They also mention a quickly forming generation gap within the subculture.

The other co-author, ethnologist Jakimovska wrote this [mk] on her blog in 2007, in a post referencing the famous scene from the film Life of Brian:

It might sound incredible, but the graffiti are – folklore! Regardless of whether they convey messages through drawing or text, the graffiti, for those who make them and those who read them on city walls, are a form of expression and communication. If you have something hidden deep inside you, something that aches and burns you, write it on the wall, and it will speak it… Some of my favorites from Skopje include “A woman is not a woman unless she's a woman,” “Thank God I'm an atheist”…

In the past, other bloggers such as Alexx [mk] or Django [mk] wrote about Skopje graffiti. The artists featured in the documentary do not have online presence on the public internet, but sometimes publish photos of their work within Facebook.

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