This theoretically and empirically grounded book uses case studies of political graffiti in the post-socialist Balkans a
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Velikonja has been reading the landscapes of post-communist societies positioning himself not above, but beneath: from every day life, from its marginal, subcultural edges. Thus, he opposes and subverts heavy, hierarchical, masculine, militant, “state” version of recent historical events. He is one of the most creative, inventive and amusing “readers” of contemporary Central European and Balkan ideological constellations. In this book Velikonja invented a new science: “graffitology.” Reading graffiti within Balkan and Central European urban landscape Velikonja acts like a cultural graphologist. He is a post-communist Doctor Dolittle: reading, understanding and interpreting the language of graffiti Velikonja provides more relevant diagnosis of transitional societies and their maladies then the most of “official historians.” – Dubravka Ugrešić, author of The Culture of Lies and The Ministry of Pain Focusing on the complex interplay between social structure, ideology and aesthetic resolutions, and as a result of a long-term engagement and meticulous field-work, this book presents a very personal reading of graffiti, this underestimated genre of “profane culture.” The value of this work is both general, in offering what amounts to a theoretical “manual” of analyzing methods for approaching the visual culture of street art, and area specific. Engaging in case studies from the period of “transition,” Velikonja suggests the flexibility of graffiti, showing both their potential to be neutered through domestication and aestheticization, as well as their capacity for serious political subversion. – Maria Todorova, professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, author of Imagining the Balkans A vital contribution to the literature on the ongoing political transformations in Europe’s (South)East by one of the leading authorities on the subject. Velikonja’s appreciation and sympathy for the deeply personal and traumatic aspects of these grand historical transitions comes to the fore in this text, making this a paradigmatic contribution to debates about East European civil society and youth culture. – Jasmin Mujanović, author of Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans Professor Mitja Velikonja not only provides systematic theorizing about the significance of graffiti and street art but shares deep insights on the profound crises of transition in post-communist Eastern Europe, a region which he understands profoundly. – Paul Mojzes, professor emeritus at Rosemont College, PA, and editor of Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe Thanks to the author’s broad knowledge of the Balkans and Central Europe, this systematic investigation of political graffiti brings important insight into grassroots engagement in a troubled region during a complex transitional period. – Svein Mønnesland, professor emeritus at University of Oslo, member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
The images contained in this fascinating study of graffiti and street art in the Balkans and Central Europe represent a major effort to open a window to the complexities of the region’s development since the end of the Cold War, complemented by a innovative quantitative as well as qualitative analysis of postsocialist popular art and politics. This book will be of great interest not only to cultural historians and social scientists of Europe, but also of the Americas, Asia or wherever else graffiti have become an intriguing expression of radical modern culture and politics. – Volker R. Berghahn, professor at Columbia University, New York, author of Europe in the Era of Two World Wars: From Militarism and Genocide to Civil Society, 1900–1950 Mitja Velikonja truly knows that the words of the prophets are often written on city walls and, moreover, teaches us how to read them. Drawing on his enormous erudition, ranging from political theory and aesthetics to bizarre popular subcultures, the author examines graffitis across the post-socialist zone and explains what on earth happened to us all (both in the East and the West) after 1989. With this book, Velikonja is about to launch graffitology as a new academic congregation. Join it today! – Igor Štiks, the author of Nations and Citizens in Yugoslavia and the Post-Yugoslav States: One Hundred Years of Citizenship
Post-Socialist Political Graffiti in the Balkans and Central Europe
This theoretically and empirically grounded book uses case studies of political graffiti in the post-socialist Balkans and Central Europe to explore the use of graffiti as a subversive political media. Despite the increasing global digitisation, graffiti remains widespread and popular, providing with a few words or images a vivid visual indication of cultural conditions, social dynamics and power structures in a society, and provoking a variety of reactions. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as detailed interdisciplinary analyses of “patriotic,” extreme-right, soccer-fan, nostalgic, and chauvinist graffiti and street art, it looks at why and by whom graffiti is used as political media and to/against whom it is directed. The book theorises discussions of political graffiti and street art to show different methodological approaches from four perspectives: context, author, the work itself, and audience. It will be of interest to the growing body of literature focussing on (sub)cultural studies in the contemporary Balkans, transitology, visual cultural studies, art theory, anthropology, sociology, and studies of radical politics. Mitja Velikonja, PhD, is a Professor of Cultural Studies and Head of the Centre for Cultural and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Southeast European Studies Series Editor: Florian Bieber
The Balkans are a region of Europe widely associated over the past decades with violence and war. Beyond this violence, the region has experienced rapid change in recent times though, including democratization, economic and social transformation. New scholarship is emerging which seeks to move away from the focus on violence alone to an understanding of the region in a broader context drawing on new empirical research. The Southeast European Studies Series seeks to provide a forum for this new scholarship. Publishing cutting-edge, original research and contributing to a more profound understanding of Southeastern Europe while focusing on contemporary perspectives the series aims to explain the past and seeks to examine how it shapes the present. Focusing on original empirical research and innovative theoretical perspectives on the region the series includes original monographs and edited collections. It is interdisciplinary in scope, publishing high-level research in political science, history, anthropology, sociology, law and economics and accessible to readers interested in Southeast Europe and beyond. Romania and the Quest for European Identity Philo-Germanism without Germans Cristian Cercel The Western Balkans in the World Linkages and Relations with External Actors Edited by Florian Bieber and Nikolaos Tzifakis Rethinking Serbian-Albanian Relations Figuring Out the Enemy Edited by Aleksandar Pavlović Gazela Pudar Draško and Rigels Halili Post-Socialist Political Graffiti in the Balkans and Central Europe Mitja Velikonja For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/ Southeast-European-Studies/book-series/ASHSER1390
Post-Socialist Political Graffiti in the Balkans and Central Europe Mitja Velikonja
First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Mitja Velikonja The right of Mitja Velikonja to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-0-367-33815-2 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-429-32207-5 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Apex CoVantage, LLC
About the author List of illustrations Preface: towards a new interdisciplinary science – graffitology Acknowledgements Explanatory notes
ix x xii xxiv xxvii
Introduction to graffiti and street art studies 1 Mapping (political) graffiti and street art
1.1 Dirty words on clean walls – dilemmas in defining graffiti and street art 4 1.2 Poetics on the wall: characteristics of aesthetic/subcultural graffiti and street art 8 1.3 Politics on the wall: characteristics of political graffiti and street art 14 2 Types, styles, and techniques of graffiti and street art
3 Ways, sites, and methods of researching political graffiti and street art
3.1 Graffitography – photographing as a way of collecting visual data 34 3.2 Multiangular approach: four sites of meaning of graffiti 38 3.3 Methods of researching political graffiti and street art 41 PART 2
Post-socialist graffitiscapes: case studies 4 Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia: graffiti and street art about Yugoslavia in the post-Yugoslav urbanscape
viii Contents 5 Contested heroes – Gavrilo Princip and Rudolf Maister as subcultural icons
6 Nature as politics – the motif of Mt. Triglav in graffiti and street art
7 Shameful compliance – Balkan nationalist graffiti and street art
8 Spraying hatred – extreme-right graffiti and street art in Slovenia
9 The new others – visual ideology of refugees in contemporary Slovenia
10 The chosen few – football fan graffiti
11 One club, one honour! – the graffitiscape of Slovenian football fans
Conclusion: power of the street (art), powerlessness of (street) art
About the author
Dr. Mitja Velikonja is a Professor of Cultural Studies and Head of the Centre for Cultural and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. The main areas of his research include contemporary Central European and Balkan political ideologies, subcultures and graffiti culture, collective memory, and post-socialist nostalgia. His last monographs are Rock‘n’Retro – New Yugoslavism in Contemporary Slovenian Music (2013), Titostalgia – A Study of Nostalgia for Josip Broz (2008), Eurosis – A Critique of the New Eurocentrism (2005), and Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina (2003). He is co-author of the book Celestial Yugoslavia: Interaction of Political Mythologies and Popular Culture (2012) and co-editor and co-author of PostYugoslavia – New Cultural and Political Perspectives (2014) and Yugoslavia From A Historical Perspective (2017). For his achievements, he received three national and one international award (Erasmus EuroMedia Award by European Society for Education and Communication, 2008). He was a full-time visiting professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow (2002 and 2003), at Columbia University in New York (2009 and 2014), at University of Rijeka (2015), at New York Institute in St. Petersburg (2015 and 2016), Fulbright visiting researcher in Philadelphia (2004/2005), and visiting researcher at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (2012) and at the Remarque Institute of the New York University (2018).
Photos 0.1 Symbol of Macedonian Colourful Revolution, Skopje, 2016. Stencil 0.2 Ljubljana, 2014. Stencil 1.1 Zagreb, 2015. Graffiti 1.2 You are screwed by capitalism, not by fags, Belgrade, 2014. Stencil 2.1 You can’t take walls from us! Signed by #Vandal Girl, Ljubljana, 2014. Graffiti 2.2 Bishkek, 2017. Mural 2.3 I was paid fucking 50 Euros for this, Ljubljana, 2013. Ad-busting 3.1 I want you to skip McDonald’s! (located near McDonald’s restaurant), Tallinn, 2015. Sticker 3.2 Go back to sleep – Your government is in control, Timișoara, 2017. Stencil 3.3 Collection of hate speech stickers. Slovenia, 2010s 0.3 22 years of kleptocracy, Ljubljana, 2013. Inscription 0.4 We are hungry in all three languages, Sarajevo, 2015. Stencil 0.5 Fuck Hungary – Romania, Sibiu, 2017. Sticker 4.1 Prizren, 2008. Stencil 4.2 Croatia 396 (refers to 369th /Croatian/ Infantry Division of Wehrmacht), Zagreb, 2016. Sticker 4.3 For Yugoslavia with Sarajevo as a capital, Podgorica, 2016. Graffiti 5.1 Celje, 2014. Stencils 5.2 Belgrade, 2016. Sticker 5.3 Every night I dreamt I’m an anarchist, fighting with policemen. Gavrilo Princip (member of Young Bosnia, referring to the time before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, June 28, 1914), Belgrade, 2017. Sticker 6.1 Tito, OF (Osvobodilna fronta, Liberation Front), Kranj, 2012. Graffiti
xiii xvii 9 16 26 27 28 37 40 54 59 61 63 71 73 74 82 85
Illustrations 6.2 Ljubljana, 2004. Graffiti 6.3 First Slovenian, then European, Ljubljana, 2010. Graffiti 7.1 This is my Bulgaria, San Stefano, year 1878. Plovdiv, 2017. Sticker 7.2 Romania for Romanians, Europe for Europeans, 14, 88. Hunedoara, 2017. Graffiti 7.3 Murska Sobota, 2018. Stencil 8.1 Fuck It, We Are Here, Too. Ljubljana, 2011. Graffiti battle 8.2 Multiculturalism is white genocide!, signed by ANSi (Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia). Ljubljana, 2012. Graffiti 8.3 Ljubljana, 2010. Graffiti 9.1 Euroarabia? No, thanks! Let’s Stop the Islamization of Europe and the Spread of Islamic Extremism, Europe for Europeans!, signed by Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia. Ljubljana, 2016. Sticker 9.2 Technical obstacle? Ljubljana, 2016. Graffiti 9.3 For an easier flow of capital not “refugees,” Ljubljana, 2015. Graffiti 10.1 Football is for you and me, not for fucking industry!, Timișoara, 2017. Sticker 10.2 Welcome to Hell by fans of FC Zenit, St. Petersburg, 2015. Sticker 10.3 Follow your leader! by fans of FC Sparta, Prague, 2016. Sticker 11.1 I got some bad ideas in my head by fans of FC Celje Celjski grofje (Counts of Celje), Celje, 2014. Sticker 11.2 Viole Maribor since 1989 by fans of FC Maribor, Maribor, 2013. Sticker 11.3 Green Dragons, fans of FC Olimpija Ljubljana, 1988, with added in small letters Fan club (Heil!), Ljubljana, 2014. Mural 12.1 History of the capital is a crime, Ljubljana, 2013. Graffiti 12.2 When I create I destroy, Nova Gorica, 2017. Graffiti
xi 96 97 105 107 111 115 117 122
131 134 138 141 147 150 160 161 166 178 179
Table 4.1 Pro-Yugoslav, anti-Yugoslav graffiti, and graffiti wars
Preface Towards a new interdisciplinary science – graffitology
There is a war. This is a weapon. Sticker, Copenhagen, 2013
On the front door of an apartment building looking directly onto the main Ljubljana street, the Viennese (Dunajska), until 1991 known as Tito Street, there are two still very visible red vertical inscriptions: one says Tito, the other Stalin. This graffiti apparently came to be in the years right after the liberation, in the time of a solid alliance between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, which fell apart with the Resolution of the Informbiro in July 1948. History books recount what happened next: persecution of actual and imaginary Informbiro members, systematic removal of any references to the Soviet Union or even Russia, erasing the memory of former friendship, demonising Stalin. And yet this scar,1 this literal “Stalin ante portas!,” survived all these dramatic years as well as the later decades of socialist Yugoslavia and then independent Slovenia. Seventy years in total! While the political, ideological, and cultural landscape surrounding it kept diametrically changing, this graffiti persevered. This detail of the urban landscape strikes me as an appropriate introduction into this study of modern political graffiti and street art that is always visible yet rarely seen, read, and understood. It is so obvious that only a few notice it. “We know that a wall is wanting to be written on,” writes Barthes (2013: 84). “There is no city without a graffitied wall.” While we very clearly see, read, and pay attention to the visual messages on traffic signs, web page instructions, mountain signposts, arrows in office buildings, billboards, or notices in offices, banks, and hospitals, it seems that in contrast to other types of visuals – or, indeed, the majority of culture in general – nobody takes graffiti and street art seriously, although it flowers practically all over the world. Spray-painted slogans of the Arab Spring at the beginning of this decade or partisan graffiti during the Second World War; Northern Irish nationalist and unionist murals or dissident student posters in China in the ’70s and ’80s; anti-militarist stencils during the Vietnam War, Afghanistan occupation, and all current wars in the Middle East or graffitied ganglands markings in megalopolises all around
Preface xiii the globe; hair-raising confessions scratched into the walls of solitary cells by prisoners of authoritarian regimes or political watchwords written with markers in public toilets and on the backs of bus seats; murals as a part of a left-wing experiment in the Andalusian municipality of Marinaleda and stickers as new means of propaganda used by various subpolitical movements; a sticker symbolizing Macedonian Colourful Revolution in 2016 (Photo 0.1); an anarchy sign on an isolated building in the middle of endless fields of crops in Dobruja and the famous Ne travaillez jamais (Never Work) graffiti done in Paris back in 1953 by the situationist Guy Debord; colourful graffiti on the grey Berlin wall, Israeli antiPalestinian wall or graffiti against the invisible, yet no less deadly, Schengen wall; etc. – these are all examples of political interventions that modern society has not even learnt to read, much less to understand. Now let us compare the number of real, theoretical, methodological, and comparative in-depth studies on, say, renaissance art, avant-gardism, sacral art, architecture, cinema, design, etc. – if we stick to visual arts – with that on graffiti and street art. Well, the latter lag significantly behind. Graffiti are still not adequately recognised as a legitimate topic of study, although they represent a mass, global, long-lasting, recognisable, simple, accomplished, resounding, effective, and cheap way of how individuals or groups visually enter the public sphere. They are
Photo 0.1 Symbol of Macedonian Colourful Revolution, Skopje, 2016. Stencil Source: Photo by MV.
experiencing what up until recently some other forms of “profane culture” (e.g., fashion, sports, tattoos, jokes) went through, as they were considered too banal, too every day, too mundane, too unworthy of attention and research. If anything, books on graffiti look more like “picture books for grown-ups.” They are luxuriously designed, colourful (and expensive!) publications in large format, with similar titles and on quality paper that sum up the fan spirit and display one quality photograph of graffiti by the chosen, usually notorious, graffiti writers and street artists;2 certain graffiti scenes or trends;3 and graffitied urbanscapes.4 Large cities even offer urban tour guides on works of famous graffiti artists. While all of them are visually extremely informative, they are normally characterised by very short, descriptive, and, almost without any exceptions, nontheoretical accompanying commentaries by writers who usually cannot contain their excitement. A similar situation can be observed with documentary films on graffiti artists and graffitiing. Needless to say, as a rule, the commentaries leave out concrete social circumstances and ideological frameworks of the graffiti. They are showing but not explaining graffiti. The better-stocked bookstores keep a few shelves reserved for just such books. Amongst other celebratory art genres, graffiti and street art got their own book in the World of Art collection by the Thames & Hudson publishing house (Wacławek 2011). Like many other counterculture and alternative praxes, graffiti and street art are also becoming tourist attractions and commodities in the form of postcards, cups, magnets, T-shirts, or advertisements for the more bohemian parts of towns. More and more merchandise – from T-shirts to notebooks – is covered with graffiti-like imprints. The Internet is flooded with photographs of graffiti and street art: there are specialised or even just travel blogs, web pages, chatrooms, Facebook, and Instagram, and each photo features euphoric impressions of graffiti experts or coincidental passers-by. A real graffitomania! The reason for this is simple: graffiti and street art have everything “that sells” in today’s cultural, artistic, and consumerist mainstream: they are attractive, unconventional, provocative, and rebellious and have the necessary street cred. However, compared to other fields, this has only offered a few epistemological, theoretical, methodological, historical, and comparative studies. There is practically no continuous tradition of serious research, no real, general, exhaustive “manual” of analysing visual ideologies and praxes of graffiti and street art. We are missing the big picture of this phenomenon. Nancy Macdonald, a researcher of this scene in London and New York, claims that “an analytically detailed account of this subculture as it stands in America and elsewhere is lacking” (2001: 2). The Californian political scientist Lyman G. Chaffee asserts that “despite its prevalence and importance, street art is often ignored and seldom researched as a mass communication” (1993: 3, see also Reisner 1971: 1; Olton and Lovata 2015: 11). Editor of the most comprehensive work on this subject, American scholar of criminal justice Jeffrey Ian Ross (2016a: 3, 6) claims that although a lot has been written about the topic, he misses “a sustained series of scholarly studies of graffiti and street art”: for him, “the field lacks a relatively comprehensive textbook, and/or a scholarly overview that does justice to the subject matter.” In general,
Preface xv “serious” researchers of art history, aesthetic theory, or high culture and “serious” communicologists, politologists, and sociologists tend to overlook graffiti. Now, if even they show no interest, what else can we expect from other people! It, therefore, comes as no surprise that media reports on graffiti writers still oscillate between praising the previously mentioned graffiti stars and condemning vandals.5 Both the aesthetisation of graffiti and pursuit against it miss the point while showing and perpetuating a complete misunderstanding of this creative activity. To be fair, serious researchers of the graffiti subculture did appear. This happened during the “cultural turn” in the ’70s and in the spirit of Raymond Williams’s take on culture that he defines as “ordinary,” “both traditional and creative; that it is both the most ordinary common meanings and the finest individual meanings” (Williams 1989: 4). Their typewriters and then computers produced some excellent and inspiring studies, which explored the particular dimensions and scenes of graffiti culture. But a great majority of them dealt with the beauty of the quotidian – i.e., with the aesthetical or subcultural and not political graffiti – and too often with the big names and world capitals of graffiti, not with masses of anonymous graffiti writers from virtually all corners of the world. This is why I would like to preface by mentioning a few of the most influential studies that arose from this new critical interdisciplinary science at the productive crossroads between subcultural studies, visual cultural studies, urban studies, art history, and critique of ideology, in certain respects also criminology and law, that I dare call graffitology. As early as in the ’60s, the New York New School for Social Research professor Robert Reisner (1971) established the first (if my data is correct) university course on graffiti in the cadre of his institution’s department of anthropology and wrote a historical overview of how graffiti developed from prehistory to today. The psychologist Ernest L. Abel and the pedagogue Barbara E. Buckley (1977) researched mainly the motives of graffiti writers that drove their creativity: from psychologic/psychoanalytical and sexual to humorous and social ones. The communicologist Craig Castleman (1999) wrote the classic study on the early New York scene in which he explains the basic concepts, the timeline, and the controversy of this subculture and presents some of its protagonists. Nancy Macdonald’s (2001) ethnographic study explores the complex relationship between graffiti and (gender and age) identity through the lens of the writers themselves. The art historian Anna Wacławek wrote an excellent overview of graffiti and street art with lucid insights into the scene, yet she still firmly places it in the world of art: for her, they represent “the quintessential art movement of the twenty-first century” (2011: 8). The American art historian G. James Daichendt (2017: 27) also puts street art on his “art history timeline” that begins with Gothic in the 13th century and the Renaissance in the 14th century and ends with conceptual art minimalism in 1960, postmodernism in 1963, digital in 1978, and street art in 1980. The American social scientists Troy Lovata and Elizabeth Olton (2015) edited an impressive collection of studies on the functions, forms, contexts, and politicality of graffiti and their value as witnesses to history. A recent book, put together by Chloé Ragazzoli, Ömür Harmanşah, Chiara Salvador, and Elizabeth Frood (2018), offers fresh insights in the history of the phenomena from ancient
Egyptian, Hellenic Roman, and Mayan civilisations to medieval China and contemporary Turkey. Comprehensive and extremely insightful Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art by Ross (2016b) is divided in four main parts: history and types, theoretical considerations, regional variations, and effects of graffiti and street art. One of the rare and more complex studies of political graffitiing came from the already-mentioned Chaffee (1993), whose empirical focus encompassed Spanish and Latin American experiences from the recent history, especially from postauthoritarian transitions. The second one was written by an American researcher Steven T. Olberg (2013) about political graffiti in another troubled part of the world: the Israeli separation wall. He systematically documented, carefully catalogued, and researched in detail sprayed images from both sides: Palestinian and Israeli. Unfortunately and paradoxically, all of these excellent books dealing with visual culture/politics include very limited numbers of photos of actual graffiti, street art, and other visuals – and all of them are in black and white. Locally, my home country Slovenia has a fairly strong and diverse graffiti and street art tradition beginning in two rebellious periods of the recent history. A form of partisan resistance were antifascist graffiti, exhaustively researched by the urban anthropologist Helena Konda (2017, 2018). Fifty-three years later, town (and village) walls were full of various punk graffiti and graffiti of the new civil society movements: a list of them, yet sadly no photographic material, can be found in the book Punk pod Slovenci (Punk in Slovenia 1985: 526–529). In contrast, the journalist David Tasić succeeded in publishing (1992) a book on graffiti from the ’80s, but this one lacked commentaries.6 With a typical time lag, the production on the walls was followed by the scientific research of graffiti and their transition into galleries. The Ljubljana International Centre of Graphic Arts put up two larger exhibitions, one on graffiti (2004, see the catalogue edited by Zrinski and Stepančič 2004) and one on street art (2006), and at the same time published two catalogues that critically address this creative undertaking. Worth mentioning is the Journal for the Critique of Science double issue from 2008 entitled On White with Delight – Graffiti and Street Art and featuring around 30 original articles and a few translations by mainly very young researchers. The editorial board I was a part of paid special attention to overlooked topics, such as women in graffiti, graffiti in the Balkans, graffiti wars, and commodification of graffiti. In 2016, the pages of the same journal hosted another thematic section on graffiti, again written by younger researchers. The urban anthropologist Sandi Abram regularly publishes excellent graffiti studies in journals in Slovenia and abroad. And, finally, numerous diploma and master’s theses written on this topic prove that there is general interest to explore critical images on the wall, as this stencil that appeared in the centre of Ljubljana some years ago (Photo 0.2). The book that lies before you tries to critically explore this rich, global, and vibrant contemporary street culture that fascinates me. At the same time being fond of it and reserved about it, I am interested in its visual ideologies as well as the political and material interests it fuels: a complex interplay between aesthetic solutions, ideological discourses, and social structure. Neither idealising nor fetishising graffiti and street art, I wish to understand them in all their complexity and controversy.
Photo 0.2 Ljubljana, 2014. Stencil Source: Photo by MV.
The following pages, therefore, present a synthesis and an addition to my more than 20-year-long systematic and intensive fieldwork combined with simultaneous theoretical, methodological, historical, and comparative treatise on visual ideologies of political graffiti and street art. So far, my research has resulted in several scientific and popular articles in journals at home and abroad; in co-editing a topical journal issue; in public presentations and academic lectures or presentations; in independent university courses in Slovenia and elsewhere; in workshops, seminars,
xviii Preface individual chapters in edited volumes; in guiding graffiti tours for students;7 and in the wider public at home and in various cities I happened to lecture in. The book is based almost exclusively on my primary field research data. I was gathering it, metaphorically speaking, first with my eyes open to graffiti and with my ears open to their authors and then with my camera, pencil, and tape recorder. Non-metaphorically speaking, I was always alert. I was exploring with minimal means, concretely, with a small car, a sturdy city bike, an excellent camera, good shoes, and an unlimited supply of enthusiasm. Some kind of “barefoot cultural studies!”8 I took a great majority out of around 25,000 graffiti and street-art photographs I have in my personal “graffititeque” from various countries in four continents, while some came from my friends and colleagues I mention in the acknowledgements. Only rarely did I use pictures from other books, articles, or the web. Almost all of those reproduced, directly included, mentioned, or described – and thousands more – are in my archive.9 My photographs are amateur, not professional. When I say amateur, I mean not only of worse technical quality than those by true masters of the lens (the technical editors of my publications could tell you just how big the difference is) but also amateur in the etymologic sense of the Latin word amator, a lover of such visual expressions. As a “blissful amateur” – to borrow Dubravka Ugrešić’s term (2008: 43) – I am not proud of the technical imperfection of my shots, but I did try to capture all that piqued my interest. Secondly, I visited numerous exhibitions on graffiti, be it documentary, museum, retrospective, overview, or selling.10 I carried out dozens of real interviews and many more spontaneous, informal talks with protagonists, insiders, political activists, street kids, connoisseurs, and critics of this subculture, all of which taught me (and from whom I caught many a slang expression that later, I admit, also snuck into this book). I kept reading whatever material was marked “graffiti”: from journalistic articles to in-depth studies, from various outbursts in online forums to graffiti treasure chests on Instagram, primary and secondary sources. There is another significant detail to add to this introduction: when my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, but also students or translators, find out what my research topic is, they admit to walking through the urban landscape with their eyes open wider than before; some even start sending me photos of graffiti and street art that they encounter and had previously not paid attention to. This book came to life at a crossroads of two of my fields of research: contemporary urban subcultures and ideological transformations in post-socialist societies, mainly in the Balkans. This world too – to paraphrase Stéphane Mallarmé – was made in order to result in a beautiful book. I designed it as a systematic introduction to (political) graffiti and street-art studies. It is guided by two basic ambitions, which correspond to the two main parts of the book: the theoretical and methodological one in the first three chapters and the empirical and practical one in the next eight. I preface nearly all chapters by quoting a relevant graffiti I found during my fieldwork. The chapter outline of the book is as follows. I start with a more general overview that strives to amend the terminological imprecisions, the lack of theoretical profiling, and the narrow methodological horizon that I noticed in the studies so far. The first three chapters are conceived as
Preface xix a summary manual for later research of wall poetics and politics. The first chapter maps graffiti and street art: firstly, I determine them based on existing definitions, question their politicality, and then list the main characteristics of aesthetic or subcultural graffiti and then of political graffiti. The second chapter explains their basic types, styles, and techniques, with the emphasis on the differences and the connections between graffiti and street art (as new graffiti praxes, called also post-graffiti art). Since there is a lack of proper methodological approaches to study graffiti and street art (see, for example, Ross 2016a: 8), the third chapter is a methodological one, divided into three subchapters. The first explains the use of photography as a method of collecting visual data; the second describes four sites that produce the meanings of graffiti (site of context, site of the author themselves, site of the graffiti, and site of the public). My research, therefore, tackles graffiti from multiple angles. In the third methodological subchapter, I interpret the main methods of researching graffiti in reference to the mentioned sites, with their strong and weak points as explanatory techniques. The methods are the historical and comparative method, geocoding, semiotics of temporality, autoethnography, urban ethnography (participant observation and five types of qualitative interviews), compositional interpretation, content analysis, (visual) social semiology, public opinion polls, and engaged or militant research. The second part of the book attempts to apply to this theoretical background the practical methodological tools in eight concrete case studies of political graffiti – mainly from the region and the period I belong to and which I have been reflecting in my research work so far (i.e., studies of post-socialist ideologies, collective memory, nostalgia, alternative cultures). The fourth chapter explores the ideological con- and destruction of images of socialist Yugoslavia in the current graffiti landscape – i.e., an endless quarrel between the supporters and the opponents of the former country, its system, leaders, founders, and guerrieros. There follows a comparison of graffiti appropriations of two contested heroes and subcultural icons from a little over a century ago: the pro-Yugoslavian revolutionary and assassin Gavrilo Princip and the fighter for the northern Slovenian border, general Rudolf Maister, whereby I employ the established Girardet’s typology of political leaders. The sixth chapter follows the concepts of the “naturalization of politics” by Barthes and S. Hall to investigate the graffiti battles between different political groups fighting to ideologically appropriate Mount Triglav as the most important symbol of the Slovenian people. In the seventh chapter, I first apply Adorno’s reflections on the “jargon of authenticity” to my explanation of Balkan nationalistic graffiti, stickers, stencils, and other forms of street art. The eighth chapter explores the extreme right-wing representations, which seem to have multiplied on Slovenian walls in recent years. I understand them in the cadre of (dis-)continuities between the modern and postmodern fascism, and the activities of the “radical centre” in contemporary politics, as pointed out by Lipset and Mouffe. The ninth chapter, which is based on Agamben’s theory of “homo sacer,” deals with the ideological images of new others in Slovenian society: the refugees as they have been painted in political graffiti and street art in the last couple of years and their worrying similarity with
the images of them in the official Slovenian politics. The tenth chapter features an analysed comparison between the Deleuze-Guattari “rhizomatic structure” type of the visual ideology in football fan graffiti, especially in the Balkans and in Central Europe. And my last case study discusses the metamodern identities as defined by Vermeulen and Van den Akker, based on the street production by Slovenian football fans: it is a comparison of their actual statements with their graffiti, stickers, and stencils. My introductory questions are given answers in the last part of the book: graffiti can either confirm or problematise the current situation, be a part of a critical or an affirmative visual ideology, as understood by Hadjinicolaou. They are of the affirmative kind if they are represented only as new fine arts, if they serve as an apology for the social inertia of their authors, and if the inherently political gesture of the graffiti is depoliticised through a mediation of their illegality, publicness, aesthetic disruption, and ideological dissensus. In contrast, they are critical if they remain on external walls and not between four walls, if they destroy aesthetic harmony and the political illusion around them in a Brecht-like manner, if they provoke people into participation, into an aesthetic and ethical awakening. If they are “against apathy” (Lewisohn 2011: 10). This is what happens with autonomous graffiti creativity or, as I call it, “the emancipation of aesthetics” (“aesthetical regime of the arts” in Rancière’s terms) or its usefulness or “the aesthetics of emancipation” (“ethical regime”). This publication, therefore, reflects the graffiti visualisations of a post-socialist chronotope, to borrow Bakhtin’s expression, its time-space configuration. Timewise, it describes almost 30 years of political, ideological, economic, social, and cultural transition, while space-wise, it is concerned with the Balkans and the Central Europe, so it is also an area study. My writing is also marked by an autobiographical note: this year, the number of years I spent under the previous political system and state (i.e., socialist Yugoslavia) equalled the time I spent in the new ones (i.e., transitional Slovenia). To employ a harsh transitional newspeak idiom: I spent half of my life in totalitarianism and the other half in democracy, or if I took nostalgic lamentations seriously, I could say that I spent half of my life in socialism with a human face and the other half in rotten capitalism. The book is also autobiographical because a substantial amount of the graffiti studied originates in the country of which I am a citizen – Slovenia. In the first part of the book, I list them individually – they serve as illustrations to terminological, theoretical, and methodological reflections – while in the second part, they are systematically analysed in context with others. So, yes, Slovenia First!, to paraphrase the Trumpian slogan, but first in line for self-critical structural and historical research. Only by contemplating one’s own personal position and native environment can one research others. Here, I agree with the educational anthropologist Heewong Chang (2008: 10), who claims that “every piece of writing reflects the disposition of its author.” I understand the complex transitional period as a synergy of two posts: postsocialism in a political and economic sense and postmodernism in a cultural and social sense. Their meeting point, their intersection, is called depolitisation. More and more, political power portrays itself as being “above politics,”
Preface xxi “non-political”: it hides and talks through (pop)culture, a popular appropriation of history, media glamour, sports, “nature,” manager newspeak, technocratic ideology, an unconditional obedience of Brussels, NATO or IMF directives, forms of economic determinism. It is sneakily devising its action through “self-abolition”: culturalisation, objectivisation, naturalisation, spectacularisation, technocratisation, and so forth – through depolitisation, in short. My research ambitions go in the opposite direction. I wish to detect, expose, unmask, demystify, and criticise this efficient politics of supra-/non-politics the way it shows in one concrete field: in graffiti visualisations. This is also the reason why this book on graffiti also deals with those that do not appear “strictly political,” yet, of course, are as such due to political contexts, political ambitions, and political influence (e.g., football fan graffiti, natural symbols of a nation, graffiti on the distant past). In the words of Jacques Rancière (2004b: 13), “Politics revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the properties of space and the possibilities of time.” The post-structuralist motto is everything is political: everything is included in the dynamics of relationships of power in a society. Ideology is inscribed in every (cultural) production and material praxis – although these, of course, cannot only be reduced to ideology, as was argued by the reflection theory proponents. If we agree that artefacts are not closed, self-contained and transcendent entities, but are the product of specific historical praxes on the part of identifiable social groups in given conditions, and therefore bear the imprint of the ideas, values and conditions of existence of those groups, and their representatives in particular artists, as claims the art sociologist Janet Wolff (1994: 49), we can say the same about graffiti. I explore the collected graffiti – ci chiamano dai muri di città, which call us from city walls, as sings the Italian rockstar Gianna Nannini11 – along two explanatory axes: global – local and general – particular. Firstly, I compare local graffiti folklore with contemporary global trends and establish similarities and differences amongst them, their meeting points to the ways they influence or inspire each other, what they anticipate, and where they lag behind. Here, I operate with a thesis by the sociologist Roland Robertson on glocalisation, according to which two seemingly opposing terms, globalisation and localisation, and two seemingly opposing trends, homogenisation and heterogenisation, are in fact “complementary and interpenetrative” (1995: 40).12 And, secondly, in regard to the relationship between the general and the particular in the images, I follow the idea of the Marxist art theoretician Nicos Hadjinicolaou (1978: 147), who claims that each visual work of art “belongs to a collective visual ideology while at the same time possessing its own unique features.”13 Political graffiti and street art are public art (accessibility-wise), avant-garde art (determination-wise), environmental art (location-wise), decorative art (they
decorate empty spaces), pop art (form-wise), arte povera (cost-wise), art brut (due to their deliberate unsophistication), action painting (style-wise), DIY or do it yourself (due to their creative principle), outsider art (due to the social status of their creators), Entartete Kunst (if considering the opinion of aesthetic elitists and social moralists), participatory art or l’art engage (as far as the viewer’s engagement goes), direct action (due to their straightforwardness), conceptual art (due to their predetermined consistency), art intervention (due to their intrusive character), ephemeral art (duration-wise), and Tyrtaeus’ art (purpose-wise). However, political graffiti and street art are first and foremost political art, artivism, a specific street connection between politics and aesthetics. To sum up, they are visual political acts. So what happens when politics hits the wall? Is the mere gesture of graffitiing political enough in itself, or does the message have to be explicitly political too? Who spray-paints political graffiti, why, how, and against or for whom? What are the specific characteristics of political graffitiing, and what visual ideologies does it promote? In short, what is political in the screams of contemporary city walls?
Notes 1 A jargon expression for faintly visible but still recognizable graffiti. 2 Such as Banksy (with his bestseller Wall and Piece from 2007 or his biography by Will Ellsworth-Jones from 2012), Obey (Covert to Overt, 2015), Blek le Rat, Ron English, Space Invader, Above, Blu, Laser 3.14, WK Interact, King Robbo, Swoon, Cornbread, Os Gêmeos, and, of course, the first two to make it from the street into the gallery world and consequently into the rich people’s living rooms, Keith Haring and JeanMichel Basquiat. 3 For example, The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti (Schacter 2013), The Urban Canvas – Street Art Around the World (Daichendt 2017), The Mammoth Book of Street Art (Jake 2012), Happy Graffiti – Street Art with Heart (Foulds 2013), The Art of Rebellion: The World of Street Art (Hundertmark 2005), New Street Art (Crommelin 2016), Global Street Art (Bofkin 2014), Graffiti World (Ganz 2009), Graffito (Walsh 1996), Stencil Pirates: A Global Study of the Street Stencil (Macphee 2004), or Art of the Street (Cantillon 2015). 4 In fact, every larger city can present their graffiti monograph: Paris (Grévy 2008), New York (recimo Burns 2005), Melbourne (Smailmann and Nyman 2011), Stockholm (Carlsson 2007), Los Angeles (Grody 2007), Belgrade (Đorđević 2016), Zagreb (Šterk 2004), Berlin (Jakob 2017), Montréal (Tourigny 2016), Kairo (Hyldig Dal 2013), etc. Similar picture books deal with scenes in different countries or regions: on Iceland (Claessen 2007), in South America (Manco, Neelon, and Art 2005, Ruiz 2009, Indij 2008), in the Arab world (Hauer, Hauer, and Vaughn 2015), in the Balkans (Ignjatović 2011), in Japan (RackGaki 2007), the list goes on and on. In some, the wording sadly reminds us of uncritical tourist guide language, since graffiti are presented only as local sights worth seeing. 5 Hm, here I would like to appeal to graffiti-scene critics to finally come up with another term instead of repeating this one for literally decades. 6 For the Belgrade graffiti scene in the Milošević’s 1990s, see Dragičević Šešić (2018). 7 How on Earth do you see all of these graffiti, where did you learn to do this? I am often asked on these graffiti safaris, as I call them. 8 In doing so, I experienced many funny but also a number of painful anecdotes worth describing in an accompanying research diary. There were, for example, the questioning
11 12 13
looks of teenage graffiti writers who were wondering what pushes this middle-aged professor to drive half way across the country only to discuss something that the said teenager’s nearest ones as well as the wider public judges as vandalism and hooliganism; there were sudden brakings in my car/on my bike when I caught a glimpse of an intriguing piece; hurrying home to get my camera, which I did not have on me, to take a photo of the graffiti before night fell; being bitten on the leg by a dog at the end of my visit to a squat center and listening to its owner’s comment that that’s just what he likes to do; being a nuisance to pedestrians when I tried to find a good angle to take the picture from; peculiar looks when I took photos of latrinalia and football fan stickers in public toilets; passers-by inquiring what the hell I was photographing; piercing my foot when I jumped over a wall and straight onto a jagged glass-bottle bottom; and so on and so on. A few examples I only managed to write down, as they had already been erased when I returned to take a picture in an hour or the next morning. In the final months of writing this book, it was also inspiring to walk through the two neighboring quarters of Lower Manhattan: on the Lower East Side, graffiti covered nearly all the walls, and if you jumped over Broadway to Soho, graffiti on canvases were available for sale in literally every other gallery. The former had all the street imperfection, powerful messages, political incorrectness, and engagement, while the latter were technically perfect and full of sterile beauty. I maschi, 1991. In other words, “The global is not in and of itself counterposed to the local. Rather, what is often referred to as the local is essentially included within the global” (ibid, 35). On the glocalisation of the world of graffiti, see Lewisohn (2011: 9–10). For the aspects of collective production of art (technology plus social institutions plus economic factors), see J. Wolff (1994: 32–48).
La beauté est dans la rue. Situationist poster, Paris, 1968
My excitement for the attraction of the streets and the striking opinions on the walls originates in talks, socialising, collaborations, and alliances with valuable and inspiring people I wish to thank. The book would not exist without them. Mateja Fajt was the one who further sensitised my interest for this subculture; long ago, we published the first article dealing with this topic. With Sandi Abram, in my opinion the leading expert on the field, we mutually taught and mentored each other; the same thing with Gregor Bulc. With them, I co-edited an edited volume on this topic. Thanks to Elena Fajt for her practical lessons on photography and for hundreds of photographed graffiti. Thanks also to Samira Kentrić for her extremely useful comments and advice on the last version of my typescript. I also learnt a lot from my guides in local graffiti scenes from Beijing to London, from Bishkek to Los Angeles, from Beirut to Oslo, whose relaxed broad logic and insider flashes uncovered their specificities. Students from various parts of the world contributed to my classes on graffitology by offering fresh perspectives. The vignettes of graffiti and street art, together with various background information and translations, were sent to me from literally everywhere by my friends, comrades, and colleagues Vjeran Pavlaković, Monika Kropej, Eric Ušić, Nina Perger, Valter Cvijić, Aleksandar Bošković, Shantelena Mouzon, Catherine Cissé, John Bailyn, Dora Komnenović, Danijel Novaković, Bermet Zhumakadyr, Reyhana Turdieva, Frank Karioris, Aljoša Pužar, Miloš Glišović, Ana Neva, Vojko Klančnik, Aleksandra Alekseeva, Nena Močnik, Srdjan Sušnica, Joy Connolly, Nataša and Varja Velikonja, Boštjan Šaver, Ondrej Daniel, Maria Sokolova, Boris Buden, Natalija Majsova, Derek Maus, Katja Rebec, Shuting Han, Denis Striković, Jovana Mastilović, Peter Požar, Tanja Petrović, Luka Zevnik, Felix Nicolau, Mirko Ilić, Klemen Ploštajner, Franc Trček, Valentina Izmirlieva, Lazar Džamić, Alexander Mirescu, and Rok Zupančič. Thanks to each and every one. My thanks go also to my parent Faculty for Social Sciences in Ljubljana that has enabled me to continuously research and to pass my knowledge on
Acknowledgements xxv to the students for all these years. An excellent translation of a couple of chapters was contributed by Maja Sužnik and Natalija Majsova and the proofread by Fiona Thompson. However, the majority of this work was done by Sonja Benčina, who undertook the translation and the review of the previous translations in a way an author can only dream of with linguistic precision, with an eye for details, with solutions for the untranslatable, and with an incredible feel for the literary component of the scientific lingo. Thank you very much. After over a decade of publishing partial studies and giving lectures on the topic, I completed the book in the stimulating shelter of the Remarque Institute at New York University, where I lugged all the materials from my fieldwork. A warm thanks to its executive director Larry Wolff for his invitation and to Samantha Dawn Paul for all the organising and accommodating me in the heart of Downtown New York, one of the birthplaces of graffiti that remains an epicentre of this global subculture. The city is nothing but a large canvas of graffitiing and street art, which makes it the most provoking place to write a book about it. I had to escape my part of the world and come to Kerouac’s “evil gray New York pad” (2001: 4) where I could take my time and conclude the study of political graffiti in it. Last, but not least, I would like to thank the countless anonymous graffiti writers and street artists for an endless source of inspiration. Before Barthes (2013: 85), after him and completely ignoring him, they are the ones who deliver daily warnings that “the wall is the emblematically topical space of contemporary writing.” * Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 are based on articles, publications, and presentations but were largely modified for this book. Velikonja, Mitja. 2017. “Yugoslavia After Yugoslavia: Graffiti About Yugoslavia in the Post-Yugoslav Urban Landscape.” In: The Cultural Life of Capitalism in Yugoslavia – (Post)Socialism and Its Other, edited by Dijana Jelača, Maša Kolanović and Danijela Lugarić, 323–344. London: Palgrave. Velikonja, Mitja. 2018. “Contested Heroes – Gavrilo Princip and Rudolf Maister as Subcultural Icons.” Traditiones 47 (1): 213–229. Ljubljana. Velikonja, Mitja. 2018. “Narava kot politika: Motiv Triglava v grafitih in street artu.” In: Triglav 240, edited by Matija Zorn, Peter Mikša, Irena Lačen Benedičič, Matej Ogrin and Ana Marija Kunstelj, 225–235. Ljubljana: ZRC SAZU Geografski inštitut Antona Melika. Velikonja, Mitja. 2017. “Novi Drugi: Ideološke podobe beguncev v sodobni Sloveniji.” Časopis za kritiko znanosti 4 (268): 107–121. Ljubljana. Velikonja, Mitja. 2018. “Images of Exclusion: Ethno-Nationalist Graffiti in the Balkan.” Keynote address at the conference the Culture of Post-Socialism – Black Sea Horizons. New York, Columbia University, April 13. Velikonja, Mitja. 2013. “Nadaljevanje politike z drugimi sredstvi: Neofašistični graffiti in street art na Slovenskem.” Časopis za kritiko znanosti 40 (251): 116–126. Ljubljana.
xxvi Acknowledgements Velikonja, Mitja. 2016. “Multitude on the Walls: Football Fans Graffiti and Street Art.” Chair of South-Slavic and Balkan Studies, Charles University, Prague, April 12. Translators •
Sonja Benčina: the whole text except as indicated below • • •
Natalija Majsova: Chapter 4 Maja Sužnik: Chapters 6 and 8 Fiona Thompson (proofreading)
• • • • • • •
The text of the graffiti is translated into English in italic font, while the description of their motifs is written in regular font. Political graffiti and street art are usually more textual and less graphic than the aesthetic or subcultural ones. In my text, I can, therefore, quote or easily describe a lot of them. Word plays that are extremely common in (political) graffiti are quoted in their original language and translated into English. Original institution names can be found in italic font in the endnotes. Every graffiti mentioned is equipped with the place and year of the photography unless it is clear from the context that the time period is longer. Any ideological terms and slang, as well as words in original languages are in italic font. Graffiti and street art are not synonymous, as I explain in one of the introductory chapters: these are two paradigmatically and partially also chronologically different street creations. When I use only one of the expressions to cover both, I explicitly say so.
Introduction to graffiti and street art studies
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art
Today’s graffiti are tomorrow’s headlines American graffiti from the ’70s (Abel and Buckley 1977: 145)
There was a white wall before the Facebook wall . . . This is my usual answer to the question of why I am interested in something as fatally material, as technically undemanding, and as immobile as graffiti and street art in a contemporary, highly digitalised, and always changing society. Yet they are the ones that we notice first when arriving in a city. Despite a fierce competition of garish, seductive modern visual images, graffiti and street art are one of the first sources of information offered by the urban landscape, one of the first images that animates walls, which literally “brings them to life.” Graffiti and street art remain one of the most attractive, dynamic, popular, and picturesque ways of expressing aesthetic preferences, social belonging, personal identities, cultural choices, and political views. They co-exist and cohabitate with other more modern means of communication, technology, and politics; they are not mutually exclusive. What is more, due to (negative) reporting in printed and electronic media, and on the Internet in the last couple of decades, graffitiing has become even more popular.1 The digital push has also reached this field and caused graffitiing to become a global phenomenon despite several creative epicentres that decentralise it. Much like Internet culture, so too is graffiti culture caught in a constitutive contradiction. On the one hand, the wall and the web are free, open, democratic, egalitarian, plural media; they are spaces where anyone, anywhere, and anytime can publish anything for anyone and because of anything.2 If once upon a time, critical appeals were “condemned” to stay only on the walls, the web is now their new platform. On the other hand, in the securatisation of societies and the incredible panoptical control over the people that has exceeded even the most dystopic visions of the darkest of totalitarianisms, these two are also the most closely monitored media.3 A reactionary point of view pins graffiti down as pure vandalism; in liberal eyes, graffiti is everything that ends up on the walls, including custom-ordered paint jobs; street kids understand them as an encouragement to create their own graffiti. I see them through critical and reflexive glasses: my point of view is based on the necessity of their contextualisation (i.e., reading graffiti in connection to
Introduction to graffiti and street art
their concrete time, space, and cultural context), on the intent of their creation, and on the effects such creativity produced on its environment. Graffiti are prompt visual indicators of cultural conditions, social dynamics, and power structures in a society. They combine creativity, aesthetics, communication, identification, and engagement. Provoking either smiles, shudders, or calmness, they most certainly react to whatever is going on around them. They are concise and effective: they are able to say a lot with only a few words, images, or even only lines, decisive and deep like those the spatialist Lucio Fontana cut into his canvases. Graffiti are, in Lévi-Strauss’ terms, “‘good to think’” (1991: 89) – and, eventually, good to make people act. Graffiti writers, in essence, know how to take the liberty and the spaces that they haven’t been given. The presence of their graffiti alone, however expressively clear or abstractly elusive they may be, resists the existing conditions, and as such, they pose a threat. They, quite simply, should not be there. Graffiti represent a sort of “wall riddle”; they escape boredom, play with compositions, meanings, interpretations, viewers.4 Such street production “is about re-conquering public spaces” (Jakob 2017: 11); it expresses a “right to the city,” defended by the critical theoretician Henri Lefebvre, which implies “the right to the oeuvre, to participation and appropriation (clearly distinct from to right to property)” (2000: 173, 174, see also 158). The right to change the world around you.
1.1 Dirty words on clean walls – dilemmas in defining graffiti and street art When walls speak Graffiti, Ljubljana, 2018
Dirty words on clean walls: these are the clever words Reisner’s students used back in the ’60s to describe graffiti and street art (1971: 23), as they had been reading them together with their background. However, they are usually defined, quite the contrary, separated from their context – ontologically from the inside. For Abel and Buckley (1977: 3), graffiti are “a form of communication that is both personal and free of the everyday social restraints that normally prevent people from giving uninhibited reign to their thoughts.” For Wacławek (2011: 9), they are exceptional, because “as unsanctioned interventionist praxes, they challenge the art institution and commissioned public art,” because they “are guided by and guide a city’s visual aesthetic in that they both assimilate that environment and recreate it,” and because their creators “fundamentally question the ethos of ownership through the process of creation and thus approach the city from an alternative perspective.” Reisner (1971: 21, 22) defines true graffiti as having “style, a surrealistic, imaginative quality, a spontaneity you can feel even though the topic itself may now be stale” and goes on to say that they are “the twilight means of communication, a dialogue between the anonymous individual and the world” (1971: 204).
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 5 The Zagreb curator Slavko Šterk (2004: 69) believes graffiti “entertain, provoke, and stir thought”; while they are created as an attempt at self-affirmation by marginalised groups of young people, as the demarcation line for the designation of one’s “own” territory, and as “creative experiments by potential artists, for whom the doors of galleries are closed, and who have no chance of success at all in the world of the usual artistic disciplines” (ibid.: 25). The photographer and graffiti enthusiast Robert Reynolds (1975, introduction) claims that “born in spontaneity, it is brief and pithy, often humorous, sometimes not too palatable a bite.” For a group of graffiti researchers (Ragazzoli, Harmanşah, and Salvador 2018: 7), some graffiti “still maintain their original fighting spirit – if perhaps weakened – against oppression and the discrimination against minorities,” while some others “have evolved from a form of social protest into something less political which is more attentive to its artistic expression and technical execution.” From the psychological point of view, graffiti provide, for their authors and readers, a sense of place belonging, a subcultural sense of place, a sense of community, and a sense of connection (Taylor, Pooley, and Carragher 2016). Chaffee (1993: 8, 9) defines political street art primarily as a collective medium (used mostly by organised political groups); it is a “partisan, non-neutral, politicised medium” (it criticises, antagonises, comments, suggests initiatives); it has a “competitive, non-monopolistic, democratic character” (promotes ideas or marginal groups); it is characterised by “direct expressive thought” (messages are simple, concise, synthesised); finally, it is “a highly adaptable medium” (uses different techniques and strategies). Political graffiti and street art are, according to Olberg (2013: 6, 9), “a nonviolent response” or “nonviolent resistance” to a political injustice – in his particular case, to the Israeli Wall. They “have been used as tools of resistance and liberation an oppressive regime, and for personal expression of identity” (ibid.: 16). In short, they are images of dissent. With all these valuable definitions, I do not intend to invent a new one. I am convinced that none of them could ever cover all forms of occurrence of this phenomenon. The world around us is infinitely more intricate than any “reduction of complexity,” if I may borrow this concept coined by the theoretician of systems theory Niklas Luhmann (1995: 25–27), including a scientific one. Every definition, as elaborate as it may be, leaves much undefined, especially in times that change as rapidly as ours do. I, therefore, use other means to help me in my research. Firstly, I employ “ideal types” as methodological accessories as they were developed by another sociological classic, Max Weber. These are research constructs that do not exist in real life but abstractly unite the most important characteristics of a given social phenomenon, its “common denominators.” Intended for an analytical not for a descriptive use, they come in especially handy historical and comparative analyses. Or, in Weber’s own words (1949: 99, 100), “We have purposely considered the ideal type essentially – if not exclusively – as a mental construct for the scrutiny and systematic characterization of individual concrete patterns which are significant in their uniqueness.” And, secondly, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein resolved the eternal dilemma of the (im)possibility to define by
Introduction to graffiti and street art
coming up with “family resemblances”5 (1986: 32) – i.e., finding common traits but being well aware of the even greater number of differences. In the next two subchapters, I consequently do not propose another definition of street production but rather cite and ground its basic ideal-type characteristics. But before we get there, I bring forward three of my most basic epistemological bases for graffitology that I use throughout the research: the context, the intent, and the reception of graffiti. If anywhere, this is the place to follow the cultural studies motto “no text without context” to the letter. It is as important as establishing the purpose of making graffiti and what consequences it leaves on its environment. The real question is, therefore, not just “what is graffiti?” This must be followed by “where and when was it created?” “What has its intent been?” “What are its effects?” To avoid eye-rolling at politics from the very beginning, let me illustrate these bases with a love graffiti: a great big red heart bearing the name of the loved one is spray-painted somewhere on this person’s regular route (graffiti context); it expresses love (graffiti purpose) and expects to trigger a positive reaction of the loved one – i.e., reciprocal love (graffiti effect). The first starting point is a compulsory contextualisation of graffiti and street art, which will prove to considerably reevaluate their definitions so far. Normally, such production is explained through its singularity and isolation: it is violently “cut” from the dialectics of its physical (space and time), ideological, and wider graffiti environment.6 I truly believe that de-contextualisation is the “original sin” of graffiti studies up to this point! Allow me to be more concrete: as an example of socially acceptable and established art, a painting on a canvas “works” wherever we put it: in an art collection, in a living room, in a catalog, in a web gallery. It is the sole bearer of any attention it gets; none goes to its interaction with its environment. The same thing applies for photographs, books, films: it is practically irrelevant where we watch or read them. Quite the opposite is true for graffiti; let me make this crystal clear from the very beginning: they are time bombs – illicit visual timed interventions in an exact public location. Neither the space nor time of graffiti are chosen randomly: each one is site specific; it either decorates or aggresses the structure on which it is spray-painted in a carefully chosen moment, entering into an active relationship with space and time. By disregarding or even abstracting the points in time and space in which graffiti was created, I rob it of its comprehensive content. Graffiti must always be researched in situ: situationally not phenomenologically. Its message begins and ends with its environment: what matters is not only the graffiti but also whatever surrounds it. “In a way, the foundation itself retains the energy of the writing, it writes itself, and this writing stares at me,” claims Barthes (2013: 84). Graffiti without its wall is not graffiti. If we want to get mathematical about it: message = graffiti + its background! Example: an inscription ‘n’roll standing all by itself carries no meaning. But seeing it in 2014, spray-painted in (a very non-rock) pink colour on an enormous rock at the end of the highest Slovenian road, the road to Mangartsko sedlo, the full message is Rock‘n’roll, reserving the right to express a “pink” reservation, which of course makes every passer-by smile. One graffiti can develop an entirely different meaning if transposed onto another wall;
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 7 the message of an anti-military graffiti, for example, is infinitely stronger if it is spray-painted “under the noses” of soldiers in their barracks and not in some remote alley in the suburbs. Likewise, graffiti cannot be understood isolated from other graffiti by the same author, crew or political group. It is interesting to follow their aesthetical and political development or (dis)continuities. From a semiotic point of view, graffiti is, like any other sign, always a part of wider graffiti oeuvre and connected to others in the same system of meaning. One can understand it only by understanding its entire symbolic frame. In short, various environments form an inherent part of graffiti and choosing to ignore them means reducing its substance to mere aesthetics. The second epistemological starting point of graffitology is the intentionality of such production, the writer’s “artistic will” and/or “political ambition.” Graffiti and street art are created with a certain intent, be it aesthetics, culture, politics, identity, fan, love, etc. I also understand them as an exteriorisation of feeling, wishes or aspirations, the fruit of a personal/collaborative visual ideology coming “from the inside.” I am not only interested in the end product – what has been spray-painted, drawn, stickered, scratched into or onto a public surface – but also in the (intimate or collective) investment of the author or authors and the process of creation. Graffiti is an intentional occurrence; it is an active engagement with its environment: its writer wishes to communicate something in a public and illegal way.7 Asking how this intended and then publicly conveyed purpose, her/his, hm, mens rea is understood by its viewers tackles the third starting point of my research. An ontological basis must be followed by an interpretative one. As indispensable as it is to understand the environment and the intent of the graffiti, it is also important to understand the impact and effects that they have on society. Their meaning, therefore, also originates “from the outside.” In a Rancière fashion, the two researchers of Brazilian (political) graffiti Gabriel Bueno and Andrea Vieira Zanella claim that “the politics of a work of art suspends the direct relation between the intentionality of the artist and the reception of his creation” (2018: 9). Graffiti can either have a political intention that fails to resound as such in society or a non-political one that produces a distinctively political effect. Like André Breton, we need to ask, what kind of reflexes of the future run through graffiti and street art?8 What is the (concrete) effect they produce on society? I agree with the Brechtian criterion of the political relevance of a work of art that lies not in what has been invested into it but involves the level of actual effects it brings into its environment. The importance of graffiti should, therefore, be measured by how and how much it inspires the production of other graffiti and, even more importantly, provokes the engagement of the viewers. As often as I encounter opinions that graffitiing is vandalism and nothing more than scribbles, I also hear opinions on their insignificance. People write them off quite simply as juvenile provocation and proving oneself, while the political ones are only supposed to be symbolic attacks on the existing situation, a way to let off steam, not real action. However, if they are really so worthless, trivial, harmless, why is there such anger present in erasing or changing them, especially
Introduction to graffiti and street art
the political ones? Had they carried no influence, people would have left them alone. In a way, the graffiti are “scary”: to paraphrase the Bible, In the beginning was the Graffiti . . . – who knows what comes next. Maybe . . . was made flesh, and dwelt among us. The hysterical reactions of the authorities, building owners or opposing political options are a true indicator of their power. Their influence is inversely proportional to their duration on the walls – i.e., their reaction time. Those that pose a bigger problem aesthetically or politically, or provoke, insult or attack need to be nipped in the bud – this is why they are whitewashed or crossed over overnight.9 The last such example from Ljubljana is extremely telling: the Barbed wire on the border = dead bodies in the Kolpa River graffiti, which drew attention to the deaths of refugees trying to cross over to Slovenia, were literally instantly painted over. “Innocent” graffiti or the ones which incite a (silent) agreement from everybody are left alone; they can adorn the walls for decades. The effect graffiti and street art may produce can, therefore, neither be overrated nor underestimated, as they are, after all, a medium of aesthetical expression and communication of a writer or a crew.10 If the pen is mightier than the sword, we can say the same thing for the spray can. Further on in this chapter, I will address the basic theoretical dilemma of studying graffiti and street art: does their politicality lie only in an explicitly political statement – i.e., when they clearly express a political message – or is, perhaps, the mere gesture of their emergence and existence already political? Ideal-type-wise, I can divide graffiti into those that poetise walls and those that directly politicise them. The aesthetical or subcultural graffiti represent an alternative to canonical art, while the political ones pose an alternative to dominant politics and its media. In both cases, I will be interested in their visual ideologies, which concern politics in the wider sense of the word – I understand it as a dynamics of power relations between different groups in a certain society.
1.2 Poetics on the wall: characteristics of aesthetic/subcultural graffiti and street art This is a low-budget artwork Graffiti, Ljubljana, 2012
Despite the main topic of this book being directly political graffiti and street art, I begin wider, by searching for their common characteristics or “family resemblances,” which, I cannot emphasise this enough, are extremely difficult to generalise or in any way mechanically extrapolate into a reality out there on the walls. In each moment of research, one has to be conscious of the advantages, as well as the disadvantages of defining. Personally, I understand graffiti and street art as specific, two- or three-dimensional illegal visual expression conveying a message in connection with the public space in which it is created. They can be found in every public space: on walls, sidewalks, fences, bridges, underpasses, sports fields (especially basketball courts and skate parks), traffic signs, on and in public
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 9 transport vehicles, public toilets, bus and train stations, park benches, waiting rooms and schools, trees, doors of electrical panels, etc. Here is an example from an abandoned building in Zagreb (Photo 1.1). Developed at the crossroads of contemporary art, new subcultures, pop-cultural production and lifestyles, they are distinguished by a specific aesthetical form. They are cheap artefacts, as claims the aforementioned graffiti. In their essence, they are as such original, unique, “auratic,” to use one of the most contested concepts of art theory. Although many of them are enigmatic and incomprehensible to
Photo 1.1 Zagreb, 2015. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
Introduction to graffiti and street art
the majority of passers-by, those who are streetwise, insiders and urban youth get the message loud and clear. Graffitiing speaks with a specific textual and visual rhetoric: there is (an occasionally untranslatable) playing with words and motifs, about-turns, borrowed themes, paraphrases, rhymes, urban vernacular, aphorisms, witty remarks, and humour. Lots of humour.11 The second characteristic is the interaction with the public surface that holds it: graffiti with no background is just a painting. I understand it as a “total work of art,” not in the way that Wagner thought of Gesamtkunstwerk but in the way that it forms an inseparable, inherent connection to its background, attracting attention to itself as well as its environment that is affirmed by it. Graffiti surpasses the ordinary perception of creativity, which is supposed to happen – to be created, shown and accepted – in a remote and delimited space of high art that is an institution separated from everyday life.12 This is why graffiti are either an implicit or an explicit criticism of the current art institution. In a symbolic way, they are demolishing it – just like the avantgarde movements from the beginning of the 20th century and later the neo-avantgarde from the ’60s onwards did – by the mere gesture of entering the public, the street, the non-artistic space, and actively communicating with it. However, graffitiing is separated from classic avant-garde movements – where some art historians in their benevolent error wish to stick it – by a sequence of fundamental differences. First and foremost, unlike many other propulsive movements from the 20th century, which wrote their credo into programmes and manifestos (from Futurism to Arte Povera13 and later the retrograde Neue Slowenische Kunst), graffitiing is not connected or unified. There is neither a formal graffiti organisation nor are there world congresses, competitions, or prizes. Yet it needs to be said that graffiti writers – much like avant-gardists once – intensively reflect their action: in interviews and in the media, as well as on the walls where there is an abundance of graffiti about the graffiti (and the graffiti writers) themselves. In the spirit of materialist aesthetics that speaks about authors as “manufacturers,” the creators of graffiti consciously decline to be called artists but insist on the term writers.14 Also in this sense, the graffiti are, therefore, an attack on the romantic and still prevailing concept of fine arts; they are its active negation. Neither a new form, nor new art, nor alternative para-art; they are anti-art or contra-art. What characterises them next is their inadmissibility or illegality. Graffitiing shares the fate of other subcultures in the time of their emergence and early development: social stigmatisation and persecution by official institutions. A great majority of people believe that graffiti are just scribbles, doodles, crude paintings with no aesthetic value whatsoever, pure crap, as an outraged lady commented on my efforts on the street to capture an example with my camera. Even more, as they are created in illicit manners in illicit spots, they are illegal and perceived as an offence or criminal activity in dominant discourses and institutions while their authors are persecuted and penalised. Moral panic and a constant targeting of graffiti writers as folk devils – i.e., the discourse of vandalisation, which is literally present all over the world, reduces graffiti seriousness to childish misbehaviour and their criticism to brawling.15 Personally, I believe that graffitiing,
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 11 regardless of its content, form, or technique, is an act of transgression or revolt by itself, since it not only publicly expresses what cannot be seen elsewhere but, to top it off, does this in an illegal way. It is not supposed be there. I find myself agreeing with McLuhan’s maxim that the medium is already the message: a message of symbolic revolt against social, cultural, and aesthetical conventions. What falls under graffiti and street art is every illicit spray-painted, written, constructed, or stickered public intervention in space, there to be seen by everybody who wishes and knows how to see it. Be it aesthetical, political, love, or fan production, what matters is that its writer tries to communicate something to others, that (s)he wishes to be seen, read, understood, confronted. Graffiti are created in a public space, in a visual communication with this space and with the passers-by (as many as possible, even foreigners – this is why they are often written in English, the new lingua franca).16 Those done in artificial environments – in closed spaces or galleries – are only wall paintings or plain decoration.17 Ironically, I can define graffiti as public goods: if they are not public, they are not graffiti. Then we have multimodality – graffiti combine two or three elements: an image and/or a text with colour. In their own unique way, each carries a message that is only complete by taking into account the entirety of the graffiti composition, including, of course, the tight bond it forms with space, time, and cultural background. Transience: in contrast to conventional art, street production is liable to destruction. Graffiti rarely survive more than a couple of months, as they are – depending on their provocativeness – erased either by the building owners or janitors, or else destroyed, defaced, and added to by those who disagree with their content. In the most extreme cases, they can also be destroyed by their authors as a protest against their commodification.18 Graffiti carry multiple meanings; they are open to different interpretations by the passers-by depending on their sensibility to such production and their capacity of understanding the labyrinths of their meanings. The next quality of graffiti is their instantness: they communicate quickly and now. When explaining what graffiti are, I tell those with classical education that they are “street haikus”; for bookworms, they are “street literature”; for the more tactile people “urban tattoos”; for historians “urboglyphs”; and for the digital generation a “street tweet” – a short, efficient, meaningful, attractively simple message. Unlike other visual creators, graffiti writers have neither the time, nor the possibility, nor the willingness for longer explanations. Their motto could sound something like this: express the most in the shortest form as fast as possible. Quite literally, hit and run. Next, there is the “contagiousness” of such production: in the spirit of the “broken windows theory” devised by American criminologists, no graffiti ever stands alone. They “attract” one another. Wherever and whenever one appears, it immediately calls forward the creativity of graffiti writers in its vicinity who grab the can and spray-paint their own graffiti either next to the original one (subcultural graffiti) or across it (political graffiti). The more the merrier is the catchphrase here: every town with a more or less developed graffiti scene has its own “wall of fame” or another stage of graffiti “magnetism.” Their next characteristic is anonymity: “Nobody wrote on the wall – yet everybody is reading,” writes
Introduction to graffiti and street art
Barthes (2013: 85). Writers and street artists are unknown to the wider public; they are some kind of ghosts (except when they are world famous), while the graffiti scene will know exactly who they are. Connoisseurs and insiders can discern the author’s identity from the style of graffitiing, the idiolect, or certain signs: this forms their signature that remains incomprehensible and cryptical to the rest of the viewers. Ye shall know them by their fruits, as the adage goes. The next characteristic of this subculture is also connected to the authors: generationality. Graffiti are created and read mostly by young people: age-wise, it is a fairly well-profiled medium strongly interconnected to other forms and values of young-adult subcultures and subpolitics, such as alternative movements, music genres and performers, lifestyles and beliefs, aesthetic preferences, and various slang expressions. And lastly, this graffiti subculture is only seemingly lawless. Like any other form of (sub)cultural creativity, it forms its own specific – and soon in its development also a self-referential – environment connecting creativity, socialising and the way of life. One of the cardinal, the most complied with, unwritten rules is the respect towards the existing graffiti, which must not be changed, written over, or destroyed. Writers are developing specific aesthetics, ethics, conventions, guidelines, alternative identities, slang, meeting points, various media (from magazines19 to the Internet), competitions and international connections, friendships, collaborations, solidarity, and camaraderie but also rivalry and hatred; a strict distance from society by the solid core; and a quiet approaching to this same society by the legal writers (derogatorily called fakes). In the ’80s, this rich subculture was discovered by different festivals, competitions, and workshops; contemporary art galleries hid it between their walls, while sales galleries profited from it; how-to manuals on graffitiing20 started emerging, etc. Nowadays, topical TV shows, short clips, documentaries, mockumentaries, biopics, and even fiction movies are being made on graffitiing and graffiti writers. One more thing needs to be underlined right from the start: the danger of overpolitisation. The graffiti and street art subcultures differ from the classical understanding of subcultures, which follows the Birmingham school – i.e., reading subcultures as (symbolic) revolt against the dominant cultures – in two essential points. I will tackle the first difference here and the second at the end of the next subchapter. Graffiti subculture is not always shaped only by class and motivated only by politics. To follow Pierre Bourdieu’s line of thought, its protagonists can be found on numerous levels of different contemporary-society capitals: not only the economic capital but also the cultural, social, and symbolic one. They occupy extremely diverse positions in different capital hierarchies. I, therefore, understand this subculture not only from a standpoint of wider visual ideologies but also from the standpoint of graffiti writers’ own individual ideologies. Hadjinicolaou (1978: 81) defines “personal ideology” as a “relatively coherent sum of the ideologies (aesthetic, political, moral and so on) which constitute the credo or world vision of the artist.” Apart from demonstrating the class position, the motives for graffitiing are also generational (a medium of the young for the young), stylistic (displaying aesthetical bravura), adventuristic (self-affirmation,
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 13 provocation), romantic (attracting the attention of the loved ones), sexual (street machismo), or stem from a pure and simple ego trip. They are expressing eccentricity, not only revolt; seeking pleasure in a voluntary alienation, and not finding it a punishment. Writers provoke the dominant culture; they challenge the set morale, reinforce their social difference, and celebrate their personal autonomy and aesthetical freedom. They are standing apart from hegemony’s shadow: “Not as cultural innovators and political crusaders, but as social outcasts and folk devils” (Macdonald 2001: 176). Subcultures remain a form of empowerment: not exclusively of the marginalised groups but also of aspiring individuals who want to create a parallel, a hidden, other world. To recap this with Macdonald’s words, “There is more to graffiti than politics” (ibid.: 149). However, all of the listed characteristics of graffiti and street art are still not enough in order to determine them with greater precision. We must be consistent in separating the production we have just described from wall paintings that are legal, ordered, sponsored, displayed in exhibitions, and advertised. The graffitique aesthetics or even graffiti and street art are increasingly present in advertising, marketing, consumerism, fashion,21 design, architecture, place branding, popular culture, and even mainstream political propaganda – as a part of coolhunting procedures, it is usually applied to products, actions, or personalities that have street cred. “Graffiti are becoming a fashionable and profitable phenomenon, one that increasingly appeals to the masses,” wrote Ragazzoli, Harmanşah, and Salvador (2018: 8). Around the world, graffiti museums22 have been established, summer graffiti festivals23 have emerged, and commissioned murals have become one of the means of gentrification in trendy neighbourhoods. Make money not art is how a Sarajevo graffiti (2017) accompanies such praxis. With the artistic incorporation into the dominant culture comes the commercial one. Graffiti and street art are becoming increasingly present in the established art world of “high aesthetics”: exhibitions are organised,24 catalogues are printed, once-street creators are becoming art stars and pop icons, and their works are sold at auctions at a premium.25 Art for art’s sale, if you allow me to be cynical. From anti-art, graffiti moves into Art, while street art is reduced to art, the street remaining outside. In Abram’s words (2008: 47), It has been revealed that the previously hidden subculture has permeated virtually all aspects of our everyday (consumer) life and done so with the help of a primary aesthetic incorporation and a continuation of this trend in the form of commercial incorporation, where the subculture has become just another product sitting on the shelf waiting to be bought.26 We are seeing a triple domestication – an aesthetical, a commercial, and an ideological one – due to which such creativity peters out; it loses its transgressive edge, its critical stance, and its rebelliousness. The radical otherness is reduced to appealing difference. Despite having all other aesthetical, technical, and formal characteristics of illegal street graffiti, there is a fundamental distinction between the two: domestificated graffiti lack context, intent, and effect.
Introduction to graffiti and street art
Not all that appears on walls is, therefore, instantly graffiti or street art in the full sense of the term. An image spray-painted on the home wall is not graffiti. An allowed and sponsored painting on the façade of a public building is not graffiti either. A graffiti created for commercial or pop-cultural purposes is not a real graffiti, much like the one that ends in a contemporary art gallery, in a mischievous teenager’s room, on canvas in a yuppie office, or at the entrance to a hipster bar. Murals created in actions sponsored by paint factories and “illuminated” mayors who want to fabricate a cool appearance and liven up the tourist image of their towns are also not graffiti. Street art installations are neither Fathers Christmas hanging from balconies nor forma vivas or open-air galleries or stickers with a threatening red lightning warning of Electrical shock hazard on electrical panels; posters of a shoe store announcing summer discounts are not street art either. As all of these examples limit the graffiti-like and the street-like images to mere form, it is necessary to draw a thick line between them and graffiti: “Illegality remains the deciding factor” (Macdonald 2001: 164, see also 168–171).27 Instead of the autonomy of aesthetics and the ethical imperative, such “graffiti and street art” only “represent” those on the outside, those that are free, the real ones. To summarise, graffiti and street art are illicit street (re)action, indivisibly aesthetic and political intervention in a concrete social space.
1.3 Politics on the wall: characteristics of political graffiti and street art There is no newspaper, but there is a wall Graffiti from the Milošević ’90s, Belgrade
First of all, I need to explain the choice of the term “political graffiti,” since some authors (for example, Lennon 2015) prefer to use “conflict graffiti.” While this may be a more concise term, I would like to list three reasons why I tend to favour “political graffiti”: firstly, this term is quite established in the graffiti vocabulary; secondly, “conflict graffiti” includes more than only political conflicts, as it covers conflicts in general (e.g., also a battle between two non-political graffiti crews or between two impatient souls scribbling on a toilet door). And, thirdly, not all political graffiti are directly conflictual: some express identity issues, others involve territory marking or deal with mobilisation, etc. Mostly, the characteristics of political graffiti and street art are similar to those of the subcultural ones. However, there is a series of significant nuances that separates them, making their research different. The most important distinction is that they are an activist part of the political communication of an individual, a group, a movement, a political party, or even a country; they are one of their means of propaganda designed for the street, which is consequently changed into a political tribune. They are the forerunners and accompaniment to political actions. They enrich political discourses by bringing in new ways of expression, a new language, diction, public, and particular expressive strategies developed by political
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 15 activists who author them. They are a public voice or a “street advertisement”: a call for action, for mobilisation, a trigger for them. Political graffiti ignite; they literally scream their political messages either by attacking other groups or affirming their own. Sometimes both at the same time. Their goal is a political effect not an aesthetic pleasure: they wish to communicate their political message to as wide a public as possible, ignoring aesthetical contemplation, craftsmanship, or the expression of a subcultural belonging. Such street production “connotes a decentralised, democratic form in which there is universal access, and the real control over messages comes from the social producers” (Chaffee 1993: 4).28 The graffiti subpolitics, therefore, has almost no connection to the graffiti subculture: usually, subcultural graffiti writers do not even know political graffiti writers, do not share the same values, and do not move in the same circles. “The essence of politics is dissensus,” says Rancière (2010: 38).29 While subcultural graffiti represent a symbolic revolt against the alienated high art, political graffiti express direct criticism towards the existing social and political situation. In both cases, they are a weapon of mass deconstruction. Political graffiti state their dissensus with the status quo extremely directly. Aesopian language, multicoloured playfulness, and the polysemy in images, which are all recurrent in subcultural graffiti, are replaced by short, abrupt, and effective political paroles, which underline their resoluteness with the use of the imperative mood, inflammatory terms, deliberately insulting and vulgar vocabulary, and swear words, while graphically they express this with underlined words, capital, and/or bold letters and exclamation marks. Like any other performative intervention, they are not didactical but intended to shock; they do not try to explain but to activate empathy and convince. See the typical example of such directness in this stencil from Belgrade (Photo 1.2). Their diction is angry and critical in two ways: either in a classically Gramscian, counter-hegemonic way with a straightforward confrontation or in a nonhegemonic way by searching for alternatives past the existing situation and not in direct conflict with it. The non-hegemonic strategy is frequently utilised by the radical activism, claims the Canadian social critic Richard J. F. Day (2005: 8): such groups “are breaking out of this trap by operating non-hegemonically rather than counter-hegemonically.”30 Instead of supremacy, they search for freedom. Their position is similar to the one that the Hungarian publicist and writer György Konrád calls antipolitics: it demands freedom, not the power to rule. He defines it as a “counter-power that cannot take power and does not wish to” and as “the rejection of the power monopoly of the political class” (1984: 231). Many political graffiti, therefore, seek new ways and solutions instead of dealing with their opposition. Generally, political graffiti are aesthetically weaker than the subcultural ones: they are poorer, not pretty, if I dare to use this blunt expression; their content is superior to their form. In contrast to subcultural graffiti created by the masters of their craft, political graffiti are also created by street activists untrained in this art and for whom I often get the distinct impression that they deliberately and vehemently ignore aesthetics and deny the “rules” of the graffiti subculture. Political graffiti are as ugly as they believe their surrounding reality to be.31
Introduction to graffiti and street art
Photo 1.2 You are screwed by capitalism, not by fags, Belgrade, 2014. Stencil Source: Photo by MV.
They are, however, effective. Instead of a sophisticated and multicoloured composition, genre finesse, or the insider mysteriousness of subcultural graffiti, the political ones usually feature a clumsily graffitied font, rudimentary stencils, or carelessly designed stickers. In terms of content and colour, they produce large contrasts, while they are more graphical in an aesthetical sense: in their own specific street chiaroscuro fashion, they emphasise our position against theirs. Whether this stems from a technical incompetence or a demonstrative casualness
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 17 is of no actual importance. One colour is dominant: the colour of their political option, their movement, or, with fans, of their club. Roughly speaking, aesthetic graffiti are more artsy; there is more image and less text. The political graffiti are quite the opposite; there is more text, and the attention is created differently: they compensate their aesthetic basicness and unattractiveness with a political recognizability. Whereas subcultural graffiti feature a polysemic openness and often hide their message, political graffiti only carry one meaning: the emphasis being on the clearness of the message.32 Aesthetic graffiti, especially those done in wild style, anti-style, and other illegible hybrid styles, never communicate with the “outside” world, only with the graffiti scene. To an untrained eye, they are purposely indecipherable, obscure, mysterious – polysemic and ambiguous at best. Political graffiti stand at the diametral end of the spectrum: the crypticness of the aesthetic graffiti and the infinite possibilities of their interpretation are replaced by clarity, instant legibility, and understandability of the political ones. While the first ones play on double meaning, the latter double the meaning. The first are humorous, the latter dead serious (except in cross-out wars, where they ridicule the earlier writings). Political graffiti is a “pure message” – almost devoid of unnecessary justifications, adjectives, décor, ambiguity of metaphors, and interpretative openness. What is more, individual elements of graffiti – text, image, colour, symbols, background, etc. – are accumulated; they reinforce one another, building the message in the intended direction. The symbol of a certain political group is embellished by its typical monochromatic colour, a renowned mot d’ordre, a number or a verse, topped by crossing out the symbol of the opposing group, the whole spray-painted somewhere where the members of this particular opposing group would be most irritated. Using marketing newspeak, this is a true “Corporate visual identity!” A vertical cumulation of meanings is followed by their horizontal pluralisation: by mixing tradition, pop culture, contemporary aesthetics, etc., the number of the addressees gets higher. Political graffiti differ from other, much more elaborate, media, such as scientific and fiction books, movies, television shows, songs, videos, and web pages. Not just because there is no time for such ambiguity but mainly because there is no need for it: activists with sprays and stickers say what they have to say quickly; daringly; efficiently, in the Ramonesian sense of the term; and sharply, like the edge of a knife. In street terms: they are a hit, there is nothing to add, nothing to take away – all you can do is agree or not, with little negotiation. In short, they are a concise, dramatical, brusquely expressed programme of a political group. Political graffiti and street art are twice as persecuted: firstly because of the illegality of the graffitiing act and secondly due to their critical political messages. As they must be done fast, the choice of the techniques comes as no surprise. Prevailing are methods of street art that can be done in the blink of an eye: stencils, stickers, and posters instead of the “time-consuming” graffiti. Furthermore, they tend to be more short-lived: their life span is proportional to the level of irritation they cause to their political opponents or local authorities that swiftly remove, destroy, or change them – more often than building owners. But while aesthetical
Introduction to graffiti and street art
graffiti and street art have somehow come to terms with their destruction, political graffiti and street art fight for their preservation with all of their might: they are ready for being painted over by the building owners, as well as for “wall battles” with opposing graffiti. This is why political graffiti are often more emphasised, underlined, and “massive” in comparison to the non-political ones. Activists have learnt to protect their stickers (and posters) from being torn down in four ways: by posting them somewhere high and very hard to reach (e.g., drainpipes, pillars, traffic signs), by using stronger glue, by slicing the posted sticker with a razor – the almost invisible cuts make it impossible for it to be peeled off in one piece, or even by posting the sticker over a razorblade (the old-school thin and flat one) that could cut the person trying to remove it. During the occupation of Slovenia in the years 1941–1945, the Liberation Front33 activists had another interesting tactic: by writing the acronym of their movement, OF, on display windows in acid which burnt the glass panes, their inscription was permanent. At times, this type of acid graffiti can still be seen nowadays. Moving on, in contrast to subcultural graffiti, political ones are often not anonymous: their authors are proud to “sign” them with names, acronyms, symbols, or even web pages of their organisations or movements. Not as individual writers, then, but as a collective. Their purpose is obvious: state it loud and clear who created the graffiti. This is also a method of intimidating political opponents: extremist groups will graffiti their premises with threats, such as Beware! Or, You are next!34 Political graffiti are even more than subcultural graffiti determined by their surroundings – the spatial, temporal, and political ones. The most effective are the ones spray-painted on surfaces owned by the opposing side: the anti-state ones on state-owned facilities, the anti-church ones on religious buildings, fan graffiti in cities or even on the stadium of the opposing team, graffiti against the wearing of fur on stores selling fur, disapproving of a political party is shown by a bombing of their headquarters, etc. Here the context bears an ever more significant importance. Political graffiti and street art are, like any other propaganda media, infinitely repeating itself: in a pure scribomaniac fashion, a motif or a text needs to be spray-painted or stickered as often as possible on as many surfaces as possible. Overexposure is a “common advertising strategy” (Wacławek 2011: 16) used by taggers as well. The effect is even greater if they are multiplied in a small area. In the zealous words of the French photographer Fabienne Grévy (2008: Paris wanderer), “You have to repeat yourself to resist, resist to exist and leave a trace of your passage.” Being repetitive requires a different technique: stickers, stencils, and posters as the main street art techniques practically disavow graffitiing, turning it into a “mass reproduction,” to employ Benjamin’s vocabulary. In comparison to aesthetic graffiti, another common characteristic of political graffiti alongside their emphatic repetitiveness is their non-originality or boringness. It is apparent in the use of their colour (e.g., red for leftists, black for Nazis, or, in combination with red, for anarchists, colours of football clubs for fan subcultures), phrases (Death to . . .!, Long live . . .!, Down with . . .! . . . Go home!), global phrases, codes and acronyms (ACAB, meaning All cops are bastards, 161 meaning Anti fa area, . . . Raus! alludes to the Nazi slogan Juden Raus!, etc.),
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 19 gestures (the middle finger, sketched male and female reproductive organs), and motifs. The same substantive template can, therefore, be found in activist stickers done by opposing subpolitical groups; they will feature raised flags in respective colours and slogans like Anti-fascist action, Anarchist action, or Anti-communist action. They may also feature a stylised motif of a street fighter kicking his or her opponent, accompanied by Good night white pride or Good night alt-right, or, conversely, Good night anti-white and Good night antifa scum or Good night left side. Then again, there may be a stylised little guy throwing the opponent’s symbols (swastika, the Islamic crescent, star, etc.) into a trash can, while the sticker says Clean your city. The same design and small changes in the content produce a diametrically opposed ideologic effect. Furthermore, we have the graffiti battles or cross-out wars. It needs to be emphasised that, by definition, political graffiti and street art are destined to undergo certain changes. The culture of political graffitiing is completely different to the subcultural one: the crossing35 of the existing graffiti, which appears only exceptionally in the unwritten graffiti ethics,36 is quite literally an iconoclastic rule here. Also similarly confronted are the visual messages of dominant cultures: this technique is called ad busting.37 Political graffiti interact immeasurably more intensively with other political graffiti and with their surroundings: practically instantly, along them, on them, and across them, opposing graffiti appear, only to be covered by their oppositions, and so on and so forth in a wild spiral of political duelling. A true wall heteroglossia! They are a kind of mural feuilleton, series: layer upon layer, the original message is destroyed, restored, destroyed again, and so on. For Borges, a book with no counterbook does not deserve to exist: political graffiti writers could say the same for political graffiti. The Slovenian researcher of political graffiti Monika Kropej (2008: 257) lists the following types of crossing over: crossing out (usually using a different colour) and adding a signature/symbol; spray-painting a signature/symbol over the graffiti;38 doing the graffiti or sticker in the name of the opponent but self-deprecatingly (as if the opponents spoke badly about themselves);39 spraying/painting over with the same colour as the original graffiti, making it disappear; adding words or images to the graffiti, supplying it with a new meaning.40 Even more, sometimes the original message of the graffiti is left untouched – what is changed is only the “signature” of the group or movement that created it.41 A political graffiti is, therefore, a palimpsest of different antonyms: the upper layer, the “temporary victory” can only be understood through the cavalcade of the previous ones, with the ones underneath it, reaching the very beginning. As if playing the film backwards! At times, previous graffiti layers are intentionally left visible so that the supremacy or the triumph of the last one is that more emphasised.42 Such a wall or a street can be found in any town – a fighting ground of protagonists and antagonists of different political options brandishing spray cans, stencils, and stickers. Faster and more vigorously than the subcultural graffiti, the political ones are erased, removed, added to, twisted: it is of research importance to find out why, how fast and in what way this is done, and who does it. In any case, it is almost impossible to analyse them separately, one by one.
Introduction to graffiti and street art
And, last but not least, political graffiti was first created by members of groups with communication deficits, who are voiceless, who cannot express their political opinions in any other way (see, for example, Chaffee 1993: 12–17; Olberg 2013: 23–27). They are, to quote Banksy, “one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing”: a tool of class struggle and a form of political activism. Reisner (1971: 92) is well aware that “the walls have always and traditionally played an important role in the politics of confrontation, which, quite naturally, doesn’t allow for going through regular governmental channels.” The Slovenian researchers of urban subcultures Gregor Bulc and Sandi Abram agree that the underprivileged sections of population and social minorities (political, ethnic, gender, etc.) can use this way to tell the public what their image of the world we live in is and criticize the processes that push them into a subordinate position. (2008: 17) They compete with the dominant media, ousting them from the streets; they have a creative subversive character; they are, to borrow the anthropologist James C Scott’s (1985) vocabulary, “the weapons of the weak.” In contrast to subcultural graffiti the writers make to show their aesthetic innovativeness and technical skilfulness, political graffiti draw attention to injustices, suffering, and exploitations; their intent is to empower the under-represented and silenced, to make the oppressed revolt, and to search for alternatives.43 Metaphorically speaking, they are a silent scream perceived only by those who are never heard. But today, this is not entirely true anymore: transforming from a media of political opposition, graffiti are also becoming more and more a medium of political position. They can serve the political power or the groups that explicitly or implicitly support it: they express the values, goals, and praxes of ruling political parties and movements in a street fashion. Consensus not only dissensus. On the one hand, graffiti are, therefore, the grassroot medium of the unheard, the overlooked, and the oppressed, but on the other, they are also a medium of the dominators, even the state itself (and its street supporters): in this way, they are also a “weapon of the strong.” Here, the social deprivation argument fails: rulers do not spraypaint out of not being seen and heard enough, but because they wish to be so even more, because they aspire to a monopoly: not only in the dominant media but also on the street. On that account, encountering ever higher numbers of graffiti and street art that only parrot the phrases and the messages of groups in power or their supporters is significant. Nowadays, city walls are full of messages, such as Jesus is super! (façades in Poland, 2006), Boycott Hell! – Repent (USA, 2018), or Stop migrations! (along the entire so-called Balkan route, from 2015). At the end of the previous subchapter, we already underlined what is confirmed here for the second time: the limitations of the classical class-based model of understanding subcultures. Dissent and resistance of political graffiti and street art are – to borrow from Althusser’s vocabulary – “in the last instance” not only class related but also
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 21 with a wider political motivation. This is why they are used in the propaganda of all those groups which believe themselves not represented enough in the media. Here, the “class moment” insisted upon by the strict Marxist explanations is up to a certain point off the subject: political graffiti are progressively also being usurped by the defenders of those in power or even the rulers themselves – i.e., the representatives of the “ruling class.” In 2015 and 2016, Ljubljana experienced an emergence of neoliberal graffiti which repeated and completely replicated the main mantras of this dominant transitional ideology and praxis (alongside ethnonationalism):44 Taxes are theft; Stop the public sector; More freedom less socialism; Communism is the definition of disaster; Socialism is a disease; Socialism works until foreign money runs out; For a free market; Taxes are the noose around the neck of economy; and, finally For an easier flow of capital not “refugees.” Graffiti can either be a medium of revolt – or repression.45 There are two contradictory tendencies to be found in the visual ideology of political graffiti: on the one hand, there is a harmony, a resonance, what the British culturologist Paul Willis would call “homology,” and on the other hand, a disharmony, even a contradictoriness, Lévi-Strauss’ “bricolage.” The former is, of course, much easier to comprehend than the logical and historical discrepancies, a cognitive dissonance, unimaginable recombinations, and a completely imaginary coherence of the latter. We can namely see many patriotic graffiti (and even anti-Western, anti-American graffiti) written in a foreign language, in English. Neo-Nazis of Slavic descent celebrate Hitler and Nazism, even though they were explicitly hostile to all non-Aryans. The members of this subculture who think of themselves as patriots use codes for letters that are not in their alphabet: the neoNazi codes 18 and 88 stand for Adolf Hitler and Heil Hitler,46 with 1 and 8 representing the first and the eighth letters of the alphabet, A and H (although in the case of Slovenian alphabet, H comes 9th). A flowering nonsense! Furthermore, it is really quite burlesque to read how the self-proclaimed weekend warriors for the home culture and language express themselves with poor orthography and grammar. Some political graffiti are created in a similarly impossible manner known as the impossible bouquet 47 in art history: an anti-refugee sticker by the Identity Generation movement from 2016 shows a medieval European knight who chases away a couple in supposedly Arab clothes, carrying Kalashnikov rifles, with the warning Islamists not welcome – Stay back or we’ll kick you back. To conclude, understanding both the aesthetic graffiti and the graffiti subculture, as well as the workings of concrete graffiti subpolitics and (sub-)political groups in general is crucial in order to understand political graffiti and street art. While the subcultural graffiti create an aesthetical reality alternative to this world, the political graffiti do not escape this world but choose to attack it. The former are alienated from the existing situation in an escapist manner, while the latter are engaged in it, trying to change it. The former are the action, creatio ex nihilo; they breathe new life into the unbearable emptiness of public building walls, while the latter are the reaction to the social events happening inside these buildings. The former are created in a collage fashion, while the latter are destroyed in a décollage way. The writers strive for (subcultural) fame or notoriety, (street)
Introduction to graffiti and street art
recognition, respect (from their peers), and (artistic) merit, while political activists armed with spray cans seek only political influence. The former follow the “esoteric” principle and speak mainly to other writers, while the latter are driven by the “catch-all” principle, directed towards the general public. Subcultural graffiti are a new form of aesthetic expression, while the political ones are also a new form but of visualised politics. In my opinion, these are the main characteristics of (political) graffiti and street art. To be perfectly clear from the very beginning, each of these definitions has its own imperfections, which, all things considered, end up proving the basic premise. Both the characteristics and the exceptions, the advantages and limitations are checked and verified in the next chapters: first in the typological and methodological one and then through eight case studies.
Notes 1 (Negative) media reports are conversely a strong source of inspiration and serve as teaching accessories for graffiti writers, who are self-taught as a rule. The Internet is after all an easily accessible treasure chest of stencil-, poster- or sticker templates. 2 Caution is, however, advised, as both also contribute to a deepening of segregation and class differences. 3 According to current data, the number of surveillance cameras in the Greater London area has only reached around half a million (i.e., one camera per 18 people), while in the USA, this number has reached 30 million (i.e., one camera per around 11 people)! 4 A nice example for this is the stencils which appeared in 2017 across the graffiti of Barcelona: Graffity sucks like deepthroat was their main message; Barcelona City Council with the city’s coat of arms as their signature. They provoked a wider discussion: some believe that it was an anti-graffitiing campaign of Barcelona city authorities (surmising this from a basic grammar error, the fact that they were spray-painted over the existing graffiti which is a definite faux pas, and because they strongly criticize graffitiing). Others claim that this is a typical graffiti subversion. Mockery or mimicry – it is for the observer to decide. 5 Here is his definition: “And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.” “I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than ‘family resemblances’; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and criss-cross in the same way. – And I shall say: ‘games’ form a family” (ibid.). 6 See Brecht’s epistemology of dialectic contextualization (2016: 82, 83). 7 And when the writer has no real message to convey, he or she will also convey it: I am referring to the self-ironic graffiti such as This is graffiti or This is not graffiti or A bad graffiti or The day is too shitty to spray-paint graffiti or I didn’t write this or No message today or even les-graffiti-pour-les-graffiti-type messages, such as This is my first graffiti or A graffiti a week. There is also the universal message that I saw all around the globe: Repainted in vain addressed to building owners. 8 In its original, the work of art is valuable only in so far as it is vibrated by the reflexes of the future. 9 By the way, on the latest laser method of removing graffiti, see an interesting study by Atanassova (2018). 10 On the statistics of how many passers-by notice them, see the opinion-survey data in subchapter 3.3. 11 For example, a Hilton graffiti spray-painted in a font similar to that of the Hilton Hotels above the entrance to a dingy block of flats in Bishkek city center.
Mapping (political) graffiti and street art 23 12 For a radical critique of the established notion of art, see Hadjinicolaou (1978: 179, 180) and J. Wolff (1994: 143). 13 However, there are some interesting parallels to be found between the unwritten graffitiing principles and the Arte Povera manifesto: Appunti per una guerilla from 1967, which foretells a revolutionary art and a redefinition of artist as a guerilla fighter. 14 In the countless interviews that I read, they explicitly and vehemently decline the labels art and artist, following in the footsteps of the terminological iconoclasts Charles Baudelaire, Pierre Macherey, and Roland Barthes, who changed the term “creator” into “producer,” “compositor,” and “scriptor.” 15 Graffiti writers tend to answer this well-worn definition with ironic self-recognition, producing graffiti such as Proud to be a vandal! 16 Olberg (2013: 51) found out that over 90 percent of the political graffiti on the Israeli separation wall are written in English, 5 percent in other European languages, and only 5 percent in Arabic or Hebrew. 17 A comparison with a tiger in its cage in a zoo springs to mind: it is alive but, really, dead, not dangerous, an empty shell. 18 In March 2016, the Italian street artist Blu spent days systematically painting over his graffiti and murals that he had been creating there for 20 years, protesting an exhibition of the works by Banksy and other street artists, including him, which had been taken from public locations. 19 Out of many, I would like to point out the French Graffiti Art, which has been following the world graffiti and street art production since 2008. 20 See, for example, the neatly designed book by Chris Ganter (2013): Graffiti School – A Student Guide with Teacher’s Manual. 21 For an early example, check the group of designers from Queens Shirt Kings who were creating graffiti-inspired hip-hop fashion. 22 In Amsterdam, New York, St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Los Angeles, as well as the Graffiti Park in Barcelona. 23 And there are quite a few of them! To mention only the most renowned, Montreal, Baltimore, Kampala, Tahiti, Houston, Roskilde, South Bristol, Honolulu, Lima, Łódź, Mexico City, Atlanta, Stavanger, and Istanbul. In Russia, the Stenograffia graffiti festival has spread from Ekaterinburg to other cities, as well. 24 The first exhibition of photoglyphs, photos of graffiti, was organized by the radical visual artist, “anarchitect” Gordon Matta-Clark, off his own bat in the summer of 1973 in the South Bronx, after he was prevented from doing so at the Washington Square Art Fair. 25 The prices of graffiti and street art by Banksy, Retna, Obey, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Choe, or Mr. Brainwash climb to hundreds of thousands of dollars. 26 For the artification of graffiti and evolution of the graffiti art market, see Morgan Wells (2016). 27 Like every other researcher of this subculture, Macdonald (2001: 166, 174) listened to writers claiming that “graffiti is meant to be where it was originally born and developed, not on a canvas but out on the streets”; going legal means “betrayal.” 28 See also his splendid classification of the main reasons for creating political graffiti and street art (1993: 9–20). 29 And continues: “The specificity of political dissensus is that its partners are no more constituted than is the object or stage of discussion itself” (ibid.). 30 In this sense, they follow Foucault’s concept of heterotopias (1984: 3, 4) as “real places – places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.” 31 Or, in words of one (hm, ugly) Egyptian political graffiti, Reality is even uglier (Abaza 2016: 325). 32 In the sense of the “Making gestures quotable” maxim of the Brechtian epic theater, as understood by Benjamin (2007: 151).
Introduction to graffiti and street art
33 Liberation Front (Osvobodilna fronta, OF), Slovenian anti-fascist organization 1941–1945. 34 During the Second World War, the Slovenian quisling organization Black Hand employed the same strategy: they used to mark the houses of partisan supporters with an imprint of a black hand, a sort of epitaph, and later assassinated them. 35 Also crossing out or crossing over. Other slang terms for this phenomenon include backgrounding or going over (Castleman 1999: 43–46) and buffing, a simple paint job covering the graffiti in its entirety. 36 This technique is, however, sometimes used to reprimand bad subcultural graffiti writers (by simply jotting the word toy, meaning novice, or a similar critical diss across the failed graffiti attempt), to discipline writers who are not respectful towards other writers, to provoke other writers or crews, and to mark/fight for space. 37 The Bishkek city authorities painted a white square across the LGBT graffiti and stencils yet failed to notice that the underlying rainbow message was still seen through the paint. The StAB activist group, whose ideology is queer-communism, took these white translucent squares that were letting colours shine through as their symbol, using them in its actions that warn against the homophobia of the Kyrgyz society. 38 In Sofia, white supremacists attacked a black Antifa graffiti with anarchist circle-As by spray-painting white swastikas, a white Celtic cross, and White Power, in white, over it (2018). 39 For example, the Ljubljana Green Dragons football fans produced a sticker as if done by their opponents, the Maribor Viole, but in the colours of the rainbow, LGBT colours, the football club Maribor logo, and an added phallus. This homophobic attack on Maribor fans implied that they are not real men’s men. 40 Sometimes only adding a letter or two, the prefix anti-, or even just a short graphic line – and the message changes diametrically. An example from New York (2017): the swastika legs got extended, forming a square with four inner squares, containing the letters L O V E. 41 In Ljubljana, a sequence of anti-capitalist graffiti spray-painted by anarchists was appropriated by their opponents, right-wing radicals by spray-painting their name across the signature of the anarchist movement. Over the anarchist A accompanying the words Death to capitalism, freedom to the world (a paraphrase of the Partisan salute Death to fascism, freedom to the people), they spray-painted a large Celtic cross; they signed the red Expropriate all capitalists graffiti done by the 150 movement with a black “Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia,” adding the same Celtic cross. Both examples are from 2011. 42 Historical digression: in the propaganda war against the Nazis in the early ’30s, German anti-fascists engaged the Russian activist Sergei Chakhotin, who came up with the Three Arrows symbol – three downward pointing red arrows, which were then drawn across Nazi swastikas by their activists. 43 To recap this with Brecht’s caustic critique of dominant art (2016: 155): “The exploiters talk about thousands of things, but the exploited talk about exploitation.” 44 In this study, I understand ideologic forms not only as a conglomerate of ideas and values but also institutions, actions and material products inseparably connected to them. In other words, ideology = idea + praxis. 45 Chaffee, for example, states (1993: 15, 16) that right-wing regimes in Spain and Latin America, as well as many other political systems (from West Germany to China), “commandeered public space for street art to inform, socialize, mobilize, and create feelings of fear.” 46 Number 88 also relates to a quote from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. 47 A Dutch concept of still-life painting from the 17th century where bouquets would be arranged of flowers and plants that could never have grown in the same season, much less in the same geographical region.
Types, styles, and techniques of graffiti and street art
This is a graffiti. It sucks (Ugly) graffiti, Ljubljana, 2006
I purposefully begin with this nonsensically cute and artistically ugly graffiti that surprised me one morning in my city. Subcultural graffiti writers would probably just roll their eyes at it as the non-aesthetic self-irony of these scribbles on the wall oppose all of what they imagine a good graffiti to be. Yet nobody seems to quite know what graffiti actually is, in the sense of if nobody asks me, I know what graffiti is.1 Nowadays, everybody keeps using this expression everywhere, randomly, inflationary, unreflectively – this is why it must be clearly defined and sharpened for a scientific usage. The classification of such wall production brings similar difficulties but is at the same time as necessary as its definition. I roughly divide it into two large and internally very heterogenous groups: graffiti and street art. Furthermore, I only mention a selection of the most common types, styles, techniques, and expressions relevant for this study.2 Graffiti is a plural noun denoting two-dimensional multi- or monochromatic, figurative or abstract wall paintings done with the help of spray cans, felt-tip pens, sprayers, various types of paints, shoe polish, chalk, etc., formerly known also as spraycan art or subway art.3 Often, the graffiti and all other illegal forms of visual street intervention are covered by the general term of street art (Chaffee 1993; Crommelin 2016; Jakob 2017 and others). I distinguish between the two terms – both appearing on the walls that cannot be taken from the writers, as the graffiti below suggests – yet point out their interconnectedness alongside their differences (Photo 2.1). First of all, graffitiing needs to be liberated from its “New-York-centrism,” a deeply rooted belief I found in many studies. It is perfectly clear that not everything began in New York (and Philadelphia) and not as late as in the ’60s or ’70s. Through the entire history of mankind and everywhere around the world, people have been illegally writing on walls: graffiti “can be seen as a parallel text within a culture” (Olton and Lovata 2015: 14).4 The first “graffiti” – the prehistoric paintings – were magical, sacral symbols, completely in line with Benjamin’s periodisation of art (2007). Yet we can only really talk about graffitiing
Introduction to graffiti and street art
Photo 2.1 You can’t take walls from us! Signed by #Vandal Girl, Ljubljana, 2014. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
as a specific subculture in the last couple of decades. The ’80s are the period of its bloom and also the division into those faithful to the street and those entering the worlds of established art and pop culture (Chalfant and Prigoff 1987: 8). This was logically extended with a commercial incorporation into consumerism in the ’90s when, arising from its foundations, street art begins flowering, as well. The Internet revolution provides a push for the development of graffitiing – and not its restriction or even disappearance – which has been further promoted with the inflation of various social media. Despite, if not due to the many challenges of the new media, the graffiti subculture is quick to transform. In any case, the types of graffiti have remained quite similar through time. To name the most common ones: tag (a writer’s nickname in the form of a logo),5 signature graffiti writing (a writer’s longer “signature”), piece (short for masterpiece; a quality, complex and multicoloured graffiti), throw-up or throwie (a quickly done graffiti composed of stylised lettering, a sort of an enlarged tag), burner (either an elaborate graffiti or a quick two-tone graffiti), rooftop (graffiti created on higher parts of a building), end to end (graffiti covering the entire length of a train car or an entire wall), character (a caricatured character from popular culture; sometimes a letter, created in a unique and recognisable way), wall of fame (walls featuring the most elaborate graffiti of a wider as well as
Types, styles, and techniques 27 the local graffiti scene alongside each other), battle (graffiti war on the walls), in a technical sense also a mural (a generally legal painting of larger parts of buildings – see an example from Bishkek, the capital of Central-Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, Photo 2.2), and the list goes on and on. A black book is at the same time a writer’s notebook for impressions, a sketchbook and a collection of tags and sketches of other writers. A novice is called a toy, a prolific writer a bomber, a writer who only signs with tags a tagger, a quality artist a piecer, a writer who obsessively continues creating graffiti even after they have been caught and punished a fanatic, a group of graffiti writers a crew, while the top is dominated by the king/queen or master, the most respected graffiti writer.6 Street art developed later, in the last 25 or 30 years: since it is “a descendant of graffiti,” (Crommelin 2016: 4) it is often referred to as post-graffiti art. It provides the two spatial dimensions with a third one, on or in the surface, and the graffiti spray cans with a whole range of other creative utensils. The most well-known types are stencils, stickers, posters (printed or unique), public installations, different visual interventions (mosaics, wood engravings, various three-dimensional objects, illegal statues or reliefs made of metal, wood, concrete, plaster, plastics, tiles, polymer clay, snow, ice, and many other materials), scratchiti and scribbles in public spaces (trains or buses, school desks, benches, etc.), latrinalia (bathroom wall writings),7 on trees (arborglyphs),8 on rocks (petroglyphs or rock-carvings),9
Photo 2.2 Bishkek, 2017. Mural Source: Photo by MV.
Introduction to graffiti and street art
in prison cells,10 in trains (so-called hobo graffiti), cuneiform, desert graffiti, chalk art, cut-outs, and paste-ups (images cut-out from paper and painted, sometimes in collage form, then pasted on public surfaces), lock ons (installations chained to objects in public spaces), yarn bombing (or graffiti knitting, knitted or crocheted yarns on public objects), ad busting (critical and/or witty comments on posters, as the one criticizing sexist ideology in advertisements, see an example from Ljubljana, Photo 2.3),11 and various other forms of visual interventions on any given surface (scratching, punching holes, chiselling, burning out, hollowing out, leaving prints or writing in freshly poured concrete, etc.).12 These techniques are constantly being added new ones: street creativity literally has no limits (see, for example, Jakob 2017). The Ljubljana-based artist Neža Knez, for example, created art to make graffiti accessible to blind and visually impaired people in 2014: she summarised their content in Braille on small plaster rectangles and pasted them along the original graffiti. With the help of small brushes, English “chewing gum artist” Ben Wilson turns chewing gum stuck on sidewalks into vivid miniature paintings. Sidewalks are also the canvas for stylised drip paintings by the New York street artist Paul Richard. And here’s an example of political street art: a Yugoslav People’s Army tank confiscated by the Slovenian Territorial Defence during the Ten-Day War in 1991 and exhibited in front of the Museum of Contemporary History in Ljubljana was given a complete
Photo 2.3 I was paid fucking 50 Euros for this, Ljubljana, 2013. Ad-busting Source: Photo by MV.
Types, styles, and techniques 29 makeover on International Women’s Day in 2012. This war trophy was painted in pink, while its cannon became a vase for a lovely bouquet. Graffiti and street art must be defined with precision as they have several meanings in the vernacular usage. On the one hand, they are very loose, “umbrella” terms: nobody quite knows what they stand for. On the other hand, they are terminus technicus: useful, inasmuch as they help us discern the topic of the conversation, but also problematic or even unsuitable, torn by internal contradictions. The word graffiti stems from the Italian word graffiato, literally scratched, which is far from its meaning nowadays – various techniques of applying paint on a surface. It was at first “a scholarly term coined by the classical archaeologists who excavated Pompeii in the nineteenth century” for “the scribbles that liberally covered the walls of its houses and public buildings” (Ragazzoli, Harmanşah, and Salvador 2018: 1, 2). Graffiti today is, therefore, not graffiti in the original meaning of the word. Sensu stricto, street art is not street art either: again, we are dealing with an imprecise term since it, firstly, often includes every art happening on the street – namely, also street theatre or street musicians and performers. Secondly, it includes the word art, which is something radically different from the opinions and values of these creators who actually attack high art as a contemporary institution. However contradictory this may seem, street art does not want to have anything to do with Art but criticises and denies it. And thirdly, not all street art is out on the streets: if we find latrinalia in public spaces, these are enclosed; arborglyphs appear in parks but not on the streets; petroglyphs can be found on rocks in the wilderness; it’s the same story for the writings on school desks or the back seats of city buses. Let us move from the term to the technical characteristics of both concepts. The aesthetic appearance of graffiti and street art depends on two factors. On the one hand, there are the talent and the experience of those who produce them: some of them are masters of their craft, others not. On the other hand, it depends on the message they wish to convey through their (im)perfection: some graffiti are purposefully raw, imprecise, helter-skelter (e.g., spray-painted past the stencil, leaving its distinct outline on the wall), intentionally written with orthographical errors in slang. One of the styles is the so-called anti-style: an intentional subversion of existing graffiti style trends. We are seeing movements similar to those in the subcultures that influenced the graffiti subculture the most and the members of which took to spray-painting the walls the most keenly: punk and hard-core, rap and metal. Like their members, some of the writers’ nonchalance and crudeness resist the artificiality of the (sub)cultural orthodoxy while building a unique and recognisable street cred. Graffiti writers will often also create street art and vice versa; the content of graffiti and street art is similar too. However, there are a few fundamental differences between them, not only the chronological one – i.e., the fact that street art is “the younger brother” of graffitiing. Expressively and materially, street art is much more varied: practically every week it surprises with its development, new techniques, materials used, new venues where these artworks are pasted, spraypainted, nailed, scorched, or in any other way incorporated into its surface. Unlike
Introduction to graffiti and street art
graffiti, the most common types of street art – stickers, stencils, posters – are made in advance, created and printed elsewhere, and stickered, spray-painted, or attached to the public surface in a matter of seconds. “Manufacturing” graffiti on the spot may take minutes and even hours. While graffiti are, therefore, expressively more impromptu, subjected to improvisation, impressions, and inventions on the go, street art is mostly premeditated. Generally speaking, street art is also more understandable, approachable, friendlier to “commoners”: it is “figurative” and “as illegal as graffiti, but people object to it less because it is usually made more with the public in mind” (Crommelin 2016: 4). The quintessential difference between graffiti (and some forms of street art, such as public installations and in scratchiti) and the most important forms of street art (stickers, stencils, and posters) is in regard to their (non-)auraticity. I consider graffiti as auratic creativity: it has “presence in time and space” and “unique existence at the place where it happens to be” (Benjamin 2007: 220): they are, literally, manuscripts, handwritten. Graffiti are immobile, untransferable, one has to go to see them. On the other hand, the mass-produced stickers, posters, and stencils are non- or post-auratic: in Benjamin’s words, “mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual” (ibid.: 224). They can infinitely shape and be distributed across the urban landscape. Furthermore, graffiti and street art differ based on their authorship: a writer creates graffiti, putting it into a public space, “exhibiting it” by themselves. Stickers, stencils, and posters have an author, too, yet they can be stickered or spray-painted across town by practically anybody who receives them directly from their author or else orders them or downloads them from the Internet. Since it is illegal, creating graffiti on the street is accompanied by high risk: the writers will, therefore, come well prepared. While pasting stickers and posters or spray-painting stencils also poses a danger, it is infinitely less perilous than graffitiing. As far as the placing of graffiti goes, subcultural graffiti writers make creative use of various “surfaces” or contexts of graffiti (i.e., spatial, temporal, and cultural), and the political writers add a political one to the mix: they chase the right political moment and place for their intervention. And the last difference: the size. Although there is no clear delimitation, graffiti are usually of a much larger format, some covering entire buildings, while the products of street art are generally smaller: however, they, again usually, come in larger batches as classic graffiti (e.g., the countless fan stickers of the home team, pasted everywhere around the town). Macdonald (2001, see also Castleman 1999: 95–107) researched the main values of the graffiti subculture as well as individual graffiti careers, pinning them down as fame, respect from others, self-promotion, street status, masculinity and patriarchalism, a romanticized heroism or adventurism, freedom, rebelliousness, control over own actions, independence, originality, uniqueness, competitiveness, youthfulness, autonomy, daringness, and feelings of power but also quick feet, diligence, consistency, development, quality (style) and quantity (frequency of production).13 Entering the subculture requires for a specific initiation of the graffiti writer, a rite of passage that creates a new self, a virtual persona: the writer
Types, styles, and techniques 31 is given a new name with a tag, a new identity with their (lettering) style, street credibility by being daring,14 and the belonging by constantly proving themselves worthy. A writer’s reputation depends also on the size of their graffiti and the accessibility of their location: graffiti is valued higher if it is done on a “mobile target,” a bus, or on a train than on an “immobile” building; it gains greater respect if it is created on a monitored rather than on a non-monitored building, and the same goes for unusual venues15 in comparison to ordinary ones. Amongst the writers themselves, there is a series of aesthetical, class, and political differences: on the one hand, they are perfectionists and on the other improvisers; on the one pedantic and on the other (purposefully) negligent; the purists and the eclectics; the ones educated in art schools and the self-taught street kids; the politically sensitive writers and those who are completely disengaged from their surroundings; and the ideological progressivists and conservatives. Amongst the practitioners of this subculture, I find stars and epigoni, geniuses and plagiarists, prime donne and quiet busy bees, novices and veterans, mentors and apprentices, solid core and those in league with the enemy, innovators and bluffers, connoisseurs and casual amateurs, and anonyms and craftsmen taking orders. All those values and specificities – identical to those in other subcultures – build the symbolic subcultural capital of graffiti writers.
Notes 1 A paraphrase of the famous phrase by St Augustin: “If nobody asks me, I know what time is.” 2 For a more detailed classification, see Castleman (1999: 21–40), Chalfant and Prigoff (1987: 12), Macdonald (2001: xi–xii), Wacławek (2011: 12–42), Đorđević (2016: 216), and the edited volume Veselo na belo – Grafiti in street art (2008: 20–24). 3 After the titles of famous books by the photojournalists Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff (1987) and Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant (1984), the first to be published dealing with this topic. 4 See a variety of historical examples in Reisner (1971), Abel and Buckley (1977: 4–21), Lovata and Olton (2015); Konda (2017, 2018); Ragazzoli, Harmanşah, Salvador, and Frood (2018); and Ross (2016b). 5 “Naming is creating,” claims the Yugoslav author and essay writer Danilo Kiš (1995: 208). Macdonald understands tagging as “the first step of a writer’s career, his/her ‘roots’, the credentials that make him/her a writer,” (2001: 75), while the next step is creating “real” graffiti, piecing. In political graffiti, the signature is a name of a certain political group or movement. 6 Worth mentioning here are also organized police departments that have been persecuting graffiti writers since the ’80s: the most famous of them are the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network and the Graffiti Habitual Offender Suppression Team as a part of the Vandal Squad in New York. In Slovenia, years ago, there was an infiltrated police officer or informer going by the nickname of Conan who was on the lookout for graffiti writers and street artists. With a series of stencils throughout the streets of Ljubljana, the latter blew his cover and warned of his real identity. As every repression of graffiti notoriously fails, the city authorities try to influence the inhabitants and make them take care of the cleanliness of their walls themselves. Since 2015, the City of Ljubljana has included graffitiing as unacceptable vandalism in the socially responsible action, entitled Man, protect your city.
Introduction to graffiti and street art
7 See Ferem (2006), Trahan (2016), Abel and Buckley (1977), Meade (2015), and Reisner (1971: 107, 108). Predominately, these are love and pornographic messages and motifs, but also warnings against sexually violent classmates on the walls and doors of school and university female bathrooms. 8 See Lovata (2015). 9 I encountered the most interesting example of a petroglyph deep underground, in the Križna cave in the Slovenian Karst: a signature of a visitor with the date – 1571. Due to practically unchanging conditions (stable temperature, humidity, no wind, darkness, no people), it was as fresh as if it were done the day before. 10 See Wilson (2016) and Reisner (1971: 87–90). 11 In 2013, Ljubljana was flooded by a series of feminist ad-busting interventions. Here is an example: a poster featured a classic patriarchal motif of a man’s man (a firefighter), with a fragile woman (a ballerina) in his arms – the inscription read Wanna switch uniforms? 12 In war times, also inscriptions on arms or bombs: sending “best wishes” to the enemy, etc. 13 Verses of Spray Paint by the iconic hardcore band Black Flag (1981) seem to appropriately illustrate this: It feels good to say what I want / It feels good to knock things down / It feels good to see the disgust in their eyes / It feels good, I’m gonna go wild / Spraypaint the walls! 14 Cooper in Chalfant (1984: 99) establish how the “elaborate cops and robbers game contributes to one important incentive for writing graffiti: to enhance the prestige of the writer in the eyes of his peers.” 15 At the presentation of his book some ten years ago, I remember Cornbread mentioning three of the most unusual places where he spray-painted his signature graffiti: the Jackson Five plane that had landed at the Philadelphia airport, a new high-rise in Philadelphia just before its actual unveiling, and an elephant in the Philadelphia Zoo.
Ways, sites, and methods of researching political graffiti and street art
We want more than they can give us (original) This inscription is too ambiguous (addition) Graffiti dialogue, Ljubljana, 2013
In contrast to other areas of the visual, such as fine arts, architecture, fashion, design, Internet cultures, cinema, and photography, graffitology as an emerging interdisciplinary science still has to develop its theoretical framework and methodological approaches in order to appropriately explain the hard-to-grasp street interventions, such as the one cited earlier. Until now, similar research has been more or less limited to a descriptive, historical, or comparative level. However, this delay is not necessarily bad, as it can enable a theoretical sectarianism, which is quite common in the more established (sub)branches of social sciences or humanities. Believing in the opposite, I argue for grounded-theory approaches, which are problem-oriented and content-driven, not author/theory driven. Basing my theoretical starting points on the specificities of the collected material, data, and information, I choose the methodological tools I find most appropriate for their analysis. This is the reason why my introduction – and the chapters in the second part – begin with research questions and not with stated research theses or hypotheses. The latter are, namely, based on certain presumptions that can either be confirmed or denied through the analysis, while a question leaves everything open.1 In this way, I try to avoid confirmation bias, a common methodological mistake whereby research only serves as a confirmation of pre-existing theoretical or even personal views and opinions. In a nutshell, I am interested in what the field itself has to say, and this is why I defend theoretical applicability and methodological flexibility. Graffitology explores concrete wall images of various social ideologies and the effect they produce on the activities of contemporary societies. In short, it deals with visual ideologies, inscribed in graffiti and street art. Following Hadjinicolaou (1978: 95, 96, see also 98), a visual (or pictorial) ideology, idéologie imagée, is a specific combination of the formal and thematic elements of a picture through which people express the way they relate their lives to the conditions
Introduction to graffiti and street art of their existence, a combination which constitutes a particular form of the overall ideology of a social class.2
It is visual ideologies that were supposed to be the only true subject-matter of art history,3 which is a fact I usefully apply in my graffiti research. In this methodological chapter, I develop the basic ways of exploring political graffiti and street art after having defined them, underlined their characteristics differences and similarities, and presented the main types, styles, and techniques. This chapter is divided into three subchapters which try to answer the questions of what to research, how to do it, and what to use for this work. More than to other methods of data collection, which are profoundly explained in the existing methodological literature, the first subchapter is dedicated to photographing graffiti and street art. Like any other interdisciplinary science, graffitology must combine the qualitative methodological approaches with the quantitative ones: tackle the cultural broadness and ideological depth of individual phenomena alongside their number and size. The best studies arise solely from a large number of data gathered through a long-running, systematic, detailed, and disciplined fieldwork in as many and as varied venues as possible. Only this can form a basis on which chosen methods bring valid results. No fieldwork – any kind of fieldwork – means no real research but a mere introspection and speculation by cabinet or armchair researchers of second-hand materials.4 In the second subchapter, I point out the four starting points to the researching of political graffiti and street art, each with its own sites of meaning: the site of context, the site of author, the site of the image itself, and the site of audiencing. According to those, the most appropriate methods must be chosen, and I explain them in the third subchapter. In order to achieve the best results, I employ them either independently or combine them, underlining their advantages and disadvantages, their reach and limitations. The explanation is intertwined with my personal research experience, be it successful or not, good or bad. All of this is then practically applied in the second, empirical, part of this book: in the individual case studies.
3.1 Graffitography – photographing as a way of collecting visual data This probably won’t be available on canvas later Stencil, New York, 2014
The obsession of publicly posting photos of food in the social media of today is trendily called foodography. Following suit, I can coin a new term, graffitography, to describe an equally passionate and systematic photographing of graffiti for a later analysis. The photos should also be taken instantly since, as the previous stencil warns us, the motif will later be unavailable. This practice is, however, not new. Using a (photographic or movie) camera has had a long tradition in social sciences and humanities and was first established in anthropology and
Ways, sites and methods of researching
ethnography. In her famous article (1975), the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead lists the difficulties visual anthropology from more than 50 years ago faced: expensive and heavy equipment, specialised technical knowledge, collaborative work of an entire crew in the field and in the studio, a complicated relationship between the researcher and the cameraperson/crew, accusations of subjectivity, impressionism and selectivity of the camera – and, in passing, she reproaches the mainstream anthropology for still being mainly a “discipline of words.” Nowadays, the situation is completely different: due to a lightning-fast development of technology, practically anyone carries a valuable and quality research tool in their pocket, allowing them to become a photographer or cameraperson. Smartphones enable the taking of pictures and videos of social situations and as such offer a never-before-seen opportunity of researching that should be taken advantage of in visual humanities and the social sciences. Very useful primary data are stored with a click on the shutter button. Better results are, however, of course obtained with a real camera not with a phone, while more complex compositions also require the use of a tripod. Let us first see how the camera has been used in the social sciences and humanities in general. The two classic authors in visual anthropology John and Malcolm Collier believe the photography to be “the closest approximation to primary experience that we can gather” (1996: 171) “a standard of accurate perception” (ibid., 7). As first-rate documents, a scientific source, a “self-evident evidence,” photos, in the words of the visual methodologist Gillian Rose (2012: 300), “capture something of the sensory richness and human inhabitation of urban environments” (ibid., 298). The cultural critic Susan Sontag (2005: 2) claims that “photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.” Saying that a picture is worth more than a thousand words is more than just a cliché. Taking photos of graffiti helps us “to preserve the views of the writers for comparative and historical uses” (Olberg 2013: 229). A camera is a much more objective, refined, contextual, and reliable means than any other recordings of reality, verbal, or textual (Collier and Collier 1996: 5–13). The camera does not lie: it is an accurate witness to the material reality of a chosen object. Yet it is important to bear in mind its selectivity; the simple fact that it only documents what the cameraperson turned its lens to. Like in any other research, the visual one also requires pre-research: preparation and prior knowledge. Before, shall we call them graffiti hunters, grab their cameras and begin their hunt for graffiti, the exact subject of the research must be known. No background knowledge – be it historical, comparative, or theoretical – may be the reason for any overlooked sights out there that would be relevant to the research. The next specificity of such research permits unexpected scenes to be caught on camera, images that perhaps nobody paid any attention to while shooting.5 Furthermore, a camera is a fast research tool: it captures the point of the researcher’s interest in a moment. At the same time, we must be aware that taking pictures is almost always also a participant observation – i.e., the presence of the cameraperson changes the social situation they have entered. Systematic and repeated photographing gives better research results, as it enables the following
Introduction to graffiti and street art
of the research-object development: in my case, the layers in the battles of political graffiti.6 It is important to stay substantively consistent – i.e., to film similar motifs, which can then be compared – compare the comparable is one of the most basic methodological guidelines in general. Even though the aesthetic and compositional quality of the shot are not unimportant, greater attention must be given to the content.7 We must always capture the motif we are interested in, together with its surroundings, and record the time of the shot – i.e., store the “text and the context.” Significant is also the relationship between the entire photographed motif and its individual parts – that is, the macro-micro relationship: size, parts, composition, dynamics, colours. In the end, I return to the initially mentioned classics of using photography in scientific purposes: the final presentations – texts or lectures – must preserve a “lively character of photographic evidence that is the most important aspect of visual anthropology” (Collier and Collier 1996: 173). And now I will zoom in on the topic of this book: photographing political graffiti and street art follows all of the aforementioned considerations and warnings but has its own specificities too.8 First of all, political graffiti are created and can, indeed, also disappear practically overnight: this is why they have to be documented as fast as possible without a delay. My motto is better safe than sorry, so I take a picture as soon as I see graffiti, although the photograph may be worse due to darkness, rain, or a low-quality camera.9 Next, in contrast to photographing more permanent visual phenomena, such as architecture, decorative campaigns, even posters, it is impossible to establish their number. On many occasions, “counting” graffiti proved to be unfeasible: however small a town, it cannot be scanned in a given moment in order to determine, for example, the percentage of xenophobic or feminist or football fan-based graffiti in it. However, as much as their content is essential, so is their frequency – i.e., the number of their repetitions. Although the exact number of graffiti touching a certain subject cannot be ascertained, from the viewpoint of understanding them in a social space, it is not inconsequential whether graffiti appears one time or 100 times. In concrete terms, the ratio, even just an approximate one, between, say one Long live XYZ! graffiti/sticker/stencil and ten Down with XYZ! counter-graffiti/stickers/stencils is important. I believe this needs to be taken into consideration in the final analysis, all the while keeping in mind that the ratio is very roughly established (in the example mentioned, it would be one to ten). I, therefore, stand by photographing all political graffiti pertaining to a specific subject, however time-consuming or nonsensical this may seem. Graffiti, namely, speak not only with their content but also with their numbers. The higher their number is, the bigger influence they have. Yet this also calls for some precaution. Theoretically speaking, a single graffiti high-flyer or a handful of them can stencil or sticker the entire town using the same motif over and over again, creating the impression that the town “leans” towards this or that political side, that it supports/rejects a certain politician in one voice, or that it “breathes” with its football club. Such a misleading one-sidedness must be corrected with the knowledge of the local political or social situation, with being in contact with local political groups and grassroot activists, or simply by talking with the street kids you come across on the first corner. At the same
Ways, sites and methods of researching
time, a (non-)reaction of the opposing side is very telling too: if there is an opposing side, a graffiti battle will be imminent, and the graffiti and stickers of one side will immediately be joined by those of the other. The next specificity of photographing political graffiti and street art is their constitutive contextualisation. Consciously and directly intervening into their physical and ideological space, they must always be photographed together with it (see Photo 3.1 taken near the McDonald restaurant in Tallinn). In true “detective fashion,” the graffitied crime scene must be photographed very precisely,
Photo 3.1 I want you to skip McDonald’s! (located near McDonald’s restaurant), Tallinn, 2015. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
Introduction to graffiti and street art
gathering as much circumstantial evidence as possible. I strive for the “archaeology of communication at sites where language asserts itself in public spaces, assigned to the surface of facades and walls as temporary markers of historical times” (Hardt 2008: 10). One of these pieces of evidence is the size or the positioning of these artefacts, which can be lost in the process of photographing: a picture often lacks perspective and it is difficult to assess whether graffiti measures half a metre or two metres, whether a sticker is the size of a pack of cigarettes or an A3 poster, or whether a stencil is spray-painted on a sidewalk or on a wall. To prevent this, I will sometimes add a “scale” to the photograph, which can be a ruler, my finger or foot if the graffiti is spray-painted on the ground, or I will include a parked car or bike, which then permits the viewer to establish a true size ratio from the composition. And, lastly, two technical reflections: the first is that we must remember the fact that in the great majority of cases, it is not clear when graffiti was made – the only solid data being the date of the photograph. The second is that, for truly quality fieldwork and documenting of a graffiti landscape as representative as possible, each route I take with a camera in my hand I must repeat in the other direction – I must walk up and down the street, taking photos on both sides of the walls. Turning the perspective, literally.
3.2 Multiangular approach: four sites of meaning of graffiti Resist, motherfuckers! Graffiti, Sarajevo, 2010
After dealing with the advantages and the disadvantages, the potentials and the restraints of “collecting” data with a camera, the next step is to choose the level of analysis that also dictates the choice of the research methods. In this part, I am upgrading the more general epistemological reflections and methodological guidelines of Hadjinicolaou (1978) and J. Wolff (1994), as well as the more concrete, extremely useful, and masterfully explained methods Rose implements in her analysis of the sites of meaning (2012: 19–40). I apply them to the research of graffiti and street art touching political topics, such as the one introducing this subchapter, which is a rough activist graffiti. I differentiate and explore them in a multiangular way, from four sites where the meanings of graffiti are created: these sites are, ideally, also the order of quality research. In sequence, they are the site of the context, the site of the writer, the site of the graffiti, and the site of the audience. The final meaning of graffiti is negotiated between all four levels. Instead of the ordinary question, “What’s on the wall?,” I begin with “What’s under the graffiti?” The first site of meaning is the site of the context. An analysis of a work of art takes – that is Hadjinicolaou’s methodological notion (1978: 182) – “two important factors into account: firstly the conditions under which it was produced, and secondly the history of its appreciation stemming from the aesthetic ideologies of various social classes.” This is the reason why I begin each graffiti analysis with visual and non-visual background: I never tire of repeating
Ways, sites and methods of researching
how the temporal and spatial, the cultural and historical position of graffiti are as significant as graffiti.10 What also gives meaning to graffiti, especially a political one, are its location and time of its occurrence. In the search for a good spot, the most targeted are not only the walls along the most frequented streets but also the symbolic installations of an existing order (e.g., government buildings, party headquarters, religious sites, shopping malls, monuments) – and the best opportunity to mark them is when they are at the centre of attention (e.g., on national holidays, before any elections, during public scandals, at the time of attentiongrabbing declarations by members of the opposite side). Graffiti or a sticker represent a symbolic attack on them. Activists brandishing a spray can prefer to hit where and when it hurts most. A regional example: graffiti CPY (Communist Party of Yugoslavia) and Tito slogans could be found on the building of the Split archbishopric in 2005. Sometimes achieving a writing job on a well-monitored building is a success in itself, no matter what the actual graffiti are: the mere act, not just its concrete content, is already a transgression. In words of Ragazzoli, Harmanşah, and Salvador (2018: 6), they “appear in places that are unexpected to us, where we think they should not be, where we believe they do not belong.” Graffiti is also given meaning by its political and cultural environment: it refers to actual happenings, questioning the structures of power in a society, and sticking its nose into current social debates, dilemmas, and conflicts. Along with the temporal and spatial one, this is another context without which it is incomprehensible. There is also one last context for which the same thing applies: other graffiti and street art produced by the same political group and its entire political agenda. An individual sticker of, let’s say, Generation Identity, this new pan-European alt-right movement, bears witness only to a small part of their street production. Only by taking into consideration its entirety – i.e., all of their stickers, graffiti, and stencils, as well as other non-visual interventions, does it become completely clear. To summarise, to understand graffiti, one must start before its surroundings bear an important part of the message that is completed with the graffiti. The question of “What do the surroundings communicate?” is followed by “What does the writer communicate?” The second site of meaning is the site of the author: her/his ideological background, intents, and reasons for creating political graffiti. As social and aesthetical renegades, graffiti writers have a bountiful starting point for a social and aesthetical critique of all that exists, is established, or generally accepted. The mere reasons and grounds of their behaviour are, therefore, intriguing. In the area of politics, I encounter the following dilemmas: is the writer a primarily subcultural graffiti writer who occasionally shares her/his political musings on the wall, or is it a political activist of a certain movement or party who perceives graffitiing as a street part of political communication? Are these spontaneous reactions to a given political situation, or is it an organised, thoughtthrough and planned action? Is the author working alone or in a group? Web and Facebook pages of many subpolitical groups give special attention to their graffiti feats: they proudly display where, how, and why they bombed a certain venue. The third question is “What does an artwork communicate in itself?,” and it deals with the most common site of the research: the site of the image itself. I wish
Introduction to graffiti and street art
to understand what a graffiti is saying by themselves; of what they consist; their composition and structure; how many times are they repeated; their visual ideology, aesthetical dimensions, and political orientation; what is invested into them; and who are they addressed to – without any context, author, or public. Here are a few examples: a critique of Christian dogmas is seen in a stencil with the crucified Jesus and an inscription Stop lying (Graz, 2013); the Church’s greed, also in an aforementioned stencil, with the crucified Jesus, but this time instead of the classical INRI (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, meaning Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews) initials above his head, there are the dollar and euro signs (Ljubljana, 2014); a stencil with a hook-and-cross on one side implies that a person can get hooked or addicted to religion, and on the other hand, this is an Ancient Greek symbol of Cronus and an alchemistic symbol for lead (Maribor, Ljubljana, 2014).11 A Jesus dies – Buddha smiles stencil “corrects” the word Jesus into Je$u$, adding the two dollar signs (Bucharest, 2017). The obsession with the Jesus saves motto is ridiculed in a stencil with JC’s happy face while shaving, the inscription Jesus shaves, and a mention of a famous blade-and-razor company (New York, 2018). And, finally, overcoming of the Huntingtonian clash of civilisations doctrine with the help of love is shown in a simple inscription: Hajnalka with a cross and Mehmet with a crescent and a large heart between them (Graz, 2015). Each of these examples was unsigned, and none stood on a religious site; each also speaks for itself.
Photo 3.2 Go back to sleep – Your government is in control, Timișoara, 2017. Stencil Source: Photo by MV.
Ways, sites and methods of researching
The last site of meaning of graffiti is the site of audiencing. After the contextualisation, authorship and the substance of graffiti, we are left with its acceptance in the public. J. Wolff (1994: 97) rightfully demands that “sociology of cultural production must be supplemented with, and integrated into, a sociology of cultural reception.” Viewers have an active role in creating visual meanings of graffiti: “reading is always re-creating” (ibid., 108, 109). On this level of analysis, I wonder how – and whether – the passers-by see graffiti and street art (as the stencil from Timișoara with radical political message on photo 3.2), and how (un)important they are in their political lives. The history of graffitiing is full of funny anecdotes concerning wrong or tendentious readings of graffiti. Here are examples from the home region from the early ’80s: in the punk years, Slovenian police officers understood the SKA graffiti as the acronym for the pre-war Slovenian Catholic Action and the PUNK graffiti in the time of the Kosovo crisis in 1981 as Pomoć ustanku na Kosovu (Help the Kosovo uprising); while in the western part of Slovenia, even the AC/DC fan graffiti were thought to be Ancora Cosovo dopo Cosovo (a mangled Italian (!) for More Kosovo after Kosovo – i.e., an appeal for a continuation of Albanian irredentism). To sum up, the meaning of graffiti is provided by their backgrounds, their author, the works, and their public, while each of these requires its own level of analysis. In order to optimise the results, I combine different analysis levels in my concrete case studies: I am all for methodological multi-perspectivity. It would be best to apply all of them – i.e., approach graffiti from all four ends of meaning creation – as I am well aware, yet this would take a lot of time and large resources. Therefore, I use methods in a hierarchical order, choosing a primary one and applying others where the first one proves not to be sufficient. In any case, these four sites of meaning and levels of analysis are followed by a choice of research methods, which I explain in the next subchapter.
3.3 Methods of researching political graffiti and street art We love academic discourse Graffiti on a student dorm, Ljubljana, 2013
I will proceed to delve even deeper into this beloved academic discourse as the students jokingly call it. After answering the first two questions of this chapter – with what to research and on which level to do it – the third question is how to research the visual ideology of political graffiti. How do we approach the unimaginable aesthetical and ideological variety of the graffiti world? I will willingly take the answer straight from the mouth of Lord Polonius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.” Each site of meaning of political graffiti and street art requires specific methods of research: since every method only explains one side of graffitiing, it is necessary to combine them. A successful analysis entails an interdisciplinary, multiperspective, or multiangular methodological approach; a reflective flexibility, an
Introduction to graffiti and street art
openness for any coincidences or exceptions, which I mentioned when discussing data collection; a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches; a pursuit of strongly systematic approach but not for the price of methodological sensitivity and flexibility, imagination and improvisation. Each of the methods first requires its own way of acquiring the data – I must know precisely what I am looking for and how I will research – so that it can then proceed with explaining them. The interim phase is their systematic distribution, numbering, and classification, accompanied by short, very brief descriptions: compilatio and ordinatio, like in the medieval manuscript culture (see interesting parallels in Rogers 2018: 177–179). Not until then are they ready for a further analysis which I understand as an efficient use of prior theoretical knowledge and methodological tools in a practical processing of the mass of acquired information and data. This is followed by an interpretation of the results and a formation of end findings. I explain the methods of graffitology in lines of the aforementioned four sites of meaning: which of them I choose and use when I wish to research the environment (the site of the context of graffiti), production (top-down approach: analyses of the site of the writer and the site of graffiti as such), and reception (bottomup approach: the site of the audience). While some methods may appear several times, they will only be explained once. As is clear from the second part of this book, I used almost all of them in my analyses – some were left out or used less than I would want, yet I had no resources to apply them. In those instances, I refer to studies done by other people, citing the main authors and their essential highlights, as well as their interpretative limitations, always including concrete experience from my fieldwork and analysis. As each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, the research results are the outcome of an interplay between them and both must be kept in mind. Researching the context of graffiti Political graffiti are straightforward and powerful street messages: but in most cases, the place, the time and the environment, the where, when and how of their creation also speak for themselves. I therefore begin at this end. What must precede fieldwork – i.e., photographing graffiti, interviewing their authors/passers-by – and the analysis, is acquiring as extensive a background knowledge as possible: without a wider context, no research is grounded; it hangs in the air. A prior comprehension of a spatial, temporal, cultural, and historical landscape in which political graffiti and street art appear is, therefore, indispensable. The message is formed through their inseparable unity. I emphasise this (too) often – hereby, I anticipate that a careful reader will notice these repetitions – because almost all graffiti studies leave out this fact and only analyse graffiti or their authors. First things first. The American cultural critic Frederic Jameson teaches us to “always historicize!” (1981: 9). I begin with a comparative historical method, which searches for historical (dis-)continuities and a comparative contextualisation of graffitiing. I take the longitudinal longue durée approach by French social historians Lucien Febvre, Marc Bloch, and Fernand Braudel as serious as the
Ways, sites and methods of researching
Benjaminian imperative of materialist historiography (2007: 262, 263), which underlines the historical breakdowns, ruptures, struggles, divisions, points, and processes where the hegemonic, teleologically conceived historic representations fail. A struggle between history – i.e., a power-supported monopolised past – and multiple histories of concealed or overheard groups in it. A useful image of the past, as well as explanations of current social and political activities, are formed by both the trends and the contingences, the historical continuities and the entangled histories, historie croisée. Historical genealogies of a certain social group or phenomenon must always be regarded as parts of a wider comparative frame, compared with similar processes and achievements elsewhere. “Sociological theory must be based on, and continually tested by, systematic comparison,” claims the anthropological comparatist Alfred Radcliffe-Brown (1951: 16).12 It is also most important to know the local language: the standard one as well as – in this concrete case – the street, colloquial one.13 And, of course, the cultural environment: the local symbolism, local values and habits, and the local graffiti scene.14 For example, a cross on a circle, the socalled Celtic cross, which became the new trademark of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe, has (un)knowingly also been adopted by football fans. This same sign in the USA simply marks the spot where to drill.15 A comparative historical contextualisation is followed by a spatial and temporal one. “The city receives and emits messages” (Lefebvre 2000: 114). If a researcher wishes to know its graffitiscape better, they must first be a Benjaminian flâneur: a spontaneous, casual, and intuitive collector of impressions that becomes a systematic, intentional, and focused “gatherer” of relevant shots, whereby they must pay especially close attention to their spatial and temporal dimension. Geocoding is a method of studying the location of a certain social phenomenon, in this case, graffiti. After the fieldwork is done, the researcher must take the map of the city and carefully locate the highest densities of graffiti and the reasons for them – make a sort of a graffiti-gram. Chaffee (1993: 7) points out the importance of researching how political graffiti and street art are positioned: this reveals the political weight and the belonging of certain spaces. Fan graffiti, for example, precisely demarcate the terrain of the fans of a particular club (e.g., in Belgrade, there is the terrain of Delije, the fans of Crvena zvezda, and the terrain of Grobari, the fans of Partizan), various gang tags delimit their ganglands, while the frequency of subcultural graffiti gets proportionally higher with approaching autonomous cultural centres or squats. Similarly significant is the temporal dimension of graffiti: the time of their creation and the time of their destruction attribute to their overall meaning. Graffiti for/against a certain politician grabs much more attention during the electoral campaign than after the election. The semiotics of temporality defines time as a complex social convention, as a “discontinuistic multiplicity” (Gurvitch 1963: 174) and is as such subjected to different appropriations, confrontations, gradations, and usurpations.16 It is a semiotic code, “the silent language” (E. Hall 1973), which separates the important days from unimportant ones, holidays from workdays. Political graffiti aims for the right “social time,” which can either be cyclical
Introduction to graffiti and street art
(holidays, anniversaries, elections) or exceptional (crises, accidents, affairs, elections of unpopular leaders, fights). In the first case, the graffiti writers time their interventions for that specific day (e.g., pasting patriotic stickers before national holidays), while in the second case, they literally intervene overnight, contributing to the feeling of drama in a given period. Here’s an example from New York: never before and never since have I seen more political graffiti and other street interventions – without an exception all anti-Trump – than in the turbulent days of his inauguration in January 2017. So, researching graffiti must also rely on findings of the American sociologist of time Eviatar Zerubavel (1987: 350): “Temporal contrasts can be used not only to substantiate abstract conceptual contrasts but also to help accentuate actual social and political ones.” In political life, then, both the “periods of graffiti” and the “periods with less/no graffiti” must be researched.17 Researcher is also a very specific context of graffiti. The researcher’s selfreflection and self-examination, a critical perception of one’s own position in the research process, and the factors influencing it (gender, class, age, culture, etc.) are just as important as her/his purely scientific reflection. Learning about the world that surrounds you is always also learning about yourself: the questions you pose to others and to the world around you are at the same time questions you pose to yourself. This is why as the last method of researching the context I mention autoethnography as the self-reflexive method. It aims for “the stories of autoethnographers to be reflected upon, analyzed, and interpreted within the broader sociocultural context” (Chang 2008: 46). In other words, it “pursues the ultimate goal of cultural understanding underlying autobiographical experiences” (ibid., 49). Personal experience and (auto)biographical reflections of a researcher are, therefore, legitimately an integral part of a wider scientific and analytical approach to a certain topic. Personally, I can say that I was learning from different sources through the entire time of my research: I compared and doublechecked any knowledge that I gathered from, firstly, the graffiti, talking with and interviewing the protagonists or the connoisseurs of the scene, and other primary sources, and secondly, from various researches led on this topic in the domain of social sciences and humanities. A simultaneous exploration of a double world: the outside one, which I was able to process with a camera in hand, and the inner one, the personal one, the world inside the man holding the camera in his hand. In the research of graffiti, autoethnography is used fairly often, and many studies have a (overly pronounced) personal touch; there is a lot of “I” there. I believe that this has happened since graffitology as a young science has not been specifically methodologically set out and strict, while it is easiest to begin reflecting from a personal point of view. Along with its advantages, the multiangular contextualisation of graffiti also has some weaknesses. Insisting too much on their historical and comparative determination neglects their concrete content, the individual and collective intents of their creation, and the effects they have on the public. Like other cultural and political form, graffiti are never only “children of their time, space and environments” but also their unexpected and unwanted “bastards.” However necessary
Ways, sites and methods of researching
it is to always make comparations on different levels, it is also important to stick to the aforementioned methodological guideline and limit only to what is comparable. Otherwise, we may end in a completely random coordination of cases that apart from superficial similarities have nothing in common. The spatial dimension of graffiti also has to be viewed with some caution, as cleaning actions may drastically change the actual field situation literally overnight, considerably changing the samples taken. The same vigilance must also be applied with the temporal dimension: graffiti bears no production date or best before date, making it very difficult for the researcher to establish when it was created and why some perished and others not – however well he or she knows the relevant circumstances. Autoethnography can sink into pure subjectivism, stay at the descriptive level, prefer introspection over observation, or concentrate too much on the researcher instead of the environment.18 Graffiti writer speaking Out of the methods of researching the graffiti environment, I tackle the two methods of researching graffiti production: I let the graffiti writer and the graffiti “speak.” To observe how graffiti writers create and to do interviews with them makes the research more personal, on both sides: a writer-insider who lives their culture and takes it for granted meets a researcher-outsider who is not in contact with it and perceives all of this self-evidence as exceptional. The advantage of both methods of urban ethnography – participant observations and interviews – is the researcher’s direct access to the protagonists of an activity, which enables insights into their individual or collective visual ideology and the ways of action. It is first and foremost “an experiment of experience,” claims the young Italian anthropologist Maddalena Gretel Cammelli, who researched and did interviews with the self-declared third millennium fascists, the CasaPound movement (2015: 19). Participant observation provides first-hand experience and interviews firsthand information. These two methods affirm graffiti writers as creative subjects, not “abuse” them as speaking objects. Using them, the researcher reflects the writers’ reflections and is not interested only in their side of the story but also their interpretations of that story. A typical example of how such a study should be made is the one performed by Macdonald (2001, similarly also Bueno and Vieira Zanella 2018 or Ellsworth-Jones 2012), who speaks much more about the writers than of graffiti. Participant observation requires a continuous (or, for a certain period of time, a dedicated quotidian) action of a researcher in the group she/he is interested in with a possible collaboration in its everyday activities. In this case, in graffiti actions, the meetings of graffiti crews, secret or public graffiti events, visits of practitioners, etc. The precondition for such a rapprochement is, of course, the trust a writer/crew feels for the researcher and their acceptance of the curious newcomer. However, we must always bear in mind, as the methodologist Alan Bryman (2012: 622) summarizes, that “in participant observation, the researcher can be a source of interference that renders the research situation
Introduction to graffiti and street art
less natural than it might superficially appear to be.”19 The “invisible observation method” is also possible – here, the researcher stays anonymous in the crowd that is present at graffiti events (possible only in public events, while the “real action” is always happening in closed circles where being “invisible” is impossible). The second ethnographic method consists of structured- (or focused or standardised), semi-structured-, in-depth (or unstructured), and group interviews and the life-history (or biographical) method, which all deal with the creator’s subjective (and, in the case of groups, collective) points of view on their own activity. The researcher listens and records how their graffitiing constructs the world around them and not only how this world constructed them (which is a common methodological error of other methods prejudging their creativity only by their social position, activities and aspirations). Doing interviews is demanding work, especially with closed and extremist groups: Cammelli (ibid.: 19) attests that you have to “learn to listen, not to react, not to change expression, not to judge.” What is important is not only the interview but also the informal phases that precede (getting to know one another and arranging a meeting) and follow it (the discussion after, evaluation the results of the research, keeping in touch with the interviewees). All of this is an important additional source of information. Furthermore, interviewing is in itself a sort of participant observation, as its significant components beside the talking are also the choice of the venue, thought articulation, choice of clothing, any objects the interviewees bring for the researcher, etc. Structured interviews are relatively short and involve an exact set of pre-chosen closed questions, posed in the same form to all of the interviewees. Due to their formality, rigidity, and, sometimes, wrong premises, these, however, tend not to produce the best results. The interviewee will also perceive them as interrogation and act more cautiously. In comparison, the semi-structured interviews are more flexible and encompass a variable share of open-ended questions, which allows the respondent more space and reflective possibilities, relaxing the mood and facilitating the discussion between them and the researcher. At the other end are the indepth interviews that have a certain framework pre-established but which is a lot less obvious than with the first two options: the discussion flows in a relaxed way; it is much deeper and thorough and revolves around a smaller number of topics. The development of a graffiti persona is uncovered by the biographical method, which upgrades the in-depth interviews with the access to the interviewee’s archive, their sketches, communication, photographs, etc.: it “invites the subject to look back in detail across his or her entire life course” (Bryman 2012: 488), eliciting their own story. In both of the last cases, the interviews or discussions are longer than in the first one; they can last for hours and the interviewee and the researcher may meet on several occasions. Furthermore, considering that graffiti writers often operate in crews, group interviews are an appropriate form of research, but the group dynamics will require the researcher to come especially well prepared: maintaining the focus of the interview, paying attention also to the less eloquent members of the
Ways, sites and methods of researching
group, etc. Each of these ethnographic methods engenders a different level of elaborating the collected data: standard interviews are rounded up the easiest, while in-depth interviews and life histories are the most difficult to complete. This makes the former more adequate for comparative, and even quantitative, approaches, with the latter for the more individual and qualitative ones (more in Marvasti 2004: 17–25; Edwards and Holland 2013: 29–36). However, one of the main difficulties is how to reach the right people and venues. There are an abundance of public graffiti events, also attended by weekend writers who love to act as insiders and always have a lot to say – making contact with them is never a problem. But as this is a delicate topic, it is relatively hard to gain access to the right environments and relevant interlocutors: to penetrate this subcultural core, one must take time and patiently gain the trust of the writers themselves and/or in their circles.20 Due to the illegality of their activities, graffiti writers – the subcultural, but the political ones even more – often remain closed in their small, unreachable, clandestine circles and refuse to share their secrets. Cosa nostra, indeed. Even in cases where I was absolutely sure about the authorship, drawing on various sources and information, the author would not admit it in conversation. With a mysterious look on their faces, they kept avoiding me with ambiguous answers of maybe, possibly, dunno, often accompanied with a smile that said yes, or they tried obfuscating the matter by providing links to pieces done by somebody (I wonder who that somebody might be?). The real secret du métier.21 Faced with this, I helped myself with the “line tracing method,” also called “snowball sampling” or “the chain of trust.” A key informant recommended me on to the next relevant interlocutor, who did the same or pointed me to a venue, action, website, or a similar graffiti meeting point. I could not agree with Macdonald (2001: 51) more when she says that “this subculture is all about recommendations.” In researching the author or authors as a site of the meaning of graffiti, the comparative point of view must also be maintained – i.e., use the comparative method with caution. It is interesting to juxtapose the life histories of writers from different corners of the world and different periods, their reasons, influences, and the development of their activities, as well as their answers to similar questions from standardised interviews. The disadvantage of these methods is their focus on the writers’ intents and not on contextualisation or the actual effects of their production: we learn a lot from them and not from their work or from other people. The general warning by Hadjinicolaou (1978: 40–43) and J. Wolff (1994: 25, 118, 138, 147) against a mystical or idealistic ideological construction of an individual as a Creator that would ignore her/his concrete social conditions, ideological discourses, and class background must be taken very seriously.22 Participant observation is often limited to public events that are accessible to everybody anyway and can also be followed through mass- and social media. Yet when political graffiti are in play, it is paramount to know the most insider and conspiratorial protagonists: the question we must ask, however, is whether this is even possible by being only an outside
Introduction to graffiti and street art
researcher. In the same way, interviews can be particularly shallow and deceptive if there are obvious political or ideological sympathies/antipathies between the interviewer and the interviewee. Researching the graffiti themselves The great majority of research is only limited to graffiti on their own, ripped from the context, orphaned of their authors and the public feedback. Some of them sadly reach no further than the mere descriptive level that I understand exclusively as a short and concise informative introduction into a real analysis. In the next paragraphs, I will explain what I believe to be the most useful methods of researching street images, whereby I will partially be referencing the definitions established by Rose (2012). The compositional interpretation answers the question of how the image is made and what its effect are in itself. The method originates from art history and is based on the “skilled eye,” an expert’s fine dissection of the image structure. It is completely concentrated on the image’s content, perspectives, form, details, and colours; it deals with the entire composition minutely.23 As such, it represents an excellent first step for the continued research of graffiti. For example, a political poster dating from the recent campaign on the closing of the American border features an image in the centre (a rattle and pickaxe in the shape of a cross drawn in the style of a children’s picture book), above and under it is an inscription (Raising our children above and to tear down your wall below), the whole in a soft red colour on a calm background with a homely pattern. The strong message takes advantage of all this calmness and innocence: the colour is, nevertheless, red, the rattle and pickaxe resemble a hammer and sickle, while the statement itself is typically left-activist although its style is distinctively familial. It is much more powerful if it comes from the mouths of “parents” than masked street activists. Content analysis is a quantitative method dealing with the question of how often a certain image is reproduced rather than with its content. In short, it measures the frequency of its occurrence. It was developed in researching the mass media through processing large amounts of available data: specific content is chosen and coded, and then its appearances are counted. In graffiti and street art, the situation is not exactly the same as it is practically impossible to establish a precise number of the same tags, stencils, and stickers or basically similar graffiti in a certain area. Yet it is paramount to know whether there is only one such representation or a couple of them or whether the entire city is bombed or stickered with them. Although it can never be completely precise, counting the graffiti paints a rough picture of the graffiti heartbeat of a town. For example, in Murska Sobota in 2012, I photographed literally dozens of stencilled red stars with no other explanations added on practically all public surfaces: walls, traffic signs, sidewalks, electrical and gas boxes, road signs, billboards. Only rarely were they later destroyed (painted or crossed over) and rarely did they provoke opposing political graffiti (nationalist, neo-Nazi). A similar situation can be observed in Rijeka, a traditionally anti-fascist town, where there is an abundance of such graffiti, stickers,
Ways, sites and methods of researching
stencils, posters, and other street art interventions, while the extreme-right production is minimal or is immediately destroyed. Compositional interpretations in content analysis are excellent preparatory stages for the next step of analysing graffiti with social semiology. Developed by its classics, Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco and Stuart Hall, this “study of signs” unveils ideological backgrounds of cultural artefacts. It enables the understanding of images which as such construct and reflect the functioning of a society as a whole. The study of everyday mythologies is, for Barthes (1991: 8), “on the one hand, an ideological critique bearing on the language of so-called massculture; on the other, a first attempt to analyze semiologically the mechanics of this language.” Social semiology explains ideological justifications of social and class structures – that is, how certain groups use their signs to legitimize their dominant position and which signs are used by others to question that position. It is actually close to the nowadays very popular critical discourse analysis, which is also interested in different ideological levels of meaning in social praxes.24 It also delves into the relations of meanings that lead to relations of power: “A picture is a product which, as such, forms part of a class ideology,” writes Hadjinicolaou (1978: 48). Social divisions are expressed through the workings of signs in the images themselves. This is evident in all spheres, political graffiti being one of them: they are another of many representations of differences and hierarchies in contemporary societies. A voice of the unheard, the repressed, or the aspiring, but also of those firmly in power. In other words, social semiology explains the functioning of social structures, especially the balance of power, through various codes or ideologies. It is interested in social conditions and social effects of meaning: in short, in the idéesforces of signs around us. The semiotic method enables us to understand what kind of ideological messages graffiti and street art carry, which power structures they represent, and what kind of practical, political consequences they bring. Referring to the works of Barthes (1982, 1986, 1991), Eco (1998), S. Hall (2001), Lefebvre (2000), and Pierre Guiraud (1983), I use the semiological method in two steps. The first refers to the “plane of denotation” (Barthes 1986: 89) description, “the literal meaning of a sign” (S. Hall 2001: 512), the explicit construction of meaning in graffiti as such, on itself. This is the base of their classification. The second step deals with the “plane of connotation” (Barthes 1986: 90, 91) of graffiti: what is their “higher,” ideological meaning. In semiological terms, how connotation “‘caps’ the denoted message” (Barthes 1986: 91; Barthes 1991: 110–119; see also Guiraud 1983: 33, 34). Connotation “is employed simply to refer to less fixed and therefore more conventionalised and changeable, associative meanings” (S. Hall: ibid.). The main motifs must, therefore, be identified and classified first (the level of denotation – manifestation: who/what is being depicted?), and then their ideological meanings, contained and established in this discourse as a whole (the level of connotation – latency: what ideas/values are expressed in these pictures?), can be researched. Here is an example of the power of the image: an aforementioned stencil on a stone chair/sculpture in Timișoara (2017). In the middle, there is a smiling emoji with tongue
Introduction to graffiti and street art
sticking out, a dollar sign for one eye, and a swastika for the other; above it, in Crass Font the inscription Go back to sleep; below it Your government is in control (see photo 3.2). On a denotation level, it is a cumulation of symbols that do not have much in common (one representing Nazism, the other capitalism, the third digital culture, while the font stems from punk); the meaning of the words is calming: everything is in order, trust your government. In the secondary sense, on a connotative level, however, the matter is much more serious: there are three symbols of the same modern corporative capitalist and totalitarian ideology and praxis with a smiling face, symbols of “postmodern fascism,” as I define it later.25 The words are even presented in a cool punk-style font. The final message resembles the one by the socially critical American writer Upton Sinclair, who said that fascism is capitalism plus murder. In principle, every sign is polysemically open, appears neutral, is culturally horizontal – but actually carries various ideologies that create vertical meanings and support/criticise power relations in a society. In the research of graffiti as such, the comparative method – i.e., their comparison in an aesthetical, political, or special sense, is also useful. In the spirit of cultural diffusionism à la Franz Boas, it is interesting to follow the creation, the development, and the spread of various graffiti styles and tricks around the globe. The historically comparative approach to graffiti is also present in many of the initially mentioned, richly illustrated graffiti “picture books,” while a more analytical take on it is done by Wacławek (2011). The advantages of these methods are simultaneously betrayed by their weaknesses: in general, they lack an analysis of the circumstances of graffiti creation, the reasons of their authors, and the readings of the addressees. The compositional interpretation completely ignores the ideological perspective of visual praxes, as it only focuses on the image: its technique, form, style, composition. In its counting of examples, the content analysis easily overlooks the expressive dimensions, the ideological belonging, and the actual reception of political graffiti and street art. Social semiology is also a target of criticism as the researchers are prone to subjectivism: the answers to questions of what signifies what and how these chosen signifiers articulate a certain ideology are often arbitrary. The affective dimensions as well as the reception by viewers, which is multiple by definition, are simply forgotten. It also does not help to have non-uniform terminology, as phenomena are given different names (codes, discourses, maps of meaning, ideologies, mythologies, etc.) And, finally, many forget about the complexity of the relationships amongst various levels of ideology: Hadjinicolaou (1978: 96) warns that “visual ideology cannot be deduced from an overall class ideology,” while J. Wolff (1994: 141) similarly claims that “it would certainly be wrong to reduce the aesthetic to the ideological or the social.” Audience speaking If the penultimate part of the subchapter attempted to answer the question “who is spraying?,” this last part of it will tackle “spraying for whom?” After the sets of
Ways, sites and methods of researching
methods dealing with research of the graffiti environment, the graffiti author, and the graffiti, the last set aims at researching the reception of political graffiti with the passers-by. The first question is do they even notice graffiti? The second question is what attracts the most attention (the text, the image, the colour, the size, the venue, the time of it creation, its aesthetical accomplishment, or perhaps all of this combined)? The third question deals with the type of reading they choose. If I refer to S. Hall, what prevails in this “politics of signification” – the “dominant or preferred code,” the “negotiated code,” or the “oppositional code” (2001: 513– 517)? And, fourthly, how does this affect their (political) activities? All too often, the studies of graffiti (and, indeed, cultural studies or media studies in general) forget the most basic fact that in society there is no straightforward interpretative consensus – i.e., that the denotations of messages in public are always relative, multiple, and even contradictory. Studies will simply finish with the point of production or with the inherent connotation! Although the dominant/controlled readings in principle prevail over subversive and negotiated ones, this does not in itself mean that any generalisations or simplifications are possible. Every text is a battlefield of different interpretations. End of discussion. The reception of the visual ideology of graffiti must be approached with different research methods developed under the headline audience studies. The subject of the research are the viewers: graffiti and street art are researched from their perspective, from their understandings, bottom up.26 In the epistemological sense, audiencing originates in Barthes’s maxim that “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (1977: 148)27 and the idea by J. Wolff who considers “the abdication of the author’s dominance over a text in favor of the creative, active role played by readers and audiences” (1994: 67; see also 91–97). Following this trail, the cultural theorist John Fiske (1992: 538) is “calling the text an effect of the audience.” Setting aside any impediments as to include cultural populism as a legitimate discipline of contemporary cultural studies or not, we must acknowledge the importance of a creative and active role the public or the “cultural consumers” play in creating meanings. In the analyses of graffiti and street art reception, various methods of qualitative interviews from structured to group ones, all described in 3.3.2., are therefore used. This type of method was successfully deployed by Olberg (2013: 111–228), who was asking Israeli and Palestinian students what political graffiti on West Bank Wall meant to them: photos of graffiti served as a catalyst for a debate between the two sides. The participant observation – i.e., recording people’s reactions to graffiti – and, of course, the comparative method as described before, which compares the sensibility of people in various environments to graffiti and their evaluation, are also useful. Public opinion polls with a standardised questionnaire (including open- or closed-ended questions) encompass a large and representative sample and are followed by a statistical treatment of data.28 However, such quantitative research on graffiti is sadly almost nonexistent: the topic is obviously of no interest to contractors and agencies. Ross (2016a: 5) complains that what is really missing “are studies (e.g., surveys) that look at public reactions and business reactions to graffiti
Introduction to graffiti and street art
and street art.” Those rare questionnaire-based surveys that do exist and therefore bring captivating results. A survey conducted in Great Britain in 2012 showed the following: the question of “Is all graffiti vandalism?” was answered with “all graffiti is vandalism” by 34 percent, “some graffiti is acceptable” by 58 percent, and “all graffiti is acceptable” by 2 percent. The belief that graffiti “can be art” was shared by 66 percent and that they “cannot be art” by 22 percent. As far as the question “Do you like or dislike graffiti?” goes, the results differed depending on the parts of the country: on the one hand, there is London, where 23 percent “liked” graffiti (and 28 percent “disliked” them), and on the other hand, there is Scotland, where only 10 percent “liked” them (and 47 percent “disliked” them).29 Simultaneously, research asking the same questions was also carried out in the USA and gave the following results. On vandalism, “All graffiti is vandalism” for 43 percent, “some graffiti is acceptable” for 46 percent, and “all graffiti is acceptable” for 4 percent of Americans. Sixty-nine percent would describe graffiti as art, while 23 percent disagree.30 An intriguing contradiction: while more Americans than Brits would characterise graffiti as “vandalism,” more would also identify them as “art.” In Slovenia, the Slovenian Public Opinion Survey of 2016, a longitudinal research, established that 69.1 percent notice graffiti, while 27.3 percent do not. For 40.8 percent, the first thing that comes to mind when seeing graffiti is “vandalism,” for 26.3 percent, it is “art,” and for 11.8 percent, it is “political activism.” A more concrete question on whether political graffiti encourage them to think about the topics they relate to generated the following answers: “no” for 61.2 percent and “yes” for 29.9 percent. And for a more provocative twist: the question of whether they ever thought of writing political graffiti themselves was answered with “no, never” by 90.8 percent; “yes, sometimes” by 5 percent; and “yes, several times” by 2.7 percent. (Toš et al. 2016: 488) In a way, the results come as a surprise, since they point out an unexpectedly high rate of reading graffiti in Slovenia as well as the fact that they encourage further reflection (both more than 60 percent!). It would, therefore, seem that graffiti reach a much wider audience, not just the insiders, the urban youngsters, and the street activists. As such, they represent a dangerous competition for the allowed economic and commercial visuals, which otherwise crudely dominate over the contemporary urban and rural landscape. In contrast to public opinion polls, the next method is less established and more controversial, as it points out the social carelessness and irresponsibility of modern science bereft of its capacity for criticism and transformed into an apology for the social status quo. On the one hand, these methodological perspectives originate in the famous Marx’s 11th thesis on Feuerbach stating that “philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”31 On the other hand, they build on the tradition of engaged anthropology of Franz Boas, who, as early as in the beginning of the 20th century, demanded science to take social responsibility that would be the foundation for the resistance against racism, chauvinism, and other social injustices.32
Ways, sites and methods of researching
On this ground, I will finish this chapter and the first part of this book and proceed to the second part featuring concrete case studies of graffitiing across the post-socialist urban and ideological landscape by reflecting engaged or militant research. This brings social engagement into science and is used especially in researching marginal social groups and praxes, as the aim of the research is not only getting to know them but also empowering them. Researchers often succeed in studying and consequently emancipating the group from which they come themselves.33 Marxism, cultural relativism, feminism, studies of racism, postcolonial studies, queer studies, subcultural studies, orientalist studies, Balkan studies, etc., are the examples of such progressive scientific approaches and, at the same time, activist interventions. In the words of the engaged social scientist Danijela Tamše (2013: 182), “Militant research is the methodology of political transformation the main goal of which is the biopolitical production of rebellious subjectivities.” In this instance, science should follow art: there, transformative syntheses between art and activism form artivism or engaged art. Such research of political graffiti brings not only their recording and analysing but also a removal or transformation of the hateful graffiti. During my fieldwork, I met several graffiti researchers who take care of the “decontamination” of the town during their research.34 These researchers are at the same time also “town cleaners” who “collect” stickers with extremist content by unsticking them (see Photo 3.3 for one of such “collections”), who spend their nights destroying or ridiculing hateful graffiti, who organise graffiti tours explicitly revolving around this topic, or who even carry out workshops of resisting graffitied hateful speech. In Slovenia, the association for eliminating social inequality Appareo records, maps, and researches homophobic and sexist graffiti, as well as organising activities to prevent them (Perger and Mencin Čeplak 2017). Young Russian activists gathered in the Quiet Protest informal network attach appeals against homophobia and other types of bigotry to their clothing and bags, transforming into some sort of “walking graffiti” in order to promote public discussion and record people’s reaction.35 Academic critique is continued in an activist engagement: problematising social injustices and hate speech in their (symbolic) overcoming. Militant research has transformative potentials and in a dialectic way “teaches how to ask questions that make action possible” (Brecht 2016: 85). The weakness of various audience studies methods is disregarding the importance of the first three sites of meaning – i.e., the tendency to recontextualise messages from their readers’ perspective time and time again. The specificity of visual ideologies in a message and its aesthetical characteristics are similarly lost as what matters in only the reception. An obstacle for public opinion polls on graffiti is the scale of research resources that is unsurmountable for individual researchers or small groups. Conventional science has not (yet) accepted engaged research as legitimate, although it is already a part of some of the previously mentioned most propulsive social sciences and branches of the humanities. It is reproached for its subjectivity and (ideological) bias, which are said to obstruct valid scientific results.
Introduction to graffiti and street art
Photo 3.3 Collection of hate speech stickers. Slovenia, 2010s Source: Photo by MV.
Notes 1 I believe theses and hypotheses, therefore, best suit quantitative research, and research questions are more appropriate for qualitative research. 2 In other words, “each individual work’s visual ideology coincides to a greater or lesser extent with a collective visual ideology corresponding to the overall ideology of a social class” (ibid.: 188). 3 In this way, the main deficiencies of the existing perceptions of art are avoided. These are the conception of art history merely as a history of artists (without their social
Ways, sites and methods of researching
4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
background), the conception of art history as forming part of the general history of civilization (again, without class or social background), and the conception of art history as a history of works of art (and, again, isolated from the social class); only masterpieces are grouped under the heading of art (other works are ignored); they are executed by creative geniuses (ignoring social factors) and attribute “aesthetic value” to form and not to the content of an art piece (Hadjinicolaou 1978: 17–68). Dismissed as Tuis in one of Brecht’s insightful fragments (2016: 146). This is an inverted anagram of In-Tellekt-Uell. Like in the premise of the film Blow Up by Michelangelo Antonioni from 1966. In Slovenia, this method has been excellently developed by Kropej (2008). See, for example, Mead (1975: 5, 6). For useful reflections on photographing graffiti and copious examples, see Reynolds (1975). I have had several bad experiences with returning to take a picture the next morning and finding it either gone or completely changed. “If you are not quick, it’s gone,” asserts Jenny Foulds (2013: 9), a graffiti collector with a camera in her hand. Among others, see also Macdonald (2001: 201–203). In addition, it is also the symbol of the Blue Öyster Cult hard rock band. Grounding his methodological credo thusly: “The comparative method is therefore one by which we pass from the particular to the general, from the general to the more general, with the end in view that we may in this way arrive at the universal, at characteristics which can be found in different forms in all human societies” (1951: 22). See more about historical methodological approaches to graffiti in Baird and Taylor (2016: 21, 22). One of the unwritten rules that I heard long ago as a young culturologist from my more experienced colleagues and that I completely take to heart: never explore a region if you don’t know its language or languages well! This methodologic maxim was set by Boas (Hall 2016: 59). If all else failed, I asked the kids standing on the corner to tell me the context and give me their interpretation. Or reminds of how the mass murderer Zodiac used to sign his correspondence in California in the late ’60s. For French sociologist of memory Maurice Halbwachs (1980: 107), “we must distinguish as many collective times as there are distinct groups.” For more on the interruptions of the continuous flow of time, which is also relevant for the (non-)presence of political graffitiing, see Zerubavel (1977). See Chang (2008: 54–56). For more on the advantages and disadvantages of this method, see Bryman (2012: 430–468) or Berry, Poortinga, Segall, and Dasen (2002: 234–236). I bear this strictly in mind and have grown accustomed to it since my previous field research on contemporary subcultures and nostalgia for socialism. At times, the situation bore close resemblance to the first and second (one and the same) rule of Fight Club (1996) by Chuck Palahniuk: You don’t talk about fight club! Just to be clear, researching social ideologies in art does not exclude the author as such, but decenters them as the only creative factor and refocuses them. In the words of J. Wolff (1994: 70, see also 136), “showing the ideological nature of art does not eliminate authors/artists as analytical categories (or as real people)” but shows their social, cultural, and ideological background. In contrast to the sociological or phenomenological interpretation which “has no eye for the work which, regardless of what it may be, ceases to be anything more than a remote, inadequate pretext” (Kiš 1995: 81). In spite of some differences in the treatment and terminology, both encompass three levels of analysis: (visual) language (expressions, sayings, fragments), discursive praxes (/re/production of the entire discourse), and socio-cultural praxes (which systematically express power structures).
Introduction to graffiti and street art
25 See chapter 8. 26 See case studies dealing with effects of (political) graffiti and street art in Part IV of Ross’s edited volume (2016b). 27 Or, to expand, “Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (ibid.). 28 On opinion-poll research and the formation of useful standardized questionnaires, see the excellent work by the quantitative methodologists Jean M. Converse and Stanley Presser. They warn that a questionnaire is “merely a design, a plan for action and interaction; its execution depends on other directors and actors – able and motivated interviewers and field supervisors, effective procedures of quality control” (1986: 75). 29 https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/05/01/graffiti-is-an-artform-say-public/, accessed February 15, 2018. 30 https://today.yougov.com/news/2014/04/29/graffiti/, accessed February 15, 2018. 31 In his critique of the existing science, Brecht (2016: 76) also refers to it: “Is the world not already changed by explaining it?” “No. Most explanations consist of justifications.” 32 See, for example, Boas (1940). 33 Here, I can refer to the previously mentioned autoethnography, where the researcher’s self-awareness and consequently self-transformation and active engagement in the researched environment is a frequent occurrence. 34 See, for example, a series of YouTube videos by the Antifa Sisters activist group removing – painting over – chauvinist graffiti in Slovenia. 35 I also saw a similar performative technique during anti-Trump protests in the USA in 2017. This could also be a perfect starting point for a discussion on other types of “street politics” or direct political performativity on the street, featured, for example, in inscriptions on T-shirts or caps, or in tattoos, or a wider one expressed with styles of clothing, hairstyles, and gestures in general.
Post-socialist graffitiscapes Case studies
We used to be the 3rd Bloc, now we will become the Third World. graffiti, Ljubljana, 2010 and 2012
The post-socialist transition in the countries of Central- and Eastern Europe can be compared with the opening of Pandora’s box: all sorts of things sprang out of it, even the processes, the values and the solutions which we naïvely believed not to reappear or appear in the first place. Those 30 years saw many wrongs set right – and many new ones appear in their stead; many new progressive, purgative ideas erupted – along with many regressive, anti-humanist ones; a market economy appeared – and social state demolished. With them came a greater freedom of speech – and the normalisation of hate speech; new social inclusions – and new exclusions; the taking down of old borders – and opening and reinforcing of new ones; the freedom to move and travel, but only for us, the insiders; the opening of taboo chapters of history – yet also the rehabilitation of old bloodthirsty personages and the return of their dark ideologies. If communists kept repeating Marx’s thesis that “communism is the riddle of history solved,” then the new elites showed similar fanaticism in repeating that “the riddle of history solved” is “integration into EU and NATO.” The expectations of people after the democratic revolutions at the end of the ’80s and the beginning of the ’90s soon proved to be greatly exaggerated. At the beginning of the 21st century, the division of the old continent that has since the Enlightenment based on constructions of “both the presumed backwardness of Eastern Europe and the assumed superiority of Western Europe” (L. Wolff 1994: 361) was not abolished but in some regards even deepened. Political and economical changes, most of them mechanically transplanted from the West, ignored “fact that the sudden imposition of democracy and free markets can produce more internal conflict, violence, and oppression than the authoritarian regimes democracy seeks to replace” (Ghodsee 2017: 57). There was a lot of disappointment – the region is abundant with graffiti such as the introductory one. Critical social sciences try to regularly reflect these new phenomena that arise from regional recent and current activities on the one hand, and are a part of global political, economic, cultural, and social processes on the other.
In the post-socialist condition, the vacuum that was left after socialist (and multi-cultural) hegemonic ideologies collapsed was replaced by two new ideologies: neo-liberalism in the political and economic field (market economy as the only possible form of economy) and ethno-nationalism in the socio-cultural field (a primordial unity of language, culture, religion, tradition, even shared blood, genes, etc.). Individualism promoted by neo-liberalism is compensated by collectivism agreed to by ethno-nationalism. They do not work separately however, but, indeed, connected: the political and economic transformation that brought about the political and economic domination of the global centre over the rest of the world, including Eastern Europe, works in unity with the ethno-national cultural regression into homeliness and tradition. Sarcastically speaking, when you have nothing of your own anymore, you begin showing off with the ancientness and excellence of your nation, tradition and culture. Look at the wall, look at the wall, it holds the shadows of our years,1 sings the cult Belgrade new wave band Ekatarina Velika. Political graffiti and street art deal mostly with the dark sides of post-socialism, they are its immediate “street consciousness.” They never praise political or economic accomplishments of the transition: not once did I see graffiti in the lines of Happy to be in the EU! or High five for the increased exports! This rests in the domain of the dominant and media political discourses, which, almost one after the other, share the two ideologies, neo-liberalism and ethno-nationalism, and enthusiastically support their concrete praxes. On the other hand, the walls of Eastern European Kleinstaaterei abound in political graffiti, stickers, stencils and other visual interventions that defend national purity, cultural fundamentalism or bigotry towards everyone who is different – as well as those that support cosmopolitism, new identities and the freedom of thought or warn against poverty and exploitation. This is why this short introduction to the second, the empirical part of this book lists mainly those processes and activities that stir the most emotion in political graffiti and cause the largest production of them. I begin at the most neuralgic end of the post-socialist Eastern Europe: in exYugoslavia. This once most progressive and liberal socialist state imploded in the series of bloody wars in the ’90s (for the concise history of their complex backgrounds and developments, see for example Woodward 1995). At home and abroad, these were tendentiously interpreted as ethnic, religious, civilisational – in a completely Hungtingtonian spirit. Be that as it may, the reasons for them were much more mundane and material, as already twice before in the 20th century, in 1918 and 1945: a new, most radical redistribution of wealth as per the request of new social elites. 22 years of kleptocracy, in the denouncing words of Ljubljana graffiti in 2013, 22 years after Slovenian independence (Photo 0.3). A transitional New Deal of different capitals,2 requiring the authorities to resort to violence. Déjà vu.3 Instead of freedom, welfare and development on solid bases, the so-called privatization, denationalization, restructurings, production optimizations, managerial buyouts and other euphemisms for, directly speaking, systemic and completely legal theft of formerly common assets, brought forward economic devastation, social turmoil (pauperization, unemployment, mass emigration, a narrowing of the middle class, a dismantling of the welfare state, exploitation,
Post-socialist graffitiscapes 59
Photo 0.3 22 years of kleptocracy, Ljubljana, 2013. Inscription. Source: Photo by MV.
dispossession and other consequences of turbo-capitalism, as the stencil from Sarajevo reveals (photo 0.4); and on the other hand a shameless prosperity of oligarchies), political turbulences (a domination of nationalist, even nativist parties, systemic corruption, clientelism), national exclusions (different forms of ethnic cleansing, from military and bureaucratic ones to silent assimilation), cultural regressions (retraditionalization, repatriarchalization, and reclericalization of society),4 and demographic declines (more than a 100,000 dead in the wars,
refugees, brain drain). Today, the Yugosphere, to borrow the neologism coined by the expert on the region Tim Judah, is formally and loudly on the route of EuroAtlantic integration, yet actually remains Europe’s “inner Other,” practically its “inner colony.” To use a cynical metaphor: it is the black hole next to the shiny constellation of the European Union. In former Yugoslavia, the single-party, yet multicultural socialist political system has formally been replaced by parliamentary democracy. In actual fact, we are seeing a populist ethno-politics that speaks not of citizens but of compatriots, the members of nations. The political scientist from Sarajevo Asim Mujkić (2008: 22) defines it as “some kind of a melting pot of various bits and pieces of political doctrines and principles: socialism, liberal democracy, fascism, romantic nationalism, religious nationalism, but also a melting pot of various cultural pieces: historical narratives, mythologies, literature, religion, tradition, or other events that are considered of vital importance to identity of one particular ethnic group.” In short, as an ethnopolis, based on a majoritarian principle. In the Balkans and the rest of Central Europe, ethno-politics made excellent use of the so-called refugee crisis and only grew stronger: appeals to protect national culture can be heard and read everywhere from Poland to Greece. The Bosnian-Canadian political scientist Jasmin Mujanović (2018: 2) problematizes the verified effective technique of the authorities in this region that he calls “elastic authoritarianism”: this is a “combination of oligarchy and criminality” or “the process of persistent ideological mutation contrasted with static political and economic patterns, through which local elites have deliberately stunted social transformation processes in the Balkans since the nineteenth century.” All leading transitional politicians have (or had) very long mandates or are (were) at the political top for more than a decade in both political regimes: the record-holder is Montenegrin Milo Djukanović, who has, in one way or the other, been in power for almost 30 years.5 Their transformative skill allowed them to make a series of salti mortali and change from hard-core communists into more pragmatic ones in the ’80s, turn nationalist in the ’90s and European in the 2000s. They all followed a very similar pattern. To be clear, this phenomenon is not limited only to the Balkans but is present in other parts of post-socialist Europe. As early as August 1989, the British historian and publicist Timothy Garton Ash wrote about “refolution,” which is “half reform-half revolution” or more than reform and less than revolution. American political scientists Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way (2002: 52) write about “competitive authoritarianism” as a special type of “hybrid regimes,” which they also find in this part of the world: even if “formal democratic institutions are widely viewed as the principal means of obtaining and exercising political authority,” it is the incumbents themselves who “violate those rules so often and to such an extent, however, that the regime fails to meet conventional minimum standards for democracy.” Formally democratic, they are actually not so: with a few words, I could define them as the sum of autocracy and democracy, or, to use Pareto’s concept, as “demagogic plutocracies.”6 American expert on Eastern Europe Katherine Verdery, who prefers term “transformation” over “transition”
Post-socialist graffitiscapes 61
Photo 0.4 We are hungry in all three languages, Sarajevo, 2015. Stencil. Source: Photo by MV.
very soon noticed that “exposure to the rigors of primitive capitalism has made a number of people in the region think twice about their rejection of socialism and their embrace of ‘the market’” (1996: 10). She strongly criticises two common variants of “the rescue scenario” of the West to the East: “shock therapy” (comparing “the former socialist bloc with a person suffering from mental illness – that is, socialism drove them crazy, and our job is to restore their sanity”) and “big bang” (implying that “history is only now beginning, that prior to 1989 the area
was without form and void”) (Ibid., 205). The researcher of post-socialist ideologic changes Vladimir Tismăneanu claims that in this part of Europe “democracy remains vulnerable and superficial, coexisting with strong populist, nationalist, and authoritarian trends” (1998: 47). Here, the “mythologies of salvation” are developing and their main function “is to unify the public discourse and provide the citizen with an easily recognizable source of identity as a part of a vaguely defined ethnic (or) political community” (ibid., 7).7 Some countries passed through periods of being, or still are some sort of dictocraties or démocratures: an almost unlimited and long-lasting rule of an extremely narrow criminally authoritarian oligarchy with its leader, which, at least on the outside, maintains a false image of political democracy, the rule of law, media freedom and the respect of human rights. The rule of strong men with virtually unlimited power – a déjà vu again, what these societies should long have left behind – came back as a boomerang, straight into the core of political activities! Recently, this region, too, as a part of the global trend of democratic regression, has been seeing the dominance of dangerous concepts and praxes of “illiberal democracy” and “popular sovereignty,” writes the French expert for Eastern European politics Jacques Rupnik (2016: 78, 80), which bring “a departure from the rule of law as a foundation of liberal democracy,” “a recourse to nationalism as the principle source of political legitimation, complete with hardened identity politics,” undermine “the freedom of the public media” and “seek a strong executive power.”8 Experts on this region, amongst them Srdja Pavlović and Florian Bieber, call such political praxes of the entire region “stabilitocracies,” the premise being that the turbulent period of the transition is over and that we can talk about the posttransition which is supposed to bring about a democratic consolidation and social stability. In actual fact, this term denotes “weak democracies with autocratically minded leaders, who govern through informal, patronage networks and claim to provide pro-Western stability in the region” (BiEPAG 2017: 7). Provided that the candidate states or even some member states maintain peace and stability, the European Union chooses not to interfere in their autocratic praxes. Even though these bring again a flagrant suppression of the freedom of speech (again), a securitisation with extreme measures, such as putting up the razor wire on the southern borders (Slovenia, Hungary), a persecution of non-governmental organisations, and a politicised economy. Quite the contrary: unlike the potentates in the dramatic ’90s, the new ones even get outside support, which is another argument in favor of their power. The much-trumpeted transformative (or normative) power of the EU ends with the chronically pragmatical hypocrisy of supporting fake stability. The international community counts on those who have the least interest to change anything and are causing problems, not solving them. And, again, already seen: with the exception that this time it is not a revolution that generates autocracy, but an order – be it as it may, as long as there is one. The Polish sociologist Jerzy Wiatr believes that all this time, the biggest danger for the fragile Eastern European democracies is either a “national populist movement led by a
Post-socialist graffitiscapes 63
Photo 0.5 Fuck Hungary – Romania, Sibiu, 2017. Sticker. Source: Photo by MV.
charismatic leader” (1991: 419–421) or the “clericalist, fundamentalist, nationalist, anti-liberal fanatics” (Tismăneanu 1998: 165). When doing talks and interviews for my research on ideological and cultural changes in post-socialism, I often heard that the transition only took the worst from both political systems, socialism and capitalism. People’s dissatisfaction with this fact shows in a variety of ways. On the one side, there is resignation, which finally ends up buying the populist saviours with their promises of instant solutions, and there is the lack of prospects, which leads into mass migrations towards the West. Common is also the nostalgia for the lost socialist paradise, a red nostalgia that manifests in different places (the Soviet nostalgia, the Yugonostalgia, the ostalgie in the former East Germany, etc.) in different forms (personal, political, pop-cultural, commercial, etc.). Thirdly, the dissatisfaction also shows in a persistent resistance against dominant ideologies and concrete politics in the form of social uprisings, strikes, factory occupations, spontaneous organizings, alternative initiatives, and libertarian movements. The persistent Greek rebellions against the dictates of European banks and Brussels bureaucrats ever since the beginning of the debt-crisis at the end of the 2000s, the Bosnian-Herzegovinian unrests in 2014, the dethroning of Milošević in 2000, Slovenian uprisings in 2012
and 2013, student protests in Croatia in 2009, the ever-present bottom-up antinationalism (Jansen 2005; Bartulović 2013), the mushrooming of various civil society initiatives and “free spaces” that traverse the limitations set by nationalist and neo-liberal politics – they all speak of the desires of a nameless majority and their concrete endeavors to make society better.9 The content of the post-socialist Pandora’s box also exploded on the walls in the form of political graffiti and street art. These are active co-creators and the accompaniment of deep structural changes in all areas, acting as a political litmus test or a political barometer. They are differentiated along all political, economic, national, and cultural watersheds and controversies of post-socialism, opposing or advocating for, attacking or defending the existing state of affairs. This second part of the book – encompassing eight chapters, or eight case studies in total – will empirically verify and upgrade the terminological definitions, theoretical backgrounds and methodological tools presented in the first part. I will base this on the collected materials, i.e., decide on the most useful theory and methodology in the course of the analysis. I will be interested in what graffitology has to say about the transitional period. In what ways do political graffiti and street art capture its Zeitgeist, like for example sticker on the photo 0.5? How does graffitiing here work as “political advertising,” what are its specificities in comparison to other parts of the world? Which visual ideologies can we see in political graffiti and street art covering the façades of Balkan and Central European towns? Do they express critique, resistance? Apathy, fatalism and passivity, or do they even fall for dominant ideologies, sometimes deepening them? Are the Balkan and Central European political graffiti nowadays more against or for the system? The case studies base on the years of often interrupted – due to other academic responsibilities – yet nevertheless persistent and planned individual fieldwork, quite literally in my free time, with minimal resources. I divided the concrete research into three main phases: the theoretical and methodological preparation and initial observations; the systematic and structured exploration with substantive and formal categorisation; and finally, the multiangular analysis and interpretation of the results. The majority of the photographs were taken in the past 20 years in the Balkans and Central Europe – i.e., “my” space and time, the space and time I have been living and reflecting. In my research, I have been aided by my knowledge of local languages, cultural specificities and history, as well as the social networks I have knitted in this region, while a good basis was also formed by my earlier culturological studies of the specificities of the post-socialist transition here (Velikonja 2003a, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2017). At the same time, I am comparing this graffiti production with the one I have been following elsewhere in the world: I try to place it in the global currents of political graffitiing. Well then, shall we see what the post-socialist political graffitiscape looks like?
Notes 1 Zid, 1987. 2 Here, I refer to the previously-mentioned Bourdieu’s understanding of four capitals: the economic, social, symbolic and cultural one.
Post-socialist graffitiscapes 65 3 Concisely summed up by a 2013 Ljubljana graffiti: The history of capital is crime. 4 “Everything old is new again,” is how Tismăneanu (1998: 26) sums up such processes. 5 Something similar has also been happening in another former socialist federation: in Belarus with Alexander Lukashenko, in Russia with Vladimir Putin, and in several other former Soviet republics of Central Asia. 6 A concept Pareto used to explain the Italian rule of the rich behind a democratic façade in the early 20s. 7 Their main types being “salvationist mythologies and authoritarian expectations,” “messianic and demonizing mythologies (the nationalist temptation),” “mythologies of vengeance (myth of political justice),” and “redemptive, reactionary and restorative mythologies” (ibid., 15–18). 8 For a succinct analysis of, for example, contemporary Hungary as a “mafia state,” see Magyar and Vásárhelyi (2017). 9 If we remember the dramatically prophetic words by Brecht (2016: 85): “introducing democracy can lead to dictatorship; introducing dictatorship can lead to democracy.”
Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia Graffiti and street art about Yugoslavia in the post-Yugoslav urbanscape
Graffiti with the image of Yugoslavia as a sinking ship Ljubljana, 1989–2019
For the last 30 years, one of the underpasses in the centre of Ljubljana has harboured graffiti of a sinking ship named Yugoslavia. It has eventually become surrounded by many new graffiti and tags, but in essence, it has managed to remain unchanged. I see it as a symptom of Slovenians’ ambiguous, even polyvalent attitude to their Yugoslav and socialist past, oscillating between Yugophobia in dominant discourses and praxes and Yugophilia in – at first – alternative circles and now increasingly also in the popular-cultural and commercial ones. This bit of contemporary urban culture shall serve as the portal to this chapter. For Sontag (2005: 11), “all photographs are memento mori.” Barthes notices in every photograph a “rather terrible thing”: “the return of the dead” (1982: 9). What interests me is the exact opposite: the motif of “the return of life” that they bear, the existence of “Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia.” I am interested in what the image of Yugoslavia is on a relatively messy and under-researched terrain – in the contemporary graffiti and street art subculture. I ask myself what its attitude was towards the former country, its socialism, its antifascist struggle, its leaders, and its ideology, both in positive, affirmative, and negative or hateful terms. So, my research questions investigate how contemporary graffiti and street artists (de) construct the Yugoslav period and its socialist socio-economic order; what proYugoslav, as well as anti-Yugoslav graffiti and street art are; which antagonisms they reflect and create at the same time. How do graffiti repaint – or blacken – the Yugoslav past? What do the walls of post-Yugoslav homelands have to say about the former Yugoslav homeland? In Foucauldian terms, which political subjectivities are born in the process? In this sense, my analysis complements those dealing with the construction and representation of Yugoslav times in advertising, in popular culture, in design, art, and, last but not least, in political discourses. This particular chapter is part of my broader research interest in the culture of post-Yugoslav collective memory and Yugonostalgia, post-socialist ideologies, and urban subcultures, lying quite literally at their intersection. I have been
collecting materials for it ever since the late 1990s, particularly in the north of the former federation (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia). Over this period of time, I have found over 270 samples of graffiti and street art of this sort; I took most of the photos myself and found a small fraction of the analysed material in other sources (books, newspaper articles and catalogues). I analysed them from “the site of the graffiti” using social semiology as the main method, divided into two levels of analysis: the first is the “plane of denotation,” description, and “plane of connotation” of these images, their “higher” or ideological meaning.
Field of analysis, classification, and specificities of the research I have been taking photos of graffiti and street art describing Yugoslavia, its socialism, its leaders, antifascism, etc., of the 1941–1991 period, as I did the antiYugoslav, antisocialist, anti-partisan ones. Some of them are more individual, less contested and antagonized (groups 1 and 2: pro- and anti-Yugoslav graffiti), while others are completely antagonized, mutually conflicting (group 3: graffiti battles). So the questions that interest me in the second, the connotative level of analysis, are which “fundamental oppositions” (Eco 1998: 148, 168, 169) were formed; what writing graffiti, such as OF,1 Tito lives, Long live 29 November,2 or spraying red stars; etc., as well as what graffiti with the very opposite contents Tito criminal, NDH,3 or Death to communists mean today. But before going into the analysis itself, a few words about the specific approaches to this topic. Some graffiti are not necessarily related only to the Yugoslav, socialist, and partisan experience: the red star does not only symbolise Yugoslavism, socialism, and partisans – that is, the 1941–1991 period, as fascist symbolism and imagery – global (the swastika, Nazi salutations, other Nazi symbols, such as 18, 88, Totenkopf ) or local (Ustasha, Chetnik, and Domobranec signifiers) – does not symbolise just anti-Yugoslavism either. Both are also more general symbols of contemporary leftist or rightist subpolitics. The graffiti I am analysing here actually refer directly to the partisan and Yugoslav period, but there are some that do not and are rather “timeless” symbols of either socialism/ communism or Nazi-fascism. The same may be said about their condemnations: graffiti, such as Fuck the nazis, may refer to former, as well as contemporary Nazis, just like Socialism is a disease or Death to communism may refer to former socialism or to its contemporary “remains” (which, according to right-wing conspiracy theories, still function today). I am only analysing those that were, in one way or another, connoted – i.e., “translated” into the (counter-)memory of the Yugoslav socialist and anti-fascist experience. It should be noted that what is not destroyed is just as relevant to such analyses as that which is destroyed immediately. Although such urban visual production is destructible by definition, it is still possible to find post-war graffiti in traditionally antifascist regions (the Slovenian Littoral, Istria, Quarnero region), exemplifying this in a rather clichéd manner are graffiti such as Trieste, Gorizia, Rijeka, Istria (i.e., places that, in their view, should all belong to Yugoslavia; Prestranek, 2015), dedicated to the partisan army (Vela Luka, 2008), as well as
Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia 69 Long live marshal Tito, We want Yugoslavia, and Here is Yugoslavia (villages in Goriška Brda, 2013). Albeit faded, these scars are still legible and understandable. Amongst these, I would also count huge “stone graffiti” visible from tens of kilometres away – several tens of metres of tall writings made out of rocks, erected in Tito and Yugoslavia’s honour in the first decades after the end of the war and still standing today (I found several examples in the Slovenian Littoral, in Istria, and in central Bosnia). Two graffiti, honouring Stalin, have also survived all of these decades, even the harsh conflict with the Informbiro in 1948: the one in Ljubljana that I am mentioning as the inspiration for a book and the other in Koper. Another testimony to the fact that graffiti are always visible to all but only seen by few. Last but not least, I am only analysing individual graffiti and street art products: if the same graffiti, stencil, poster, or sticker appears several times, I count it as one unit. This somehow distorts, or minimalises our impression about their presence in the urban landscape – for instance, stencils of Tito’s portrait, accompanied the words Republic Day, referring, of course, to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), could be seen all over the centre of Ljubljana in the late 1990s, but I only noted their two variants (red and black). I treated the most common phrases or signs (“the standard offer”: SF-SN,4 Tito, the red star, OF sign, hammer and sickle, etc.), where there are many variations of the same theme, often in various techniques (graffiti, stencils, stickers). This is another reason why the topic necessarily needed to be approached qualitatively, and not just quantitatively, measuring the frequency of appearance.
Denotation and connotation of pro- and anti-Yugoslav graffiti and street art I then classified the material, 275 photographs of graffiti and street art, into three large groups of signs according to theme (then proceeding to dissect the first two groups into three smaller groups). The ideologies of pro- and anti-Yugoslavism are articulated quite precisely in these groups. The first, comprising 209 images, is a group of pro-Yugoslav graffiti, divided into those featuring the theme of partisans and the National-liberation struggle (NLS,5 group 1.1.), SFRY (group 1.2.), and Tito (1.3.). The second large group is the very opposite of the first. It consists of anti-Yugoslav graffiti and is divided into three analogously archetypal topics: NLS rejection (2.1.), SFRY rejection (2.2.), and rejection of Tito and celebration of other leaders (2.3.) – altogether 43 images. The third large group comprises samples of “iconoclasms,” graffiti struggles. I photographed 23 such cases; here it is practically impossible and above all senseless to distinguish between layers of mutually antagonistic graffiti and textual and pictorial amendments (see Table 4.1). I chose the analytical pair of denotation-connotation in Barthes’s sense of the word and combined it with another quantitative method. Content analysis is used to record the frequency of appearance of a certain motive or image. In my analysis, I linked the two: firstly, I counted the repetitions of certain groups of motifs, and then I sought out their denotative (descriptive) and connotative (meaningful)
Table 4.1 Pro-Yugoslav, anti-Yugoslav graffiti, and graffiti wars 1. PRO-YUGOSLAV 1.1. NLS 1.2. SFRY 1.3. Tito 2. ANTI-YUGOSLAV 2.1. Rejection of NLS 2.2. Rejection of SFRY 2.3. Glorification of other leaders, rejection of Tito 3. GRAFFITI WARS Total
Total 209 51 75 83 Total 43 16 15 12 Total 23 275
dimensions. In other words, classification and denotation have to be upgraded with connotation, or looking for more general codes, or ideological chains/maps of meaning. The contents of particular graffiti and street art are a lot more telling than bare numbers: it is absolutely necessary to complement the quantitative approach with a qualitative analysis of content. I gathered almost five times as many pro-Yugoslav graffiti as anti-Yugoslav ones, therefore, I will discuss the former more than the latter. To continue with connotation, a Barthesian question could be posed: which ideologies or ideological formations are these graffiti fragments of? While the first level of analysis mainly establishes similarities between meanings, and the ways they assemble into groups, the second points to differences between them. I am moving towards the construction of meaning through antagonisms between the images which represent group/class antagonisms in these societies. Each system of signs is constitutively connoted not only through its relation but mostly through its opposition, the contrary from the other side. Contents of ideological “thesis” and “antithesis” are generated through mutual opposition. One step at a time: most graffiti refer to the ideological antagonism of socialist federalism versus nationalism. They picture the name of the state Yugoslavia!!!! (Rijeka, 2015) or its abbreviation SFRJ (Ljubljana, 2014), its organisations SKOJ 6 (Belgrade, 2012), JNA7 (Banja Luka, 2009), ZKJ 8 (Maribor, 2011), the hammer and sickle symbols (Banja Luka, 2012), the herald of Yugoslavia (Maribor, 2015), or holidays like Long live 29 November – Republic Day (Ljubljana, 1999 in 2010), and 27 April9 (Maribor, 2014). Nationalist, that is anti-Yugoslav discourse, is focused on rejecting organisations from those times – for example, Yugoslav people’s army – criminals (Zalošče, 1996), highlighting national states and celebrating puppet states from World War Two Let 10 April not be forgotten10 (Omiš, 2005). One side’s graffiti are typically crossed out, drawn over, rewritten – for instance, one of them features an Ustasha sign which is crossed out and accompanied by the words Goli otok11 and a five-angled star (Ljubljana, 2010). The second ideological opposition refers to the cult of personality: Tito versus oppositional political figures. One may find stencils featuring Tito (Prizren, 2008, see Photo 4.1; few others in Ljubljana, late 1990s), street art installations, for example
Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia 71
Photo 4.1 Prizren, 2008. Stencil Source: Photo by MV.
an old sculpture of Tito painted gold with a blue heart painted on his chest (Maribor, 2015), many variations of graffiti with his name (present practically everywhere around the former Yugoslavia), roads named after him by writers, such as Tito Way (Ptuj, 2014, above Solkan, 2013), and old slogans and oaths dedicated to him, for example We are Tito’s (on the Sarajevo-Doboj road, 2014) or Tito is ours (Zagorje, 2014). Naturally, his adversaries refer to his former enemies: a Slovene quisling commander, a Chetnik commander and head of the Ustasha regime – Vuk
Rupnik, get up! (Ljubljana, 2014); Momčilo Đujić (Banja Luka, 2015); and Ante Pavelić (Ljubljana, 2012). Serious mural battles take place here too: in Ljubljana (2015), comments such as Long live and red stars were drawn to amend the original Josip Broz – vaginal vomit. A third binary ideological axis is antifascism vs. fascism. Here are a few examples: partisan salutations Death to fascism (various versions on many locations around former Yugoslavia); organisation acronyms like OF with an image of Mt. Triglav (in various places in Slovenia); celebrations of the partisan struggle and condemnations of collaboration, for example visual intervention Banja Luka was liberated by antifascists and not by Chetniks (Banja Luka, 2012); a quisling Ljubljana bishop Grigorij Rožman with an added swastika (Maribor, 2015), names and images of fighters like Ivo Lolo12 (Zagreb, 2015); and condemnations of ideological adversaries Fascists in the abysses (on the road towards Ilirska Bistrica, 2015). Supporters of fascist ideology retort with Chetnik and Ustasha salutations, slogans, and signs, like With faith in God (Banja Luka, 2015), For home(land) – Ready! (in various places in Croatia) with the U letter with a Catholic cross (on various locations in Croatia), self-identification Avengers of Bleiburg13 (on the highway between Ilirska Bistrica and Ljubljana, 2014), and their scenes, for example Jasenovac ’43,14 along with an SS sign (Sarajevo, 2015) and symbols of notorious military units (see Photo 4.2). Graffiti battles emerge here, too – for example, acronyms OF, NOB, and the red star are joined by Death to leftist terror! and the sign of the Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia15 (Ljubljana, 2011), a radical nationalist group.
Ideological strategies of these graffiti and street art The first ideological strategy of pro- and anti-Yugoslav graffiti and street art is provocation and critique: if aesthetic graffiti are an attack on the established “high” culture, if they are, therefore, counter-art, political graffiti are an attack on the dominant institutions, ruling classes, and hegemonic ideologies. This is why pro-Yugoslav writers obsessively resort to the symbols of Yugoslav symbolism and partisan jargon, where and when it hurts the dominant discourses and institutions the most. The following cases testify to the significance of location and time. First, in the late 1990s, an array of the most significant signifiers of the former state covered one of the governmental buildings in Ljubljana (KPJ, Tito, SFRJ, OF, Partija); revisionism-critical poet Svetlana Makarovič hung a remarkably large red star out on her balcony at the old people’s home, overlooking one of Ljubljana’s main roads (2015). Similar affairs have been taking place in the post-Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina, where road signs of various entities are the ones most often targeted by Yugonostalgic graffiti or in Croatia, where anti-fascist activists had written Hassanbegović Ustasha (2016)16 onto the façade of the Croatian History Museum on the occasion of his visit. That is a typical discursive twist, with spatial or temporal context decisively entering into the realm of text, which appears in political graffiti and street art as a rule. And, second, the same goes for “inappropriate time”: pro-Yugoslav graffiti and street art that appear just before
Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia 73
Photo 4.2 Croatia 396 (refers to 369th /Croatian/ Infantry Division of Wehrmacht), Zagreb, 2016. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
ex-Yugoslav holidays (e.g., Republic Day on November 29) or celebrate “leftist” holidays (Women’s Day or Resistance Day) are particularly targeted by the media and state organs of repression. The second strategy is affirmation and continuity of the former identity, even in new times – that is, a rejection of historical revisionism and purposeful forgetting of the Yugoslav, socialist period. Graffiti highlighting this theme emphasise
that 1991 was not year zero. The one on a Maribor high school says that students might have been Born in SFRJ but have Grown in SERŠ17 (2011); a stencil appearing on various locations in Ljubljana in the late 1990s, on the other hand, alludes to Springsteen’s chorus, Born in the USA, repeating Born in SFRJ four times. A third example comes from the scene of the battle of Drvar (2009): there, a certain Džana from Sarajevo, now doubtlessly an adult, identified herself as Tito’s pioneer. Pro- and anti-Yugoslav graffiti are also a spatial remark: the third strategy is marking the terrain. They state that the supporters of Yugoslavia, socialism, partisans, and Tito are “still here.” This is expressed by the herald of SFRJ (Maribor, 2015), simple Tito graffiti, to be found practically everywhere all around the former Yugoslavia, or calls for the reunification of Yugoslavia, as the one in Photo 4.3. The fourth strategy is the incessant antagonising of contemporaneity, a counterstrike against dominant discourses and symbolic dominance over them. For instance, a poster from Maribor (2014) highlights the anxiety of living in transitional times, shared by many young people: Born in Yugoslavia – Educated in Slovenia – Unemployed in Europe. Since such calls are usually neglected in dominant media, graffiti and street art seem appropriate means to raise the issue in public. Graffiti from Labin (2007), on the other hand, calls for the resurrection of Yugoslavia: Let’s create it again 1945–1990. The last ideological strategy used by
Photo 4.3 For Yugoslavia with Sarajevo as a capital, Podgorica, 2016. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia 75 graffiti and street art counterculture might be deemed as semiological guerrilla. Graffiti from Ljubljana from the late 1990s, therefore, symbolically restores Tito into the original pioneer salutation, ironically transformed by Slovenian punks of the late 1970s into For the homeland, with punk, forward! – Tito reappears, replacing punk. In Croatia, the original pro-Ustasha graffiti – a capital U – is transformed into I did not go to school18 (2016), meaning I’m stupid, so I support them. The supporters of Slovenian rightist politician Janez Janša have for years been changing the partisan OF and Mt. Triglav sign into JJ (his initials) and Mt. Triglav; his critics never fail to restore it back to the “original” OF variant, and his supporters go on to redraw the JJ, and so on.
Too little and too much of Yugoslavia The conclusion brings me back to the introductory question: what kind of socialist Yugoslavia, in all of the contradictions of its “realised utopia,” so brilliantly evoked by critical thinker Darko Suvin (2014) have graffiti writers and street artists managed to spray onto the walls of post-Yugoslav cities? Which of its aspects are celebrated, and which are condemned? Which ideologies are at work in the radically opposing graffiti about it all? There appear to be two answers to these questions: a historical and a contemporary one. Firstly, some of the graffiti refer exclusively to the past. An analysis of their ideological formation demonstrates that our evaluation of that period of our histories is still completely polarised and antagonistic. As noted by Eco in his analysis of popular novels claiming that “schematization, Manichean bipartition is always dogmatic, intolerant” (1998: 170), there is no dialogue and no productive approach to conflict resolution here, either; no resolution, no reconciliation, no alternative – just the insurmountable opposition of pro-contra, pro- and anti-Yugoslav. There is no “synthesis” between the Yugoslav “thesis” and antiYugoslav “antithesis”: walls are still literally covered by “red” and “black” truths (literally: red-coloured graffiti against black-coloured ones). The game of political ping-pong continues. As my analysis shows, such ideological pairs reflect, map, and, at the same time, create the fundamental, unsolvable, and obstructive political opposition of the transition, which is the one between the former dominant ideologies and praxes (Yugoslav multiculturalism in the form of brotherhood and unity in the socio-cultural domain and socialism in the political and economic one) and the new ones that have come to replace them (ethno-nationalism in the socio-cultural domain and neoliberalism in the political and economic one). AntiYugoslav, antisocialist, and nationalist graffiti are in actuality just a street appropriation of dominant political discourses, contemporary hegemony the “street way.” Graffiti can hence also be what Haraway calls “power communication” (1999: 391). But “where there is power, there is also resistance,” one could reply with Foucault (1978: 95). If there is no other way, resistance is manifested in the form of pro-Yugoslav and pro-leftist graffiti on the walls of the urban landscape: they “can be a means to inspire people, to energize them, to raise spirits and generate morale” (Chaffee 1993: 20). As happens with other counter-hegemonic voices
(anti-capitalist, anti-chauvinist, anti-racist, anti-sexist etc.), the sole fact that there are many more pro-Yugoslav graffiti on the walls than the anti-Yugoslav ones points to the fact that the pro-Yugoslav side is otherwise marginalized, plagued with a communication deficit in the mainstream cultural domains of expression. Having an undisputed class character, for the pro-Yugoslav side, graffiti are one of the rare media of expression – a true “weapon of the weak,” to refer again to Scott’s efficient term (1985). Graffiti thematising the divided past actually speak about current political and socio-economic confrontations. I find this second conclusion a lot more significant and far-reaching, as it concerns current affairs. Although the referential framework of such urban calligraphy appears to be the past – that is, describing and reflecting Yugoslav exceptionalism19 – it also reveals an explicit critique of the existent, current, contemporary, post-Yugoslav ethno-nationalist, and neo-liberal here-and-now. It is an actualisation of (former) multiculturalism, (former) socially more just society, in order to criticise (current) ethno-nationalism and (current) social malpractices born out of the new economic and political system that has taken over since the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Just like every other medium, graffiti (re)produce social relations of power at the same time as attacking them: this domain is subject to constant (counter)hegemonic struggle too. In other words, contemporary political struggles are translated into times and categories of the struggle for liberation and Yugoslav socialism. Such graffiti criticise the disappointment over the outcomes of the transition (After Tito, we are screwed – Zagreb, 2015), retreat into nostalgic reveries (While there was Tito, there was also dope! – Split, 2011; Ljubljana, 2015), sarcastically attack historical revisionism (In permanent Memory of Janez Janša with images of mutilated victims of Nazism – Ljubljana, 2009), glorify historical leaders at the expense of later ones (Tito lives, but Tuđman doesn’t – Rijeka, 2015), prefer the former supranational formation to the current one (Better YU than EU! with a hammer and sickle – Zagreb, 2012), identify fascist elements in current rightist movements (SKOJ, hammer and sickle above graffiti of extreme right-wing group National Alignment20 – Banja Luka, 2012; under the Slovenia graffiti, Antifa area since 1941 was added – Ljubljana, 2016), flog current politicians’ opportunism (Comrade Rumsfeld, we swear to you21 – Ljubljana, 2003), transcribe current political divisions into former ones (a sticker with right-wing Slovenian political party SDS’s politicians, with There has been enough!!! of Domobranec rule22 written on it – Ljubljana, 2013), and, ironically, equate the former and current supranational formations, Yugoslavia, and the EU (E/Y/U – Zagreb, 2015). Similar strategies may be noted on the anti-Yugoslav side, which also uses the past as a framework for criticising the present: current events are read through categories from the former Yugoslavia (SDP = Yugoslavia23 – Rijeka, 2015). To conclude, pro-Yugoslav and anti-Yugoslav political graffiti and street art are a “litmus test” for pertinent contemporary social events and class divisions, as well as evaluations of the past. Throughout the transition, anonymous opinions on these matters appear on the walls. According to pro-Yugoslav graffiti writers,
Yugoslavia after Yugoslavia 77 appreciative of Yugoslavia’s socialism, its leaders, antifascism and so on, there is not enough of such examples today, too little Yugoslavia, so they symbolically “even out” the public space, literally putting things back “in their place.” In circumstances of – to paraphrase Jameson – “ethno-nationalism as the political logic of neo-liberal capitalism,” they use political symbolism of past times to attack the present-day social injustices, the growing class inequalities in neoliberal times, economic exploitation, political extremisms, and cultural exclusivism of the successor states. The Yugonostalgic dreamscape here visually performs as a harsh political critique. According to their adversaries, on the other hand, there is still too much Yugoslavia and everything reminiscent of it today – this is why they reject and demonise its continuity (a generally common mantra of the post-Yugoslav right) at every turn. Judging by the recent escalations of economic, political, and general social problems in post-socialist post-Yugoslavia, and by the ever-greater polarisation along the lines of the aforementioned antagonisms (socialism vs. neoliberalism, multiculturalism vs. ethno-nationalism, inclusivity vs. exclusivity, tolerance vs. intolerance), I expect an intensification of such street interventions as well.
Notes 1 Abbreviation for Liberation Front (Osvobodilna fronta), Slovenian anti-fascist organization 1941–1945. 2 The official birthday of the socialist Yugoslavia (November 29, 1943), celebrated as a national holiday in Yugoslav times and now in Yugonostalgic circles. 3 Abbreviation for the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna država Hrvatska), a Nazi puppet regime in Croatia 1941–1945. 4 Abbreviation for Death to fascism, freedom to the people! (Smrt fašizmu, svoboda narodu!), an official Partisan salute. 5 NOB stands for Narodnoosvobodilni boj (in Slovenian) or Narodno-oslobodilačka borba (in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian), an official Yugoslav term for the Partisan struggle 1941–1945. 6 League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (Savez komunističke omladine Jugoslavije), 1919–1948. 7 Yugoslav People’s Army (Jugoslovenska narodna armija). 8 League of Communists of Yugoslavia (Zveza komunistov Jugoslavije in Slovenian, Savez komunista Jugoslavije – SKJ – in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian). 9 Liberation Front Day in Slovenia (it was created on April 26, 1941, but mistakenly assumed it was on the day after, April 27). 10 Referring to the day of the establishment of the Ustasha state (NDH) on April 10, 1941. 11 Notorious Yugoslav political prison from 1949 on. 12 Ivo Lola Ribar, a young Partisan commander, killed in 1943. 13 A mythical place for the advocates of the Ustasha regime. 14 Ustasha death camp 1941–1945. 15 Avtonomni nacionalisti Slovenije, ANSi. 16 Zlatko Hasanbegović is a contemporary pro-Ustasha Croatian politician and for some time minister of culture. His surname is deliberately misspelled, with ‘ss’ being an overt reference to Nazism. 17 Acronym for that high school. 18 Nisam išao U školu.
19 See, for example, Zimmermann’s study on the second Yugoslavia as a “new continent” (2010). 20 Nacionalni stroj. 21 Which repurposes an original oath to Tito Comrade Tito, we swear to you. 22 Home Guards (Domobranci) were Slovenian quislings 1943–1945. 23 SDP is a party of Croatian Social Democrats, Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske.
Contested heroes – Gavrilo Princip and Rudolf Maister as subcultural icons
Jesus was a rebel too! Graffiti, Ljubljana, 2014
Who or what are Lenin, Beethoven, Che Guevara, Franz Ferdinand, and Gomulka, Obilić, besides real historical personalities? A brand of vodka, the St. Bernard from the eponymous Hollywood family comedy blockbuster, cigarettes, a Scottish indierock band, a Polish multiple-unit train, a Belgrade football club. Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello – Italian painters or Ninja Turtles? Hemingway – an American novelist or a chain of bars all over the world? Tito – Yugoslav socialist leader or an herbal liqueur? Jesus – an ancient rebel or a Superstar from the eponymous 1970 rock opera? The right answer is – both and much, much more. As basically a cultural studies scholar, I find their real historical existence, role, and fate equally as important as their present-day cultural interpretations and appropriations. Both positions are a legitimate topic of analysis and they deserve a proper theoretical and empirical engagement. The centenary of dramatic events from the time of the First World War is marked not only in official discourses, such as national historiography, popular science, media reports, state celebrations, popular culture, and monuments, but also in the marginal ones. Typical are examples of Gavrilo Princip (1894–1918), a member of Young Bosnia, assassin of the Archduke and heir presumptive to the Habsburg throne Franz Ferdinand and General Rudolf Maister Vojanov (1874–1934), the commander of South Slav forces in Lower Styria and Carinthia in the confusing years 1918 and 1919 and a poet. Both were nominally Austrian citizens, but fighting against Austria or what had remained of the once mighty empire. As happens with all historical personalities, their historic role is controversial and contested. For Slovenians, Maister is considered a fighter for the northern border, while for Austrians he is the Butcher of Marburg because of his harsh measures against the German-speaking inhabitants of Maribor. Princip’s role goes much beyond this simple binarity: it is much more complicated. To frame the discussion, here is a symptomatic comparison of his descriptions in Wikipedia articles in six different languages in the year 2018. In English, “he was a Yugoslav who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand”; in Bosnian, “a
Serbian nationalist and member of the Young Bosnia organization”; in Croatian, “an assassin of Franz Ferdinand and member of the Yugoslav organization Young Bosnia”; in Serbian, “a member of a secret group inside the wider Young Bosnia movement who assassinated the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand”; in Serbo-Croatian, “a Yugoslav nationalist and revolutionary who assassinated the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand”; and in German, “a Bosnian Serb nationalist assassin who perpetrated the assassination of the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.” The ambition of this chapter is to compare and analyse visual representations of Gavrilo Princip and Rudolf Maister, contemporaries from the fateful pre/post First World War period, and meanings of their images in contemporary cityscapes in the post-Yugoslav region. I am mostly interested in how they appear in graffiti and street art. I research their street usurpations by very diverse contemporary subcultural and subpolitical groups, as well as their ways to visually structure the contemporary political situation and express their political agenda. I have noticed that the number and variety of graffiti and street-art pieces about the two have increased rapidly over the last two decades – i.e., long before the centenary of the war. In other words, more than in their historical role, I am interested in how they are visualised in public spaces in ex-Yugoslav republics – i.e., how they look now instead of then. Their images are – in the words of methodologist Paula Saukko (2003: 100) – “a site of contestation over meaning, where different groups compete to set forth their understandings of the state of the affairs in the world.” All together I analysed 43 examples of graffiti and street art pieces of different formats (graffiti, stencils, stickers, murals etc.) dedicated to Princip and Maister, most of which I photographed myself in different places in Slovenia, Serbia, and in both entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Republika Srpska and Bosniak-Croat Federation). I compared them with a similar number of other visuals of them in popular culture and consumer imagery, in art, and in official state praxes and manifestations.
The image of Rudolf Maister in (un)official visual discourses After the rapid dethroning of partisan and communist heroes beginning in 1991, General Rudolf Maister rose to the top of the Slovenian national pantheon as a true national hero. Being a part of the official memory culture, there are 11 monuments, busts, and plaques dedicated to him: in Maribor,1 Kamnik, Kranj, Ljutomer, Unec, Polenšak, Ptuj, Cerkvenjak, Zavrh, and two in Ljubljana. Most of them were erected recently, after 1991. Several streets, squares (Ljubljana, Maribor, Celje, Kranj), a park (Ljutomer), two schools (Kamnik, Šentilj), and military barracks (Maribor) are named after him. Since 1997, the patriotic Union of General Maister Associations with its 24 branches has been engaged in a variety of activities, including publishing a journal called the Voice of Maister. Since 2005, November 23 has become a national holiday, officially called Rudolf
Contested heroes 81 Maister Day, with celebrations all over the country.2 He appears on memorial coins, on a stamp (1999) and on medals (gold, silver, and bronze) of the Slovenian Armed Forces. There are a few YouTube clips dedicated to Maister; a marching song (Rudolf Maister March); a contemporary dance video (2013); a documentary film Image of a Soldier: Rudolf Maister, General and Poet (2013); a series of artistic workshops bearing his name (since 1995, organised by the Slovenian Armed Forces); and an exhibition about him in the Slovenian Ministry of Defence (2010). It, therefore, comes as no surprise that he is amongst the most important Slovenian personalities: according to a Slovenian public opinion survey in 2003, he came fifth (Toš et al. 2004: 468, 469),3 and in 2012, he came sixth (Toš et al. 2016: 239).4 When it comes to consumer culture, his image appears only twice: a new brewery and a brand of beer are named after him, Maister,5 the second one are T-shirts. But the image of Maister really took root on the other edge of contemporary Slovenian society: in the do-it-yourself culture of football fans and extreme-right political groups. First, he is one of the most recognisable icons of the Viole fan group of FC Maribor, in the recent years the most successful Slovenian football club that completely monopolised him. General Maister’s greatest military achievement was taking Maribor in November 1918 and saving Lower Styria over the next few months: so it is logical that he is more popular in North-Eastern Slovenia than elsewhere. His portrait appears on football-fan stickers, banners, patches, T-shirts, mouse pads; they loudly celebrate November 23; his image can also be found on their website and in their chants.6 One of their catchphrases is Let’s meet at Maister’s monument! before going together to the match. And, secondly, Maister also appears in the visual imagery of three Slovenian radical rightwing groups: Here is Slovenia, Hervards, and the aforementioned Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia7 in the form of screensavers or banners. The new Maister monument in front of Ljubljana’s bus and railway station is their meeting point before they go to different protests. His role and image was used by nationalist groups, nota bene, Maister’s Army8 and Hervards in the uprisings in Maribor of late 2012 and early 2013.9 The Slovenian researcher of subpolitical groups Monika Kropej (2016) identified four main features of his image among football fans and young nationalists: being patriotic, heroic, a liberator of Styria, but also a man of culture. Maister’s image appears only in the form of stencils and stickers but not as graffiti, murals, or posters.10 In most of them, he is a presented in a “neutral” way, only with his portrait in military uniform and, eventually, his signature, while in some his image is accompanied by right-wing symbols and slogans (images of the Carantanian panther, see Photo 5.1, or HomeGuards Eagle and xenophobic messages like Čefurji Raus11 or a sad classic Slovenia for Slovenians).
The image of Gavrilo Princip in (un)official visual discourses The visual appropriation of Gavrilo Princip is very similar: he was and still is almost, but not entirely, monopolised by Serbian mainstream national ideologies
Photo 5.1 Celje, 2014. Stencils Source: Photo by MV.
and institutions, both during the interwar period and after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. He figures as an indisputable Serbian hero in contemporary Serbian historical textbooks (Stojanović 2010: 114, 150). His image appears on the cover of the contested book History of the Serbian Republic, which praises the Serbian entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina.12 Although a self-declared Yugoslav nationalist, today, almost all of his visual manifestations can only be found in Serbia and Republika Srpska.
Contested heroes 83 Let us start on the level of official politics. A monument to him was erected in June 2014 in Istočno Novo Sarajevo, which is a part of Republika Srpska, and another one in June 2015 in Belgrade. Before that, in April 2014, a bust of Princip was erected in Tovariševo in Vojvodina, unveiled by fierce nationalists Emir/Nemanja Kusturica and Matija Bečković. Princip, together with other protagonists of Young Bosnia, also appears in the large public mosaic in Kusturica’s grotesque project Andrićgrad in Višegrad, Republika Srpska.13 He was finally interred in a tomb together with other, as the inscription on the grave goes, Vidovdan Heroes from Young Bosnia in the Sarajevo district of Koševo, in the old St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox cemetery.14 One of the military decorations in Milošević’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was called the Gavrilo Princip Gold Medal for Bravery. An elementary school in Zemun bears his name. According to my evidence, there are 15 Gavrilo Princip Streets in Serbia (Belgrade, Kragujevac, Novi Sad, Čačak, Niš, Šabac, Kruševac, Kraljevo, Loznica, Novi Pazar, Sremska Kamenica, Subotica, Vršac, Bačka Palanka, and Leskovac), five in Republika Srpska (Banja Luka, Pale, Šipovo, Bijeljina, and Vlasenica), plus a park dedicated to him (Istočno Novo Sarajevo), a street in Podgorica, one in Sarajevo and nowhere else. The original plaque and Princip’s footsteps in Sarajevo were deliberately removed twice: in April 1941 (the plaque was immediately sent to Hitler as a birthday gift from the new Ustasha authorities!) and during the last siege. The new one – in very technical language – states that From this place on June 28, 1914 Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia. The nearby bridge over the Miljacka River also changed its name from Princip’s Bridge to the Latin Bridge in 1992. Princip’s image is much more present in consumer culture: he appears on T-shirts15 on street stands, in shops (mostly bookstores), and in Internet shops. There is also other paraphernalia with his image on: magnets, underwear, etc. (see some examples in Novaković and Peters 2015). Many more or less funny memes related to him can be found on the Internet.16 He inspired different artists, like the Bosnian illustrator Berin Tuzlić,17 the Serbian digital graphics artist (“e-mail art”) and writer Zoran Spasojević, the Danish illustrator Henrik Rehr,18 Serbian writers Biljana Srbljanović19 and Milena Marković,20 and the Serbian-American composer Milos Raickovich.21 He is the main character in many movies: in the Yugoslav movie Assassination in Sarajevo (1968, directed by Fadil Hadžić), in the British short movie The Last Words of Gavrilo Princip (2014, directed by Jacqueline Pepall), in the Serbian movie The Man Who Defended Gavrilo Princip (2014, directed by Srdjan Koljević), in the Austrian movie Sarajevo (2014, directed by Andreas Prochaska), and in the most renowned one, The Day That Shook the World, a Czechoslovak-Yugoslav-German coproduction (1975, directed by Veljko Bulajić). He found his place in popular music as well: the Serbian nationalist turbo-folk singer Baja Mali Knindža mentions him in the song Vratiće se delija.22 When it comes to non-official discourses and groups, Princip is used by both, the right- and the left-wingers. First, he is one of the rare common icons of two belligerent football-fan groups, Delije and Grobari, both from Belgrade and both very much leaning to the political right.23 He appears in Delije’s banners,
together with other Serbian heroes from the beginning of the 20th century like Duke Živojin Mišić and Duke Radomir Putnik. On one occasion, his image on the banner was side by side with Dimitrije Popović (a young Serbian victim of Kosovo Albanians, shot in 2004), Karadjordje, and a map of Kosovo. He also appears in visuals of Serbian nationalists – alone or in the company of Serbian First World War commanders or the Chetnik leader Draža Mihajlović (for example in tattoos). But on the other side, he is equally at home amongst Serbian leftists: he is a reference for local anarcho-syndicalists and a street-punk band from Smederevo bears his name.24 His image also appears in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a sign of resistance: a group of left-wing activists wearing his mask protested around the Sarajevo City Hall on June 28, 2014, carrying banners with the claim that their country was again occupied, this time by the European Union, by the international community, by fascism, by the International Monetary Fund, by capitalism, and by nationalism and identifying themselves with Gavrilo Princip.25 In that same year, two songs about him appeared in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Herzegovinian alter-pop and reggae band Zoster dedicated a song to him entitled Gavrilo which nicely captures his youthful daring and vulnerability, as well as his present-day ideological ambiguity,26 while the experimental singer-songwriter Dječak iz Vode (DiV)27 from Brčko published a parody song about him Completely Unusual Cases (Lukec 2016). Contrary to Maister, Princip appears in a variety of techniques (graffiti, murals, stickers, and stencils), almost always combining picture (his portrait) and text (mostly in Cyrillic script).28 A few of them bear clear nationalist messages (a mural of Princip and Mihailović together, with an inscription In honor of our grandfathers!, or another one with a Serbian flag in the background, or a sticker of Princip with a Serbian soldier standing behind him, see Photo 5.2), while in the large majority, inscriptions accompanying his portrait are more abstract (like Out of the principle or Immortal Principle or just his name/face) or indeterminably rebel ones (with his quotes Our shadows will be walking through Vienna, strolling through the court, frightening lords; or Revolt; or Every night I dreamt I’m an anarchist, fighting with policemen (see Photo 5.3); or I didn’t want to become a hero, I just wanted to die for my idea; or a dramatic picture of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand or Death to the state out of principle; etc.).29
The “second life” of Maister and Princip: from the historical canon to the walls According to the situationist Guy Debord (1994: 57), the function of the spectacle “is to bury history in culture.” A researcher of American popular culture, George Lipsitz similarly speaks of the “transformation of real historical traditions and cultures into superficial icons and images”; for him, old forms “lose their power to order and interpret experience, yet they persist as important icons of alienated identity” (1997: 134). So are we facing – in this case – the painless degradation of important political personalities into superficial street art and shallow pop-cultural
Contested heroes 85
Photo 5.2 Belgrade, 2016. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
icons? I believe it is quite the contrary: the aforementioned examples in fact show their reinvention and their rebirth in a completely new political situation and ideological constellation. They are as important now as they were throughout the last century but in a different way, with different groups investing them a different political agenda. Firstly, I would like to show some symptomatic similarities of “street images” of both of them to later point out important differences. But before the analysis, I have to point out one meaningful fact: although the (post-)Yugoslav region has a well-developed graffiti culture, images of Maister and Princip appeared only recently, in the last twenty years. This shows that contemporary political struggles are also increasingly moving onto the walls, to different types of street cultures, representing most different (sub)political and subcultural groups. What Princip and Maister have in common is that they are both a part of the official, canonised memory of two nations and their political paradigms and that they have become a part of contemporary political struggles as well. The image of Rudolf Maister is firmly connected with official Slovenian nationalism (i.e., on the level of dominant institutions and hegemonic discourses) as well as with “street” nationalism (of right-wing subpolitical and football fan groups). As he
Photo 5.3 Every night I dreamt I’m an anarchist, fighting with policemen. Gavrilo Princip (member of Young Bosnia, referring to the time before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, June 28, 1914), Belgrade, 2017. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
fought against local Germans after the First World War, his image is now used by nationalists in their struggle today against new foreigners30 and by Viole football fans in their clashes with other Slovenian football fans. Gavrilo Princip’s image is also exploited today mostly by different Serbian nationalist institutions and subpolitical and subcultural groups. So despite the clear fact that both of them were pro-Yugoslav oriented,31 they figure today mostly as nationalist icons: in graffiti and street art even more than in other urban visuals. Nationalist ideology always denies itself of being ideological: it defines itself as being beyond Left or Right, positioning itself “non-politically,” “non-ideologically.” Needless to say, this is the most ideological position of all, hiding its particularity in the veil of national interest. That is why only Maister’s and Princip’s portraits (and sometimes quotes) appear in graffiti, murals, stickers, and stencils with no explicit nationalist additions: this “neutrality” implies that it is clear that they fought for our Slovenian/Serbian cause. But on the other side, there are important differences between contemporary urban representations of Maister and Princip. In terms of their number, the Princip one leads by far. Maister stands firmly in Slovenian nationalist discourse as the
Contested heroes 87 most important hero of Slovenians: but he remains only on the local level; rarely anyone outside Slovenia knows about him. In contrast to Maister’s exclusivism, the Princip figure is much more inclusive, open to interpretation: his shots were “heard around the world” (Mojzes 1994: 32), and his murderous act fascinated many people abroad.32 He became a global synonym for killing important political personalities.33 Princip was/is integrated in three parallel and antagonistic ideological paradigms. First and foremost, he was decisively Serbianized, although his act did not represent the official Serbian policy of that time.34 Nevertheless, he was included in the long line of prominent Serbs which continues from the Kosovo battle on as the one of the Vidovdan Heroes (Jezernik 2013: 32, see also Mønnesland 2013: 42, 43). Not the most important one, but one of many. This usurpation persists today in both dominant institutions and discourses,35 as well as in subpolitical and subcultural groups. Second, in Yugoslav times, “Gavrilo Princip was celebrated as a hero, the bearer of the idea of freedom and Yugoslavism” (Dragićević Šešić 2014: 74). Dedijer, for example, linked his assassination of Franz Ferdinand to an alleged “old Serbian-Croatian folklore theory of tyrannicide” (Čolović 2016: 351–356). However, advocates of the Yugoslav idea and Yugoslavia lost the ideological battle for the heritage of Princip (and Young Bosnia) to Serbian nationalist revisionists, although he was an atheist, a republican, and aiming towards the creation of a South Slav state: so definitely pro-Yugoslav and not pro-Serb (see Lampe 1996: 89, 98; Popović 2016). A part of the reason for marginalisation of his Yugoslavism was the fact that in the first Yugoslavia, all credit for its unification went to the Karadjordjević dynasty and in the second to Tito and the partisan resistance. The third ideological paradigm spread much less: because of his clearly expressed anarchist convictions, he preserved his authentic rebellious, anti-establishment, and anti-imperialist identity, symbolising undefined but vigorous defiance against any occupation and authority in general (and Austrian in particular). He is also, therefore, a celebrity for the political left and has become a broader symbol of revolt against power. Maister’s image almost does not appear outside politics and football fan culture, while Princip’s image is also popularised in mass culture, art, design, and consumerism. And the last important difference between visual representations of the two: Maister does not face any symbolic opposition from his time – no one really celebrates his opponents from 1918 and 1919. While in Princip’s case, Franz Ferdinand (and his Sophie) figures like a counterpart (mostly) in the consumer culture of Sarajevo: one can go to the Franz Ferdinand Hostel and the Franz Ferdinand Apartments, the tea house Franz & Sophie World of Tea, join the Assassin Tour,36 or buy paraphernalia related to him.37 Using the French historian Raoul Girardet’s typology of heroes, Maister appears as a local incarnation of the myth of Moses (1986: 78–80), i.e., as an experienced and clairvoyant leader, a prophet, liberator and protector who leads his people towards the future and embodies their will of freedom (which was, at the time, a union with other South Slavs). Princip’s image is much more ambiguous than Maister’s, and, in Girardet’s terms, he represents the myth of Alexander
(ibid.: 74–77). He figures as a young, fearless fighter, an inspired adventurer, struggling for a greater cause but dying at a young age: a hero of his nationalist project (Serbian or Yugoslav) or of the global resistance against any authority. Their contemporary images have more to do with the classical notion of an “oldtime hero,” someone above or in front of his people who unconditionally follow him, than with the contemporary ones, as discussed for example by Austrian social psychologist Klaus Ottomeyer (2000).38 Visual – and in recent times also graffiti – representations of Rudolf Maister and Gavrilo Princip travel through time and their meanings are by no means fixed but constantly (re)invented, (re)negotiated, and (re)contested, depending on the hegemonic/counter-hegemonic (i.e., prevailing/oppositional) political discourses in the societies for which they are relevant. In Barthes’s words (1991: 144), “men do not have with myth a relationship based on truth but on use: they depoliticise according to their needs.” Both of them can, therefore, easily fit into ideological compositions of new ethno-nationalisms, and – in Princip’s case – as well as of the new left. Any predictions about their future transformations – except that they will also be applied by the new media – are uncertain. But judging from the radicalisation of political discourses and practices in recent years, I can conclude that the trend of their visual appearances in the urban culture will rise, as well as the struggle for their appropriations amongst very different groups, their ideological paradigms, and political praxes.
Notes 1 Besides an individual monument to him, he also appears in a collective one, together with his Fighters for the northern border (by the sculptor Drago Tršar). 2 The inhabitants of Maister Street in Maribor have even a cultural event called Maistrovanje (Maistering). 3 Following the national bard France Prešeren, the protestant writer Primož Trubar, and politicians Milan Kučan and Josip Broz Tito. 4 When he was outrun by all of the aforementioned and another contemporary politician, Janez Drnovšek. 5 Proudly announcing that After almost a hundred years, General Maister is coming back to Maribor. 6 Styria is ours, Styria in our heart / If you don’t love Styria, we’ll tear you apart. / There will come another Rudolf Maister / All the way to Tokyo – independent Styria! 7 Tukaj je Slovenija and Hervardi. 8 Maistrova armada. 9 Correspondence with Maribor activist Gregor Stamejčič, September 24, 2016. 10 They appear mostly in Ljubljana, Maribor, Celje, and Nova Gorica. 11 Čefur is a derogatory name by Slovenian nationalists for people from other former Yugoslav nations. 12 Istorija republike Srpske by Nenad Kecmanović and Čedomir Antić (Nedeljnik, Belgrade, 2016). 13 This town was officially opened on the centenary of Princip’s assassination of Franz Ferdinand, on June 28, 2014. 14 Reports from the last Bosnian war show that this tomb was not even hit once in the course of the siege of Sarajevo, “even though targets all around were devastated” (Rieff 1995: 108).
Contested heroes 89 15 With lines like There’s only one principle – Gavrilo Princip or It’s the matter of Princip or the classic Keep calm and love Gavrilo Princip. 16 Oh you started a shitstorm? – That’s cute or Gavrilo Princip doesn’t always start wars – But when he does, he starts World Wars or Assassinate a foreign official, they said – It’ll be fun, they said. 17 Science fiction graphic novel Sarajevski atentat 2914 (Pixel, Sarajevo, 2014). 18 Graphic novel Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin Who Ignited World War I (Graphic Universe, New York, 2015). 19 Mali mi je ovaj grob (Samizdat, Belgrade, 2013). 20 Zmajeubice – Junački kabare (Lom, Belgrade, 2014). 21 The Song of Gavrilo Princip (for tenor and piano), 2014. 22 I’ll be coming back / to Bosansko Grahovo / it’s the home of Gradina / home of Princip Gavrilo. 23 For the connection between these two football fan groups and Serbian nationalist politics, see Čolović (2011: 109–133). However, as an all-Serbian hero, he is also paid respect by football fans of FC Radnički from Kragujevac. 24 Interestingly enough, an Italian indie rock band also bears the name of Gavrilo Princip. His antagonist also “has” a band: the Scottish indie rock group Franz Ferdinand. Their song All For You Sophia (2004) includes these lyrics: Bang, bang, Gavrilo Princip / Bang, bang, shoot me, Gavrilo / Bang, bang, the first six are for you / Bang, bang, the seventh is for me / Bang, bang, Gavrilo Princip / Bang, bang, Europe’s going to weep. Interestingly enough, they sometimes perform with a large image of Princip behind them. 25 I’m Gavrilo Princip, Hands Off Bosnia-Herzegovina. At exactly the same time, there was a concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra inside the City Hall, marking the centenary of the assassination. 26 With verses like the following: For some he is a hero, for others a criminal, /But maybe somewhere in between, his soul wanders. 27 A play on words: the abbreviation DiV reads as div, which means a giant in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian. 28 They can be found in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Užice, Pančevo, many in Banja Luka, Bosansko Grahovo, etc. 29 Some appear in a series of stickers with a silhouette and quotes by his Young Bosnia fellow Nedeljko Čabrinović. 30 Until 1945, Slovenian nationalism was decisively anti-German. From the late 1980s until a few years ago, it was anti-Balkanian, and from the times of the refugee crisis from late summer 2015 onwards, a predominantly anti-refugee one. As shown in chapter 9, refugees from the Middle and Near East became the New Other in Slovenian nationalist ideology and praxis. 31 Maister was commanding what were nominally South Slav and not Slovenian forces (although the large majority of the troops were ethnic Slovenians): at first of the shortlived and internationally unrecognized state of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs and from December 1, 1918, and of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. In his famous proclamation from November 9, 1918, he referred to his countrymen as Citizens, Yugoslavs! Serious scholars agree that Princip and most of the other members of Young Bosnia were undoubtedly South Slav revolutionaries: they “shared vague concepts of a republican, egalitarian Yugoslav federation” (MacKenzie 1989: 137); they “were, for the most part, poverty-stricken Bosnian students, imbued with anarchistic and patriotic ideals” (Deák 1990: 75); their goal was “the creation of a progressive, anarcho-socialist South Slav state and eventually a similar world” (Deák 1996: 13); they were “fighting for an independent federal state of the Southern Slav peoples” (Galántai 1989: 25). For the Yugoslav historian Vladimir Dedijer, Young Bosnia was a heterogeneous, politically progressive secret group “with one common goal: revolutionary destruction of the Habsburg monarchy” (1978/I: 223) and “liberation of the South Slavs” (1978/II:
32 33 34 35
36 37 38
Post-socialist graffitiscapes 23, see also 237): the latter were explicitly called, by Gavrilo Princip himself, “Yugoslavs” (Dedijer 1978/II: 22). Check, for example, how many times he is mentioned in Rebecca West’s travelogue (1943)! The most recent example: reporters openly compared the murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in December 2016 with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in June 1914. For the prolonged, century-old controversy of whether Princip and Young Bosnia worked on their own or simply executed orders from Dragutin Dimitrijević-Apis’ Black Hand secret military organization, see MacKenzie (1989: 123–137). Nationalists like the writer Matija Bečković and the historian Radoš Ljušić (Čolović 2016: 395, 440), to name just a few. The latter directly calls Princip a national hero. In his poem In Memoriam of Princip, Miloš Crnjanski also links him to the Serbian medieval and Vidovdan tradition. On the other side, and somehow surprisingly, Princip was not listed among the 100 most prominent Serbs in history in the book with an eponymous title (Belgrade, Principi, Novi Sad, Š-Jupublik, 1993). With Franz Ferdinand, and not Gavrilo Princip, on display! Like magnets, pencil cases, etc. In his insightful analysis of the cult of personality of the controversial Austrian-Carinthian politician Jörg Haider as a new type of political leader, he found him performing in three main roles: as Robin Hood (protector of the common people), as a sportsman (always elegant and erotic, in the best shape), and as a simple man (a buddy to have a beer with and to chat with about everything).
Nature as politics – the motif of Mt. Triglav in graffiti and street art
Slovenians proud of Mt. Triglav as if they built it themselves Valter Rap, Samo Boris, Ičo Lumbago: rap song Dežela, 2008
The beginning of (ideological) climbs to Mt. Triglav The ideological self-construction and self-perception of Slovenians is centred around Alpinity: culturally and historically, we are supposed to be an Alpine nation, despite the fact that, considering from a purely geographical position, the Alps present only a small part of the territory of the Republic of Slovenia. In the “Alpine culture of Slovenian identity,” as it is called by the cultural studies scholar Boštjan Šaver in his extensive book (2005), the central position is taken up by Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav.1 In the 19th century, therefore, in the time when Slovenian nationalism was created in opposition primarily to the German-Austrian one, mountaineering, conquering of mountain peaks, symbolic appropriation of mountainous landscape and Alpine culture (costumes, food, music, values, etc.) were extremely important in the construction and profiling of the nation: it was literally a matter of national ascent. The Alpine culture and symbolism were at that time constructed as being pan-Slovenian: what is significantly interesting is the fact that in 1895, the priest and mountaineer Jakob Aljaž did not mark his tower at its peak either politically or religiously; namely, it bears no marks of political party symbols or the Catholic cross. In the 20th century, all this changed: the political symbolism of Mt. Triglav developed in three interlinked, mutually connected directions: the nationaldefensive direction, political party direction, and state/pop-cultural directions. First, it still denoted Slovenianness in the resistance against Germanness, but this aspect decreased after the downfall of Austria-Hungary in 1918 and the establishment of the state of the South Slavs and conclusively after the victory over German Nazism in 1945. Second, it was included into the ideological agenda by different, mutually antagonistic political currents and groups in Slovenia: a stylised shape of Mt. Triglav was supposedly only only left-wing, or only rightwing symbol. And, finally, third, it became a pan-Slovenian state symbol with a branched mass-cultural, popularly historical, sports, and consumer background.2
Yet this self-evident Alpinity of Slovenians and its focus on Mt. Triglav should be placed under the microscope of ideology criticism: it should be the beginning of a serious analysis and not its predetermined result. Mt. Triglav is not the symbol of Slovenians for the sake of it but is the effect of the ideological discourse about it. In this chapter, I am interested in one particular aspect of the contemporary ideological appropriation of Mt. Triglav, which has been overlooked in the studies so far: its move to the public space in the form of graffiti and street art. In the public places of Slovenian towns, I have photographed about 60 graffiti, stickers, stencils, inscriptions, installations, etc., which include this motif in their composition.3 Therefore, my basic research question is the following: what are the ideological meanings of Mt. Triglav in the present-day graffiti culture? In other words, how is Slovenianness, petrified in this mountain, perceived today by the graffiti writers as advocates of various political options? In short, how, by/ for whom, and why are these three triangles drawn on walls and other public surfaces? I approached them from the perspective of “the site of the graffiti,” using the semiological method.
Visual ideology of Mt. Triglav in graffiti and street art In the last century, Mt. Triglav has been ideologically constructed and perceived as the unquestionable symbol of contemporary Slovenian identity, of which there can be no doubt; my question is what is this Slovenian identity like in the eyes of political activists, in my case, of those with spray cans in their hands? I found four groups of answers to the question of what graffiti, including Mt. Triglav, say about Slovenians: for some, this is the pan-national symbol; for others, the leftwing; and again for others, the right-wing political party symbol, and for some the extreme nationalist symbol. In each of these four, I am going to compare graffiti and street art with other contemporary visual representations of Mt. Triglav. Graffiti with Mt. Triglav as the pan-national symbol Today, Mt. Triglav figures primarily as the symbol of the nation and state with a wide pop-cultural background. Its ideology is expressed as supra-ideological, its politics as supra-political, general, state-consitutive, and patriotic, if I too am to use the tritest concepts of transition: it is supposed to unite all Slovenians and separate them from the members of other nations. It is found in the current official state coat of arms (and in the former one, of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia), in the markings of the police and the army, in the logos of various state celebrations (e.g., independence anniversaries), in veteran and other similar associations and offices, in the symbol of the Slovenian EU presidency (2008), in various government communications, on the Slovenian euro coin, on monuments and tributes to the independence war in 1991, on car stickers for driving abroad, etc. For almost 30 years, numerous variants of Mt. Triglav have been appearing in tenders for the selection of new national symbols.4 From the times of independence in the summer of 1991, its image “was one of the key and most frequently used photographic
Nature as politics 93 images,” including the front page of the special edition of the Slovenian daily Delo (Šaver 2005: 30). In addition to official purposes, the image of Mt. Triglav is also used for decorative purposes,5 in tourist and ecological campaigns, as the official mark (also on jerseys) of sports national teams or fan groups,6 in logos and trademarks of various companies and institutions,7 in the names and logos of sports clubs and cultural societies,8 and in invitations to various events. Slovenian musicians refer to Mt. Triglav numerous times in their songs, most frequently, naturally, folk musicians, while its stylised image can also be found on the album cover of the rock band Mi2. It is present on the tombstones of passionate mountaineers and as a decoration in rock gardens. It is frequent in our everyday vocabulary,9 commercials,10 and folkloristic tricks;11 its symbolism permeates different blogs, Facebook groups, or Internet chatrooms, not to mention organised pilgrimages of various groups conquering its peak12 and the outstanding media attention it attracts at the time of the anniversaries of the independence and other political turning points. This obsession with Mt. Triglav as the symbol of Slovenian identity was, nevertheless, evaluated by critical artists – for example, the multimedia artist Samira Kentrić with her political illustrations and three artistic groups: the neo-avant-garde OHO (1968), the retrogarde Irwin (2004), and the three artists who call themselves Janez Janša (2007) – in their “three-headed” performances. Unlike the truly inflationary use of Mt. Triglav on all these fields of political and cultural mainstream, such “pan-national” graffiti are relatively scarce, and they simply repeat all these patterns in “words and pictures.” What is found is, therefore, its silhouette, to which national colours are added, a heart, a subscript My country, nothing strikingly original. Nevertheless, two do stand out: the first is in the shape of the symbol of the Slovenian Army made on the former facility of the Yugoslav People’s Army as a kind of a sign of the victory over it; the second is made in combination with the acronym of the anti-fascist pre-Second World War organisation of the people of the Slovenian Littoral, Istria, and Quarnero region, the TIGR (Trieste-Istria-Gorizia-Rijeka). Graffiti with Mt. Triglav as a symbol of left-wing organisations and movements The first stylisation of Mt. Triglav was made in the 1930s: the architect Jože Plečnik used it in Šverljuga’s sign at Bled and in the coat of arms above the entrance to the National and University Library in Ljubljana. The latter also includes the motif of the sea which symbolically locates Slovenians from Mt. Triglav to the Adriatic: this literal Alpe-Adria becomes the symbolic national programme and since then they have generally appeared together.13 But, actually, it was popularised at the time of the Second World War: redesigned by the architects Marjan Tepina and Edo Ravnikar, it was immediately adopted by the partisan resistance.14 The motif was technically perfected: simple and expressive, efficient, practical, spray-painted/drawn literally in an instant was right up the alley for graffiti-making actions since it could have been made by anybody, without any
special design talent. Generally speaking, it became the “official” symbol of the Liberation Front of the Slovenian Nation (OF): in its press, on flyers and posters, in the names of its subgroups and gazettes, on stamps, in the form of the army cap called triglavka15 and in graffiti (for more, see Konda 2017: 53–74, 2018), usually with the addition of the letters OF and/or the (red) star. In combination with the red star (or even without it), it continued in the post-war period, on numerous partisan monuments and tombs,16 which testifies to the strongly expressed national component of the partisan resistance.17 The partisan graffiti appropriation of Mt. Triglav continues today and is present in the centre of the Slovenian transitional left. I cannot find it in the imagery of “left-wing” parties:18 these try their best, even symbolically, to separate themselves from the former totalitarian regime, if I use yet another of the contemporary discursive gems. Neither can I find it amongst the symbols of new left-wing movements and groups – e.g., alterglobalists and anarchists.19 The combination of Mt. Triglav + the red star (+ OF) can be found in the symbolism of the presentday partisan veteran organization and other organized left-wing groups,20 as well as pop-leftists: at partisan events, on the Yugonostalgic scene, and in the visuals of left-oriented demonstrations.21 It appears on their flags, T-shirts, invitations, flyers, banners, in different logotypes, etc. Frequently interesting combinations occur, such as, for example, the unification of the Mt. Triglav silhouette and the red star, half-and-half.22 There is quite a lot of graffiti and street art that includes Mt. Triglav as a leftwing symbol, but it mostly does not differ in content from that of the partisan times. Often, there are additions of another slogan or signifier used at the time (Tito, as you can see on Photo 6.1, or Death to Fascism), a slogan from the present (Nazis Fuck Of/f/ or Skins fuck OF – If Hitler had won, you wouldn’t be a Slovenian son), or a lively “Rastafarian” colour combination. The only exception is one of the graffiti which inventively expresses the multiculturalism of contemporary Slovenian society: within the stylised “Slovenian” frame with Mt. Triglav and three European stars at the top, a popularized Serbian Orthodox coat of arms is drawn, “corrected” with a star in each of the “Cs,” which thus makes it a Muslim symbol (see Photo 6.2). Graffiti with Mt. Triglav as the right-wing political party symbol Mt. Triglav appeared only twice as a visual symbol of the party-political right despite the distinctly nationalist potential: on posters of Barbara Brezigar during the presidential elections of 2002 and as a symbol of the United Right party before the 2018 elections. The story is completely different in street culture. Ever since the “trial against the four”23 – i.e., since the spring of 1988 – it has appeared in the graffiti, street art, and on banners at demonstrations by the supporters of Janez Janša, now the longtime president of the right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party. His initials JJ replace OF above the silhouette of Mt. Triglav, which is frequently accompanied by some fond subscription, such as JJ – Slo quality or Respect. Such symbolic appropriation, naturally, immediately triggers a cross-out war: leftists spray over JJ the red
Nature as politics 95
Photo 6.1 Tito, OF (Osvobodilna fronta, Liberation Front), Kranj, 2012. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
OF (or add O and O, thus changing JJ to OJOJ, meaning Oh, my), or ironically “correct,” such as pro-Janša graffiti into a smiley face or a cat, while his activists return this to JJ, add Laž (Lie), or simply cross out what was written before, etc. Graffiti with Mt. Triglav as the symbol of right-wing extremists The visual production of the extreme right is also, against expectations, not overflowing with the depictions of Mt. Triglav: other symbols prevail there,
Photo 6.2 Ljubljana, 2004. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
either local24 or global.25 Nevertheless, more have appeared since the time of the so-called refugee crisis: a stylised Mt. Triglav appeared in the imagery of xenophobe initiatives, such as the Territorial Defense of Slovenia Patriotic Organization, the Alerted Inhabitants of Slovenia movement, Slovenia Protect Your Borders,26 and the Slovenian branch of the pan-European chauvinist movement
Nature as politics 97
Photo 6.3 First Slovenian, then European, Ljubljana, 2010. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
Generation Identity (which redesigned Mt. Triglav on their web page in accordance with their symbol).27 On the other hand, Mt. Triglav appears much more frequently in their street production, graffiti, and stencils. They cross out red leftist graffiti with the motifs of Mt. Triglav and the sea with the Celtic cross in black; graffiti First Slovenian, then European is also accompanied by Mt. Triglav and the sea (see Photo 6.3). A tiny Mt. Triglav in the background of verigar is found on the stickers of the group Here is Slovenia, which literally flooded Slovenia in the 2000s. The Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia place a heart above Mt. Triglav instead of the star; they also place it in a cogwheel (the motif comes out rather retro-futuristic in an Irwinlike way) on a poster in which they explain what it means to be For Slovenia.28 Mt. Triglav is also found within the letter O of the call Slovenians, unite!; SLO is added to its peak, etc.
Petrification of ideology I explain appropriations of this type with the semiotic method which exposes the functioning of ideologies the most in those places where they introduce themselves
as non-ideological, politics that consider themselves as non-political or suprapolitical, biases which usurp the meta-positions; particularities which vehemently proclaim themselves to be universal, and social relations which hide themselves as natural facts. Barthes as one of its founders explains the ideological strategy of naturalisation in this way: “the essential principle of myth is the transformation of history into nature,” therefore, the mythic speech is “immediately frozen into something natural” (1991: 128).29 In his opinion, this is why “myth is experienced as innocent speech: not because its intentions would be hidden – if they stayed hidden they would not be efficient – but because they are naturalized” (ibid., 130). Myth thus depoliticises politics. S. Hall (2001: 511) defines “naturalised codes” or “naturalised perceptions” as those which also “produce apparently ‘natural’ recognitions.” He continues, Certain codes may, of course, be so widely distributed in a specific language community or culture, and be learned at so early an age, that they appear not to be constructed – the effect of an articulation between sign and referent – but to be ‘naturally’ given. Simple visual signs appear to have achieved a “near-universality” in this sense: though evidence remains that even apparently “natural” visual codes are culture-specific. In his studies, the Slovenian ethnologist Božidar Jezernik similarly explains such “transformation of History into Nature” (2010: 18) in the national historiography. Appropriations of Mt. Triglav are a paradigmatic example of the naturalisation of politics: ideology is essentialised, “hung” on something lasting, unchangeable, eternal. In pre-modern times, this absolute point was played by a deity or deities, any kind of transcendental beings. Since the Modern Age, especially since Romanticism, this point has been naturalised; it has become Nature, with a capital letter. Nationalism as the dominant collective ideology of the modern age (the same way as liberalism is the dominant individualistic ideology of this age) constructs national identity as something natural, innate, established on blood and soil. In this case, to paraphrase the nationalist pathos, on blood and mountain.
Conclusion: the highest Slovenian peak as the peak of the Slovenian national ideology At the end, I am returning to the verses from the beginning. Actually, Triglav built Slovenians, they did not build it: the mountain has always been there, it was not erected, built. Yet just as such, as a “natural phenomenon,” it enables the unimagined politicisation since it can be appropriated by anyone for his or her needs.30 Political graffiti (and all other visuals) featuring Mt. Triglav reveal that a continuous wrathful hegemonic battle is fought around the question to whom the mountain belongs. Does Mt. Triglav belong more to the leftists and the supporters of anti-fascist traditions? Or the right-wing political party or one of its leaders? To multiplied breeds of Slovenian xenophobes? To the Slovenian nation, its national state, the Republic of Slovenia?
Nature as politics 99 The answer lies in all these questions: Mt. Triglav as the “total” or “all-inclusive signifier” (Šaver 2005: 239) belongs to all those who, in their own, particular and mutually antagonistic manner, define Slovenia, Slovenians, and Slovenianness as a whole. Its actual position is cross-political; it applies to everyone who appropriates it only for ours. If anything, then it is this kind of graffiti – where the original message can be completely changed with only a small intervention and modification to “shift” to the other side – that nicely shows that Mt. Triglav does not have a constant ideological meaning but that its meaning is rather constantly changing, that is in the process, a veritable battleground of various interests that allude to the Slovenian identity as a whole. In my opinion, the reason why it so frequently also appears in the form of graffiti and street art lies in the ambition of the protagonists of Slovenian nationalism – either left-wing nationalism, right-wing nationalism, or official/state nationalism – for the hegemonic domination even on walls, on this open and still relatively free communicational scene. In short, if we have prevailed everywhere else, let’s do it on the streets too! Be there on top of the image of Mt. Triglav one red star or three European, acronyms of the Liberation Front or of Janeza Janša, either the governmental or Plečnik’s or left or right symbol, either of Slovenia to the Adriatic Sea or Yugoslavia to the Vardar river, either painted in red or black, etc., etc. – such spray-painted “wrestling for Mt. Triglav” is completely understandable, since everybody wants to appropriate it, to invest in it their own political agenda. I find the fact that a certain natural phenomenon, something that was created in itself and for which nobody can take credit, can appear for so long and with such unreflected persistence as the central symbol of a society, much more problematic. The fact is that for the lack of other references – no famous history, high culture, important leaders, religious difference, exclusive ethnic territory, etc., therefore absolutely nothing exceptional – Slovenian nationalism constructed itself on the basis of linguistic and natural peculiarities. In short, there had to be something to build the exceptionality of your own nation on, even if this meant – sarcastically speaking, in desperation – bare nature. This was, after all, the easiest and the least imaginative way: nature simply always is out there. If this was to some extent understandable in the time of romantic nationalism, the mantra of which was national pride over anything, even if that was nature itself which was not created by us, today, in the period of metamodernity – the unimagined technological development, cultural pluralism, identity fluidity, social dynamics, mass migrations – I believe this to be pretty obsolete. Slovenian national identity is namely symbolically still “naturalised” and not “culturalised”; reduced to “naturally given” and not “socially constructed”; and bound to solidity, literally stoniness of identity and not to its unstoppable development. Lévi-Strauss’ civilisational transition from nature to culture is reversed from culture to nature: the symbol of Slovenian identity remains something simply natural and not cultural. And this is the ultimate ideological act, since it returns the connotation back to denotation, it relocates politics to nature, and regresses dynamics to stability. Mt. Triglav is not only geographically the highest Slovenian peak, but – literally – also the peak of the ideology of Slovenianness. The well-intentioned excitement
or the innocent adoration of Slovenians of Mt. Triglav are thus most deeply ideological and have as such both inclusive and exclusive dimensions: and if we speak about the first with enthusiasm, we have to warn against the latter with care. The task of critical science is that it constantly exposes and places under strict question marks the self-evident ideological constructions and receptions, especially the malignant ones, of various social phenomena. In this chapter, this means the graffiti visualisations of Mt. Triglav, which is today, more easily than ever before, still declared as the holy mountain of Slovenians.31
Notes 1 For more about the historical genealogy of conquering Mt. Triglav and about its contemporary (re)interpretations, see Kučan (1998), Črnič (2013), Jezernik (2015), and Mikša (2017). 2 In more detail, in the last chapter of Šaver’s book entitled “Kulturni pomen Triglava: Od religijskih vzorcev do osamosvajanja in novih vrednot” (2005: 221–250). 3 In addition, also 150 other public visual depictions of Mt. Triglav on monuments, trademarks, artistic installations, as the pop-cultural icon, etc. 4 Occasionally also ironically – for example, in combination with the original Adidas three-leaf symbol. 5 For example, in the festive decoration of the city of Ljubljana in December 2016. 6 Even the one cheering for FC Bayern from Slovenia! 7 Like Državna založba Slovenije (publishing house), Splošna plovba Piran (shipping company), Zavarovalnica Triglav (insurance agency), and Sintal (security guards). 8 Even those of minorities, such as the Bosniak Ljiljan. 9 For example, as big as Mt. Triglav. 10 For example, in chain of supermarkets Tuš’s campaign Each of us have our own Mt. Triglav. 11 Every true Slovenian has to climb Mt. Triglav at least once, etc. 12 Representatives of political parties, professional associations, women, Misses, various eccentrics, etc. In my opinion, the list of bizarre ascents to this mountain ends (or does it?) with the brewing of beer on Mt. Triglav by a group of enthusiasts in August 2016, which thus became the highest beer in Europe. 13 Mt. Triglav here functions as the point of origin for the understanding of Slovenians who reach to the Adriatic, and later of Yugoslavs who live, according to a popular tune from the Yugoslav times, From the Vardar river to Mt. Triglav. 14 Researchers of Slovenian alpinism Peter Mikša and Urban Golob find that “the vast majority of the /mountaineering, added by MV/ society’s members, Skala and other mountain enthusiasts ended up in the partisans, became members of the OF, were prisoners in concentration camps and were also among the executed hostages” (2013: 49). Therefore, it is not surprising that the quisling side never appropriated this motif: they decided for other motifs, such as the Upper Carniola eagle, the Catholic cross, and the usual Nazi symbolism. 15 Until 1944. Its shape was generally derived from the caps of the republicans in the Spanish Civil War and was only adopted and redesigned by the Slovenian (and partly also Croatian) Partisans (Pavlaković 2014: 324, 325). 16 I found this combination in several monuments and plaques in Ljubljana, two in Ribnica, Vipavski Križ, Dvor pri Žužemberku, Otlica, Boč, Drama, Črna vas, Idrija, Kočevje, Kamniška Bistrica, Ribno pri Bledu, etc.; it can also be found, together with the red star, on Malgaj’s monument in Dobrije. In some instances, Mt. Triglav is clearly discernible, while on others less and the entire composition resembles more of a triptych. 17 Interestingly, with the exception of the star, there are no other symbols of proletarian internationalism or socialist revolution, such as the hammer and sickle, clenched fist,
Nature as politics 101
19 20 21 22 23
25 26 27
28 29 30
references to the Red Army, or quotations from Marx or Lenin, which were generally prevalent on the monuments in the rest of socialist Europe. “Left-wing” is here placed in the quotation marks because the transitional party “left” shares both main ideological orientations and praxes with the party right: neoliberalism and nationalism. In this respect, the parliamentary left and right wings are, except for cosmetic differences used solely for populist purposes, in its essence very similar one to another. This makes the present-day Ljubljana graffiti Left = Right more than justified. This radical left political position rejects both the Yugoslav socialist and national symbolism: a nice example is the tricolour of Sl-EVIL-enia (Zlovenija) I found online with, ahem, a three-headed phallus instead of Mt. Triglav in the coat of arms. It was adopted as its symbol by the short-lived Socialist Union of Slovenia in 1990, which was formed from the former communist transmission organization of Socialist Union of the Working People. For example, at the uprisings in the fall-winter of 2012 and 2013 and at the demonstrations in support of refugees in February 2016. For example, on T-shirts and in the logotype of the 2010 celebration of the foundation of Slovenian Territorial Defence Forces. A political trial at the military court against Janez Janša, David Tasić, Ivan Borštner, and Franci Zavrl for betraying secrets of the Yugoslav People’s Army. Manifestations in their favour were among the first organized displays of the newly emerging Slovenian nationalism. Such as the Carantanian panther, the Prince’s stone, General Rudolf Maister, verigar (an iconic image on a series of postage stamps depicting a man breaking from his chains, published by the short-lived State of Slovenes, Croat and Serbs from lateOctober to December 1, 1918) or the title of the hymn-like poem by Davorin Jenko Forward, Flag of Slavs/Glory! The swastika and other Nazi symbols, the Celtic cross, Nazi and white power codes 18, 88, 14, etc. Teritorialna obramba slovenske domoljubne organizacije, Osveščeni prebivalci Slovenije (OPS) and Slovenija zavaruj meje. In Slovenian: Generacija identitete. There is much more xenophobic use of Mt. Triglav in other media. Here, I state a typical example from May 2016: from the building of the editorial office of the right-wing Reporter magazine, from where “until recently we were able to see Mt. Triglav, the symbol of Slovenianness, since today our view of the Julian Alps will not only be hindered by the dome of the minaret, but also by its Muslim symbol on the top – the metal crescent moon.” Here is the list: this means to be AGAINST communism, AGAINST drugs, AGAINST Islamic extremism, AGAINST immigration, AGAINST the collapse of our culture and nation. In other words, “the bourgeois ideology / . . . / transforms the reality of the world into the image of the world, History into Nature” (ibid., 140, see also 143, 147). This is exactly what happened with Aljaž’s Tower set at its peak and which was symbolically attempted to be appropriated by different political groups: Italian nationalists painted it in their tricoloure between both wars in the so-called painting war, while Yugoslavian ones did so in the colours of the Yugoslav tricolour, post-war Communists in red with a star placed on top of it, even just before the independence the new Slovenian flag flew on it (at that time without the coat of arms); I wonder what its next colour is going to be. This chapter is an homage to my deceased assistant Boštjan Šaver MSc, one of the most lucid cultural studies scholars and enthusiasts of Slovenian mountains I have ever met. Usually, assistants continue the research of their supervisors; unfortunately, in this case, the situation is the reverse: I have upgraded the topic to which Boštjan was so dedicated and with which he dealt with so sovereignly in his short, yet very successful academic career.
Shameful compliance – Balkan nationalist graffiti and street art
Kill a Serb (Ubi Srbina, original graffiti) Love a Serb (Ljubi Srbina, a “corrected” graffiti: original meaning is completely inverted with a simple addition of the first two letters, L and J)1 Graffiti battle, Rijeka, 2015
In this chapter, I open another field of political fights on the transitional map of the Balkans and show how it is – quite literally – inscribed with graffiti in the towns of the region: (anti-)nationalism. The introductory graffiti battle is a nice illustration: the genocidal message has been completely disarmed by a witty intervention. I have, however, undertaken the analysis in a different way than in other chapters. It was probably (not) a coincidence that during their classification – their number reached several thousand – I was reading the Slovenian (1972) and the English version (1973) of one of the most lucid and visionary works by Adorno, “The Jargon of Authenticity.” Although Adorno criticised Heidegger’s philosophy to condemn the ideological discourses before, during, and after Nazism in Germany, I kept thinking about the current situation in the region, about contemporary Balkan nationalisms. The jargon of authenticity as “the contemporary image of untruth” (Adorno 1972: 167) is – back then as well as now – shared by conservative philosophers, mainstream politicians, nationalist opinion-makers, dominant media, popular history, and state apparatus (in its system of holidays, school curriculums, memorials, naming of streets and institutions, and similar national geography). All of these can easily be joined by street activists with spray cans. The jargon of authenticity inherits irrationality “in the childish manner of Latin primers which praise the love of the fatherland in itself – which praise the viri patriae amantes, even when the fatherland in question covers up the most atrocious deeds” (Adorno 1973: 21). I am interested in how this jargon appears in the graffiti by Balkan nationalists or nativists, but also – and here I do not share Adorno’s cultural pessimism – how anti-nationalists react to it. I follow three questions: one, how do nationalist graffiti writers construct the double ideological matrix of national identity: the homogenisation on the inside (us) and the separation on the outside (others), national inclusivity and national exclusivity? Two, what kind and whose are the
Shameful compliance 103 resistances against these street images of national ideologies? And three, how do they relate to dominant political discourses – and praxes – in these societies and in the new Europe as a whole? On this level of analysis, I will not remain solely with the nationalists nor will I stay only on the streets and in the Balkans. But first, let me point out a few specificities. Firstly, I limited myself to the urban landscape of former Balkan socialist states without Greece, which has been firmly rooted in the Western political, military, and economic hemisphere since the ’40s. Secondly, due to limited resources I was unable to carry out the research in the same way in different places. Nevertheless, I managed to acquire enough material and information from other sources to perform my analysis. Thirdly, in the Balkan (nationalist) graffiti subculture, there are substantial regional differences: while some cities and towns are flooded with graffiti, others are clean (there are much higher numbers, for example, in Kosovo than in Albania). And, lastly, I put them into wider contexts: not just temporal, spatial, and ideological ones but also in the context of other political graffiti (right- and left-wing, football fan, pro-/anti-refugee, etc.).
The jargon of nationalist authenticity After a systematic review of the collected material, I discerned that it can roughly be divided into seven main groups. In each of those, I will list a couple of examples, adding a few oppositional ones – i.e., a critical “street reaction” from the other, anti-chauvinist side, at the end. The first group is composed of graffiti, murals, stickers, etc., which frenetically mark the terrain: this is our home, we are the masters here! Much like those from the ganglands of world metropolises, aggressive territorialism of nationalist graffiti speak, paint, or show their own “provincialism” (Adorno 1973: 53), the main characteristics of which are striving for an ethnical purity, autochthonism, cultural essentialism, national protectionism, and anti-cosmopolitism. The “rootedness,” against which warns Adorno (Ibid., 54), is nothing more than Hobsbawm’s “invented tradition” (1995): nationalists answer the challenges and the discontinuities of the rapidly changing modern world with static categories, images of stability and unquestionable linear continuity with the past.2 In Plovdiv, a mural (2017) in national colours and with national leaders – political as well as religious – bears the date 681, when the First Bulgarian Empire was founded. In the Albanian seaside resort of Sarandë, graffiti combines the Albanian eagle with Skanderbeg into one image (2013). “Banal nationalism,” as was defined by its researcher Michael Billig (2004), can, for example, be expressed through painting public surfaces into national colours.3 The list of such national “wall pictograms” is infinite. Graffiti in Skopje features an enormous Macedonian sun in the typical yellow and orange hues (2016), while the Sandžak nationalists in the Serbian and Montenegrin part of this historical region swear that Here is Sandžak (2016). Our land is also inscribed in our victims: one such example is the Where is Ukshin Hoti? stencil, appearing for more than a decade on various Kosovo walls and referring to the Albanian
activist and philosopher who had disappeared during the Kosovo War. The panSlavic nativism is advertised through the Slavic sun (a double swastika) and the (English) inscription of Defend Slavia (2017). For the last two decades, Slovenian street nationalists have been stickering or spray-painting Slovenia, Slo or newly invented ancient national symbols – e.g., the Carantanian panther.4 “The archaic is the expressive ideal of this language,” writes Adorno (ibid., 52). National teleologies that eternalise the national state, therefore, bring the past linearly into the now and into the “final” or “highest” state. In doing so, they are “proud of its historical obliviousness” (ibid., 63), completely in the spirit of Renan’s maxim from his famous essay on the nation, claiming that “the essence of a nation is that all of its individual members have a great deal in common and also that they have forgotten many things.” On such “ideology of home” (Robertson 1995: 35), the Ljubljana-based antinationalists wittingly reply with Here is Slovakia (alluding to the fact that abroad, Slovenia is often confused with Slovakia; graffiti dating from 2012) or even write this same message in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, which is again an insult for the Slovenian anti-Balkan nationalists (graffiti dating from 2013). Others have pasted an image of a hand of bananas in the middle of a giant graffiti with a Slovenian flag (2013), symbolising that this is in reality a banana republic. The second step in the graffiti forming of the national identity is pointing out what else belongs to us but is (temporarily) in another country. In other words, “the jargon is sacred as the language of an invisible kingdom, which exists only in the obsessive folly of the silent majority” (ibid., 71). The irredentist ideology is preparation for the great-national politics and, eventually, military aggression, which has already happened in the last 30 years in the Balkans. Nationalists from Bucharest write graffiti saying that the Republic of Moldova feels in a Romanian way (2017), while the Moldovan pro-Romanian nationalists in their stencils also make the contour of the Greater Romania with the image of the prince of Moldavia Stephen III from the 15th century, complete with the inscription Moldovans, So Romanians (2016). Great-Bulgarian revision of the actual size of Bulgaria is seen in Photo 7.1. This jargon works in “a modest number of words which are received as promptly as signals” (ibid., 6), only the subject of the phrase is different (e.g., Here is . . . or . . . Love it or leave it). In this way, Slovenian nationalists with spray cans claim that Trieste is Ours (2013), while the Serbian ones practically all over the Balkans and Central Europe, not just in Serbia or Republika Srpska, have insisted that Kosovo is Serbia and Krajina is not giving up and Montenegro is Serbian Sparta. We can see how the “irrationality in the midst of the rational is the working atmosphere of authenticity,” in graffiti made by the Serbian-Montenegrin attackers on Dubrovnik in the fall of 1991, which says, Hear the voice of Lovčen fairy call Dubrovnik into the arms of Serbia. An especially intriguing mural appeared in Belgrade during Trump’s inauguration: it depicts Trump and the Russian president Vladimir Putin and between them, in Serbian, Russian and English: Kosovo is Serbia. In various parts of the Balkans, anti-nationalists graffiti-reply to such national grandomania in their witty ways, for example, by comparisons to Nokia mobile phones: Nokia getting thinner, Serbia getting smaller (2011, 2013).
Shameful compliance 105
Photo 7.1 This is my Bulgaria, San Stefano, year 1878. Plovdiv, 2017. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
Determining what is ours and searching for the foreign that is/is to be ours as well, continues in the next step: antagonising the others. Here, the discursive tactics of the jargon are “negativities” (ibid., 27): an obsession with the negating prefixes non-, anti-, or words such as don’t want, stop, or isn’t,5 yet even more effective is simply to cross out, paint over, or whitewash the existing political graffiti – i.e., visual negations. The targets are neighbouring nations (or faraway superpowers), inner enemies of the state (Jews,6 the Romani, national minorities), unwanted newcomers (refugees), and all the usual suspects from the imaginarium of nationalist ideology (with “authentic” insults: Čefurs, leftists, communist zombies, left fascists, media whores, faggots and dykes, public sector, Gypsies, Balkanians, poor people, Muslims, etc.). Sarcastically speaking, there is always someone to hate. All this is found in nationalist graffiti. Slovenian nationalist graffiti writers portray Čefurs as disorderly, unshaven people with a cigarette between their lips and a bottle in their hand (2009). They want Gypsies, refugees and Croatians to go Raus! – i.e., out in German, which clearly alludes to the Nazi Juden Raus! (several examples dating in the last two decades). Serbian nationalists threaten their Albanian fellow countrymen and neighbours with Death to Šiptars (2013)7 and Romanian nationalists their Hungarians with Suck my dick, Hungary!, signed by Romania (2017). Emotional expression is very popular: “The stereotypes of the
jargon support and reassure subjective movement” (ibid., 18). Bulgarian nationalists predict Death to Turkey (in Bulgarian) and add Turkey is not Europe (in English) (2012). Still in Bulgaria, antisemitic activists spray-painted the Plovdiv memorial to fallen Red Army soldiers with inscriptions such as Communism = Jewishness and 6,000,000 lies, adding the obligatory swastikas and the code 88 (2017). This kind of graffiti make frequent use of expressions and images such as kill, purge, destroy (e.g., Serbs on willow trees in Slovenia and Croatia, a Serbian family tree sticker from Croatia featuring a silhouette of a big tree and a hanged family; examples dating in the last 15 years) or take to dehumanising their opponents (pigs). With a juicy comparison by Adorno: “The jargon bears some resemblance to the rough manners of a doorman, in an Alpine hotel” (ibid., 48). On the other hand, leftists from Sofia in the aftermath of the recent refugee crisis write Refugees welcome graffiti with the addition of Deport the nazis (2015); from Greece at the southernmost point of the Balkans to Slovenia in the north, refugee supporters spray-paint or sticker messages in the vein of Nobody is illegal and Stop deportations or Solidarity with migrants (ever since 2015), while Sarajevo anti-nationalists answer the triple nationalism – Serbian, Croatian, and Bosniak – with a class-based reply of We are hungry in all three languages (2015), see photo 0.4. Nationalist stupidity is also expressed in the sarcastic Ljubljana graffiti written in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian: Chinks, go back to Japan! (2013). The specificity of Balkan nationalisms – apart from the Albanian one – is the strongly expressed religious component: the religious identity is supposed to be inseparably connected to national identity. A veritable Gott mit uns, in the sense of a true Slovenian/Serb/Bosniak is only ever Catholic/Orthodox/Muslim (Velikonja 2003a: 95–126). If they are not – i.e., if they convert to another religion or if they, Heaven forbid, secularise – they also betray their real faith. The American sociologist of religion Michael Sells (1996) calls this religious national ideology of the South Slavs “Christoslavism,”8 and similar clerical nationalism can be found in Bosniaks who are by definition also all religious, all Muslims. Especially in the Serbian parts of the Balkans, political memorials of the “Saint Sava nationalism,” such as a cross with four Ss, or memorials of the clero-fascist organisations Obraz and National Alignment,9 and the Christian Orthodox Army10 fan group are a common sight in the graffiti urbanscape. Sometimes they are accompanied by nationalist paroles Serbia to Serbs. In Croatian parts, the situation is similar: graffiti God and Croats, the Ustasha U in combination with the Catholic cross, etc., can often be seen. In the areas where Bosniaks-Muslims live, the same thing is true for their religious signs and expressions. This type of politicisation and ethnicisation of religion must trigger a street denunciation all over the region: Religion + nation = double penetration (2017), Hodjas and popes, scoundrels and rogues (2015), Death to clero-fascism with a crossed-out swastika and an anarchist sign (2014), as well as many others. Fourthly, small nations’ nationalism often refers to a wider, supra-national frame: in case of this region, the Habsburg, Ottoman, Yugoslav, Soviet, and EU frame. In exchange for loyalty, all of these are supposed to defend their national specificities. Nationalisms of these nations are, therefore, double, and in his essay on Croatian
Shameful compliance 107 petit-bourgeois historicism, Miroslav Krleža insightfully writes that small nations (in his case, Croatians) seek masters and protectors over and over again. The current Europeanisation or the Euro-Atlantic integrations, eurosis, as I named this new Eurocentrism (2005),11 is merely the next form of this duality: Europe does not heal its new members of nationalism, as it was naïvely predicted and expected in this process, but only reinforces it and adds its own to it. Ethno-nationalism is upgraded with Euronationalism, which also reflects in graffiti. Balkan transitional countries present themselves as the antemurale of Europe, as its cordon sanitaire defending it from everything: communism, Russia, Islam, Turkey, refugees. An end-to-end graffiti in the Romanian town of Hunedoara threatens with Romania for Romanians, Europe for Europeans, adding a swastika, the Celtic cross, and the codes 1412 and 88 (2017, see Photo 7.2).13 In the last few years, I have recorded the White Europe! appeal in Ljubljana and in Belgrade. Such and similar graffiti provoked the anti-chauvinist side to react, furnishing the Europe for Europeans graffiti with and to everybody else, and “hanging” the ANSi symbol on drawn gallows (2012). In Belgrade and Zagreb, Fight fortress Europe! stencils and stickers can be seen (2016, 2017). On the other hand, the extreme right also opposes Euro-politics: Croatian nationalists issued stickers with a crossed-out EU abbreviation and their motto NO to EU! accompanied by the Satanist pentagram and the symbol of freemasons (2016).
Photo 7.2 Romania for Romanians, Europe for Europeans, 14, 88. Hunedoara, 2017. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
Extreme Balkan nationalism appears in two other forms in graffiti: as a rehabilitation of the fascism from the first half of the 20th century and its authoritarian values (that Adorno defines as “humility” and “faith”; 1973: 64, 25). Graffiti on the street in Pitești, Romania, claims that Antonescu is a national hero (2017); stickers in Serbia, Republika Srpska, and Montenegro share the same sentiment but about various Chetnik commanders from the same period; Slovenian stickers show a map of Nazi occupied Europe with a Celtic cross in the middle and an eerie We will rise again (2015); and everywhere in the Balkans, we can find spray-painted/stickered the usual Nazi signs such as the swastika, the codes 18 and 88, etc. Further characteristics of such production are the fascination with the institution (ibid., 62), “absolutized authority” or “unquestioned authority” and the traditional loyalism and legalism (Ibid., 5 and 87). Out of the many examples, let me single out the Serbian National Movement 138914 sticker: We protect the country, we defend the Constitution (2015). All of these are immediately “corrected” by contemporary anti-fascists: I have seen the Death to fascism! watchword in various forms all across the Balkans, and in Sarajevo, they will add I hate Ustashas, Chetniks, Balijas15 – all non-humans (2016). And, finally, Balkan nationalisms reach their peaks in white supremacy and neofascism in graffiti, too, especially in the form of seemingly neutral identitarian movements like Generation Identity. They promote themselves with again seemingly neutral symbols (the Celtic cross, upwards-pointing arrow, various national symbols, the Stone Island apparel brand). The white power movements refer to the pan-Slavic idea and emphasise the ancient brotherhood amongst different Slavic nations (e.g., between Serbs and Russians, Slovenians and Poles, or between Slovenians and Serbs in the Radical Ljubljana16 group), which they prove with ancient symbols, such as the white (Polish) eagle, the Carantanian panther, the Slavic sun (basically a double swastika), the typical early Slavic ornamentalism, and fonts like Croatian interlace. Adorno calls this form of the jargon of authenticity “sacred without sacred content” (ibid., 9) or “frozen emanations.”17 On the other side, we can find opposing appeals: a Belgrade stencil calls for No racism, no fascism on our streets! (2013).
The “unholy alliance” between street and official nationalism I wish to avoid any confusion and the trap of falling into self-balkanisation (claiming that these things are possible “only in the Balkans”), reinforcing the image of the Balkans as an “abstract cultural demon” (Todorova 2001: 73). The first lesson on Balkanology as an emancipatory science is always “Fight exceptionalism!” Cures for that are comparisons and contextualisations. On the one hand, I have really found the “worst of the worst” on the walls, calls for new “Balkan genocides,” as explored by the critical religion studies scholar Paul Mojzes (2015) – yet on the other hand, there is an equally determined resistance to it all. Sprayed ethno-politics is the same everywhere. I have recorded similarly disturbing – and emancipative – graffiti elsewhere in Europe where two dominant,
Shameful compliance 109 mutually conditional, and complementary ideologies and political praxes – ethnonationalism and neo-liberalism – are at work. There, walls and political praxes are filled with the same racist, chauvinistic, and irredentist discourse. The post-Cold War era brought a new wave of nationalist conflicts of various intensities into Europe. Firstly, on a political level inside countries and between them: not only in the Balkans (Serbia/Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia/Kosovo, Greece/Macedonia) and in Eastern Europe (Russia/Ukraine, Russia/Caucasian republics, Armenia/Azerbaijan) but also in the West (Spain/Catalonia, Spain/ Basque Country and Spain/Gibraltar, France/Corsica, Great Britain/Scotland, Great Britain/Northern Ireland, not to mention Brexit). Secondly, in everyday life, on the level of “banal nationalism” in every country. Everywhere, paroles such as Our Country First! and Our country to our nation and In the name of our nation and Buy home-grown! can be heard and experienced, explicitly or implicitly. And, thirdly, on the level of the imaginary Fortress Europe against, in particular, the Third World. In the last three decades, the symbolic European frontier – as well as the actual, physical one – has changed from the West – East vertical of the after-war period into the North – South vertical. In Europe, the end of the Cold War was symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Wall of shame in the words of Willy Brandt, that fell only for that same Europe to build a new Wall of shame, the Schengen one, which is much more efficient, much higher, much deeper, and, first and foremost, incomparably deadlier than the first one.18 Graffitied appeals of street extremists to Protect our borders come true through militarised border regimes, travel bans, refugee deportations, restrictive asylum politics in Europe and elsewhere where the First and the Third World come together. To interpret nationalist graffiti, we, therefore, need a wider, a “universal” discourse of contemporary nationalism, which always spans from official statements and political praxes to truly everyday levels. The difference lies more or less only in the tone: graffiti express intolerance in a more direct, abrupt way than the words coming from podiums or public statements. Images on the walls are distorted echoes of official nationalism in post-socialism; spray-painted words return the messages to the ones who declare them elsewhere. Together with its local specificities, the structure of nationalist inclusion/exclusion is always more or less the same – and so is the five-stage “pyramid of hate.”19 The current increase of nationalism has nothing to do with its romantic and organic perception, with its culture, history, heritage, common fate, and similar essentialisms. Its “unbearable lightness of hatred” is also not irrational, spontaneous. I repeat: nationalism as an ideology becomes perfectly clear if I follow its praxis. It is literally an efficient cover-up, which is mobilised every time the power holders in a society execute a radical redistribution of wealth in their society. Nationalism must be understood in a materialist, real-political, “practical” way: the new/old elites, the privileged few, can gain/keep power by camouflaging it into higher purposes and adding external/internal enemies to mobilise the masses. It is an efficient strategy of pacification of demands of the exploited groups and classes. Whenever it appears, we first need to ask cui bono, who benefits from this, who makes good use of this nationalist rhetoric.20 The trick of nationalism is
really quite simple: it is represented as a non-ideology, as a fight for the nation, outside any party- or other social divisions.21 It heals any class divisions in a society and replaces them with ethnic differences, replacing the class struggle with the struggle between nations.22 Wars in ex-Yugoslavia are a typical example: when everything else failed, a new division of power in a society was “solved” with the most radical method, the use of firearms.23 If I can place Balkan nationalisms – and the responses they provoke – into a global context of European nationalisms, I can also place such graffiti amongst similar (anti)nationalist graffiti elsewhere in Europe. It makes no sense to ask where all of this hatred on the walls comes from if we never ask why all the hatred from podiums and political praxes in the concrete current European politics, in the temples of democracy, and in free media. In response to the introductory questions of this chapter, I, therefore, cite two paraphrases of the famous quote by Max Horkheimer: “Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism.”24 It is, namely, true that “whoever is not prepared to talk about Europe, European nationalism should also remain silent about Balkan nationalisms,” and “whoever is not prepared to talk about state chauvinism, systemic exclusions and discriminatory politics, should also remain silent about hate speech graffiti.” Or, in the vigorous words of antifa graffiti writers from Cyprus, Petty-bourgeoisie, you are all neo-nazis (2017). Ethno-nationalist extremism in all its forms – from armed to bureaucratic, from the one in graffiti to the one included in party programmes – is not something alien but an integral part of contemporary politics in democratic societies. This is why I believe that they should be researched together, as a part of the same paradigm: not as oppositional pairs but as an inherent continuity. As a silent pact, as perverted dynamics between extremists who write hate speech on the walls but never act (because the state or Europe does it for them) and political elites who only speak little about it but do exactly what extremists demand. If I return to Adorno (ibid., 41, 42): “The jargon drifts with the current, and would be glad to increase it, in union with the regressive formations of consciousness.” Most of the extremism that has been sprayed, drawn, written, or pasted in the post-socialist urbanscape by the right-wing extremists was said or done beforehand by people in power. Those who stand against it, become a problem. Croatian media brought interesting news from the town of Zadar: in December 2018, a young boy was interrogated by police for changing long-lasting Serbophobic graffiti Kill a Serb (Ubi Srbina) that obviously was not disturbing for anyone but for him, into Love a Serb (Ljubi Srbina). So in order to understand and refute hate speech on the walls, we also need to move behind those same walls, within buildings, where this discourse is created. It turns out that the main problem does not lie only in the hoods25 but also in those in suits as well, not so much in those with sprays in their hands but in those writing the speeches. The harsh critic of Serbian nationalism, the ethnologist Ivan Čolović (2012) is so very right when he claims that “referring to the right-wing youth organizations and their fuehrers has no effect whatsoever if it is not revealed who their ideological mentors are.” The extreme right-wing politics today – both on the local and the global level – is not so much the matter of a handful of militants as it is of a wider political
Shameful compliance 111 and institutional framework that enables it and of an inert majority that actually silently thinks, speaks, and does what the extremists do aloud and publicly. Where the authorities fall short, where they do not want to be politically incorrect, where they are afraid of Europe, the right-wing extremists step in and say out loud, clearly write, and brazenly do what the authorities do secretly. This is also proven by the inaction upon their excesses: at this point, the “loud fascism” continues in the “silent fascism,” excess proceeds in normalisation. Local Breiviks – remember that he had been publicly and without any reprimands writing on web forums for years about exactly what he then carried out in his massacre – do not drink solely from the past fascist and nationalist models. They are also enabled by the current neoliberal and ethno-nationalist ideologies and parliamentary democracy, which under the pretext of freedom of association and expression and plurality of opinions enable the operation of these same people who strive for the abolition of this freedom and this plurality. A stencil in Murska Sobota explains this very succinctly: in the middle of the white circle in the red Nazi flag, there is no swastika anymore; instead, it boasts a Euro sign (2018, see Photo 7.3). We are seeing a shameful compliance between the alt-right on the streets and the mainstream right-wing politics, which must be researched together: graffiti as a street politics together with the official politics and its apparatus, the extremists with spray cans together with the extremists in suits and ties, chauvinist messages on the walls together with those from behind
Photo 7.3 Murska Sobota, 2018. Stencil Source: Photo by MV.
the political pulpits, and those sprayed in the middle of the night together with the ones told solemnly in daylight, in primetime, in headlines.
Notes 1 An untranslatable pun: with a simple addition of two letters, Kill the Serb was corrected into Love the Serb. 2 Instead of understanding local traditions and heritage “as syncretic, dynamic, and hybrid products of various interactions, concepts, and praxes, which unfold in the context of a specific time and place” (Šabec 2014: 397). 3 In his nationalist zeal, in the beginning of the 2000s, the mayor of Cluj-Napoca painted sidewalks, roadside poles, traffic lights, garbage bins, and benches in Romanian national colours: blue, yellow, and red. 4 In a series of articles, this symbol has been critically deconstructed by the archaeologist Andrej Pleterski. It is interesting that the Carantanian panther is a part of the symbolic imagery of the Slovenian Army and Police, yet these two institutions have never complained when either Slovenian politicians (Zmago Jeliničič or Janez Janša) or neo-Nazi groups or football fans employed it as theirs. We can imagine how fast a reaction this would have provoked, had the usurped symbol been the one of Coca-Cola or IKEA. 5 Graffiti and stickers of the Stop Islam, Anti-anti fa or Here isn’t the Balkans, here isn’t Africa, here is Slovenia variety (dating in the last 15 years). 6 Even before the Orban poster action of the summer of 2017, the region saw anti-Soros stickers, such as the Soros-Free Zone. For the rise of transitional antisemitism in the region in general, see Tismăneanu (1998: 101–106). 7 In South Slavic languages, Šiptar is a derogatory term for an Albanian. 8 For the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, see also Mojzes (1994, 1998) and Velikonja (2003a). 9 Nacionalni stroj. 10 Pravoslavna armija. 11 “The ‘return to Europe’ was an important political myth of the revolutions of 1989,” claims Tismăneanu (1998: 142). 12 This number stands for the 14 sacred words, a motto of American racist groups, invented by the white supremacist David Lane, meaning We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children. 13 The slogan of German Nazis and Nazis from the occupied Europe Europe for the Europeans is critically discussed in the chapter “Europe for the Europeans” (Burleigh 2000: 422–431). 14 Srpski narodni pokret 1389. 15 In the former Ottoman part of the Balkans, the term balija has many meanings. In this particular case, it is a derogatory name for Muslim quislings of Slavic nationality – i.e., Bosniaks, during the Second World War. 16 Radikalna Ljubljana (RL). 17 Elsewhere (Adorno 2005: 152) explaining it like this: “To the converted and unconverted philosophers of fascism, finally, values like authenticity, heroic endurance of the ‘being-in-the-world’ of individual existence, frontier-situations, become a means of usurping religiousauthoritarian pathos without the least religious content.” 18 In the 28 years the Berlin Wall was standing, between 136 to a little over 200 people died on it, while the numbers of refugees who died from illnesses, drowned or froze to death at the southern border of the European Union reach tens of thousands (see the terrifying number in Chapter 9, endnote 4). 19 It begins with jokes that build up into continuous ridicule and stereotype; next comes an organized discrimination that escalates into spontaneous or organized violence; the final stage of which is the final solution, the genocide, extermination of a certain part of a population.
Shameful compliance 113 20 To my students, I try to explain the essence of the post-socialist transition, or the domination of ethno-nationalism and neo-liberalism, by asking them to research the economic, political, and symbolic status of their protagonists before 1990 and after it. Things then suddenly fall into perspective. 21 The motto of Serbian Action (Srbska akcija), a Serbian clero-nationalist organization, is Nation, not a political party!; I found it on a sticker (2015). 22 In Brecht’s words (2016: 92, 92), “The nationalism of the poor also serves the great masters.” 23 Not to stay in the ugly Balkans again: during the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017, Canadian activists covered the walls in posters with images of violence against the native population, with accusations such as, Canada is armed robbery or Canada 150 is a celebration of indigenous genocide. 24 Or, in Adorno’s words (1973: 49), “The liberalism that hatched the culture industry produced forms of reflection that are encountered indignantly by the jargon of authenticity, although it is itself one of them. This liberalism was the ancestor of the fascism which destroyed both it and its later potential customers.” 25 Kapucarji (Hoods) was journalistic jargon for the infiltrated right-wing extremists at the Ljubljana anti-regime demonstrations in November and December 2012.
Spraying hatred – extreme-right graffiti and street art in Slovenia
Here is Slovenia! (in Slovenian), Carantanian panther Fuck It, We Are Here, Too (in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian), panther crossed out Graffiti battle, Ljubljana, 2011
In the next two chapters, I apply a more in-depth analysis of the set-out theses in the case of extremist and anti-refugee visual ideologies in Slovenia. I am interested in graffiti facets of Slovenian nationalism – called “Garbo nationalism” by the last US ambassador in the SFRY Warren Zimmermann. This is a form of nationalism “with a pretty face”: it is not explicitly aggressive towards others but introverted and “refined,” yet no less malign than the rest of them. Like any other nationalism, so too is this one confronted with a resistance, as shown by the introductory example: on the one hand, there are nationalists who claim they rule the land and see the country primarily as a nation state not as a state of its citizens. This is vigorously, and in this case also wittily, disputed by various ethnic minorities and particularly by anti-nationalists. In this chapter, I critically analyse nationalist and neofascist graffiti – i.e., those that are created with the sprays and stencils of extreme-right groups and individuals in Slovenia. Such street production is just one aspect of their otherwise diversified political activities and has today, in addition to the Internet, proven to be the most efficient means for spreading hate speech and intolerance policies. On these pages, I am interested solely in how graffiti works in their wider political and ideological agenda and not in the organisation of these groups, other activities (music, meeting points, events, demonstrations), and other media they use (websites, blogs, Facebook profiles, fanzines, clothes, symbols). This would deserve a separate study. The first research question is how and by whom the right-wing extremism in Slovenia is constructed and reflected in graffiti. As mentioned in the first chapters, graffiti writing has so far primarily been the medium of individuals and groups with a communication deficit, hence those to whom access to the established means of expressing their views and interests has been prevented or made difficult. Until a few years ago, there was much more left- or libertarian-oriented graffiti and street art in Slovenia, as well as various subculture and immigrant
Spraying hatred 115
Photo 8.1 Fuck It, We Are Here, Too. Ljubljana, 2011. Graffiti battle Source: Photo by MV.
and then right-wing or nationalist oriented. Today, the situation has changed: the contents and number of the latter are alarming, the trend of hatred on the walls is increasing. Becoming a communication extension of dominant discourses and institutions or going even further in their directness, graffiti lose the status of subversiveness, illegality, and transgression they have enjoyed so far. The hegemonic
struggle in society moves to the streets: extremists try to take over from subordinate and marginalised groups even the urban space which has been their traditional venue for expressing views.1 The second research question is linked to the double unity of “silent” and “loud” right-wing extremism – or, more directly, let us admit it: neofascism – in contemporary societies and also in Slovenia. What is the relationship between neofascism expressed on the streets and the one in the dominant institutions and their actual policies? The classical fascism was indeed militarily defeated as an ideological formation, a political system, and a social order in 1945, but not as the structural element of later systems and ideologies which advocate and enforce the authoritarian and hierarchical order of societies, therefore the intolerance and exclusion based on ethnicity, gender, class, race, culture, sexuality, etc. It should be understood in the way the critical philosopher Étienne Balibar (2005: 21) defines racism: it has not receded at all, but has proliferated, albeit sometimes in new forms (as a “neo-racism”, some proposed), targeting new groups, speaking another language, setting up other discriminations, and that the theoretical discourses of difference, otherness, exclusion, have provided the keys to the understanding of these metaphors and metonymies of racism.
Main topics or les fleurs du mal In total, I have analysed almost 2,000 examples of such graffiti, stickers, stencils, posters, etc., that I have recorded in public places in Slovenian urban landscapes in the last 20 years. Some of them belong to the standard right-wing repertoire, while others are decisively local. First, there are the Nazi symbols, such as the swastika, Sieg Heil, the SS symbol, and the numbers 18 and 88. The next is “classical” nationalism, which refers to historical myths and advocates national purity. I have come across graffiti, such as Slovenia for Slovenians, Love or leave Slovenia, Slovenians live here, stickers with the Carantanian panther, a real inflation of graffiti Here is Slovenia, and a sticker Say no to drugs! For a brighter future of the Slovenian nation! with a cannabis leaf crossed out.2 White power supremacism is evident from the writing out of the number 14, graffiti White power, for white Slovenia, White power, the Celtic cross with acronyms WPWW, White pride world wide. A step up from local nationalism is euro-nationalism; therefore, the one that strives for the purity of Europe: I found graffiti such as Europe for Europeans, Freedom to Europe, Say no to Croatia’s accession to the EU and Serbia – get out of the EU – you piece of shit. There is quite a lot of graffiti and stickers which are directed against people who are differently politically and culturally oriented. Against communism, for example, Communist traitors, 1991 Slovenia – The year we were united, the year we defeated communism!, signed by Slovenian Radicals, Down with communists, Death to communists, Stop the left terror, Stop Marx and Stop cultural Marxism. And naturally against multiculturalism (Multiculturalism is white genocide!, as seen in Photo 8.2, and Preserve your heritage, say no to multiculture, Stop Islam, Slovenia for Slovenians, Europe for Europeans!)3 and against antifascism (Anti anti-fa with a
Spraying hatred 117
Photo 8.2 Multiculturalism is white genocide!, signed by ANSi (Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia). Ljubljana, 2012. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
swastika, Afa is left swastika, thus left Nazism, Hahaha Antifa! with a Celtic cross, Anti fa-fa, Antifa monkeys of the system). My parent faculty of social sciences was one of the attacked institutions, the Red faculty, which was drawn all over a couple of times by the Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia with graffiti and stencils: Disgrace of a faculty with a Celtic cross, Faculty of communist sciences accompanied by the inscription Slo and a Celtic cross, and Stop making people stupid. Extremist graffiti are also directed against various minorities in Slovenian society. Most are, naturally, anti-Balkan (Welcome to Slovenia-No Balkan, Balkan has to go, Death to Croats, Southerners to the dumpsters and Bosnia raus. The poster for the referendum against the Technical Law on the Erased4 in 2004 reads: The path taken to the polls on April 4th saves us at least 20,000,000,000 Slovenian tolars! Graffiti Burek, which is a typical Balkan food, is crossed out and replaced by Žganci!, a typical Slovenian dish. These are followed by anti-Roma (Roma out or Death to Roma) and anti-Muslim graffiti (Stop Islamization or a stencil of a person throwing the Muslim crescent into the garbage). Homophobia is frequently linked to the ethnic identity of representatives of other nations (Šiptars paedophiles fags – 50 m in that direction, Croat fag, BBB fags,5 Defend the Slovenian nation with a crossed-out stylised sexual act of two homosexuals). Since
the time of the so-called migrant crisis in the fall of 2015, anti-migrant graffiti have multiplied on the walls (Stop immigration, Immigrants get out, Foreigners get out, Stop the invasion of Europe). Extremism on Slovenian walls also follows the ideology of national socialism – thus it does not only advocate cultural homogeneity, ethnic unity, and political authoritarianism but also economic autarchy. So, right-wing graffiti against the new world order and media world (Fuck NWO, Stop TV propaganda, both together with a Celtic cross) and against capitalism (Death to capitalism and Death to capitalism, freedom to the world, again, with a Celtic cross) can be found. I need to emphasise which topics are almost non-existent on Slovenian walls but are found in the neighbouring countries. For example, there are no clerofascist graffiti6 and very few exaltations of quisling formations from the time of the Second World War,7 just as there are no anti-Partisan graffiti. There are very few political party graffiti – most are directed towards individual political leaders: Kučan Kocjančič Kacin the red vermin; Pahor, what are you doing?; Svetlik at the end of a tunnel; Janković = Cypriot shepherd; Janša is gay/OK; a stencil with Janša wearing a Nazi uniform; a sticker Radio Television Janković; Are we becoming janšized?; A Pahor of dried pears; Pahor is Rode’s son; etc.
Stormtroopers with sprays As a rule, graffiti writers develop their own signature style, many of them can be recognised by their pseudonyms, but their true identity is always difficult to trace. On the other hand, authors of political graffiti very often emphasise their belonging to their group or movement: so that it is exactly known “who” it is that held the spray or stencil or stuck the stickers. Right-wing graffiti writers can be divided into those who are strongly organizationally connected and have clear political goals and the unorganised ones for whom neofascism is just one of the ideological backgrounds. Starting with the latter, let me first mention the unorganised individuals who express their indignation over other political options, social minorities, and vulnerable groups in Slovenian society in this way. They are recognised by the fact that they are not signed with the name of the group – yet their street messages are identical to those of organised groups (graffiti of the type Serbia stinks, swastikas, Every Slovenian should kill one Čefur, Hitler). In the region of Ljubljana, stickers with the symbol and web page address of a store selling nationalistic paraphernalia Dr. Gebi, which is the pseudonym of its owner and alludes to the surname of the Nazi minister of propaganda Dr. Joseph Goebbels. This group can also include the unorganised right-wing extremists from other former Yugoslav republics who spit on all others through their graffiti. Second, “fascist infiltration into the groups of football fans is nothing new,” find researchers of right-wing extremism Martin Smith, Viv Smith, and Patrick Ward (2010: 7) for Great Britain: in the 1980s, it was done by the National Front, now by the English Defence League. The neofascistic symbolism and rhetoric are also found amongst the football fan groups in Slovenia: the ones that support Slovenian clubs (the most organised are the Viole
Spraying hatred 119 and the Green Dragons) and the others who root for the biggest ones in the exYugoslav region (Grobari, Orthodox Boys and Delije, Torcida, Bad Blue Boys). As a rule, alongside their names or even in them, they draw a cross into every O, making it into a Celtic cross. Most of the fans’ graffiti are written in Gothic script which, together with other symbols (88, swastika, Raus), clearly alludes to Nazism.8 Graffiti and street art of all those mentioned earlier are kept company on the walls by those of clearly identified right-wing subpolitical groups. These actually proudly sign their works. In regard to their ideas, which can also be found on their web pages and in actual activities, they can be divided into three groups. The first are extreme nationalists – i.e., the groups Here is Slovenia, Hervards from the Styria region, Slovenian radicals, Gorica panthers, Littoral panthers.9 In graffiti, stencils, and stickers, they emphasise mainly Slovenian national independence and historicity – the motifs of the Carantanian panther, the Prince’s Stone, the Upper Carniola eagle, Mt. Triglav, the linden leaf and the red carnation (as another two invented Slovenian symbols), aforementioned verigar, General Maister, etc. The second group are neo-Nazis, who are also internationally organised – e.g., Blood and Honour, Headhunters from Domžale, and other skinhead groups (see an early study of them by Gregorčič 1999). Their street production and general orientation could be designated as hard international neo-Nazism – clichéd fascist and Nazi symbols prevail (the swastika and its derivatives, Gothic alphabet, Celtic cross) and skinhead imagery. The third group, which is also internationally organised, could be called the new extreme rightists, who use seemingly neutral symbolism and diction. Thus, the mark of the Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia includes a crossed hammer and sword, while the repertoire of their graffiti and stencils includes Nation, rise!; Slovenia, rise!; Freedom to nationalists; Nationalism is the system of the future!; Freedom – community – nation; Freedom to Slovenia, death to the system, etc. Radical Ljubljana harbours similar views to which pan-Slavic traits are added: another school example of Hobsbawmian “invented tradition” is the aforementioned Slavic sun, accompanied with appeals like Glory to the Slavs and Glory to the nation, glory to tradition! The pan-European xenophobic movement Generation Identity advertises itself for the survival of its ethnic-cultural identity with a fairly neutral symbol, an up-facing arrow in a circle, while their stickers or installations feature slogans like Homeland, freedom, tradition, or – in English! – of the type Defend Europe and Slavic brotherhood – White power.
Modern and postmodern fascism on the walls After answering the first question – the content and authors of Slovenian nationalist graffiti – I am tackling a suspicious similarity between the official nationalism and wall nationalism. I will look at it through a prism of differences and similarities, connection and complementarity between the modern and the postmodern type of fascism. These two can be roughly and ideal-typically divided both chronologically and by content, even though their final goal – a nationally and
culturally cleansed, economically and politically sovereign state with authoritarian rule and hierarchical social order – is the same. I compare the new Slovenian extreme right with extreme rights in Italy, Great Britain, and France. The first, modern fascism, is ideologically narrowly profiled and exclusive, it is denoted by harsh diction and sharp praxis. Proudly and ruthlessly, it displays its extremism, uses explicit symbols and is clearly exclusive. As such, Adorno (2005: 108) claims that it is “less ‘ideological,’ in so far as it openly proclaims the principle of domination that is elsewhere concealed.” On the one hand, it relies on the ideological and political tradition of nationalism from the 19th century – i.e., on the nation state building which was created through a series of established methods: from assimilation of various ethnic groups into one nation to the forced re-location or liquidation of them. It is also founded on organised and systematic policy of subduing and exploitation of lower social classes and on the repression against them. Both policies reached their peak together in the form of right totalitarianisms of the first half of the 20th century: in Italian fascism, German Nazism, and in their derivatives. Extremist elements of that kind could be traced everywhere in transitional Eastern Europe, including Slovenia. In the late 1980s, graffiti Čefurji raus already foretold the case of the Erased, the rejection of Balkan multiculturalism was seen in those saying Burek? Nein danke, while razor wire and extreme measures on the border with Croatia were reflected in When I grow up, I’ll be a border guard on the Kolpa River. The second, postmodern fascism, presents itself as “non-ideological” and “inclusive” and nurtures seemingly more acceptable diction (and, again, praxis). It is created in the new post-cold war circumstances of United Europe and parliamentary democracy, which, at least in principle, enable and even encourage multiculturalism. The old, openly hostile rhetoric is not as efficient here: the seemingly milder, more acceptable, conciliatory, inclusive, politically more correct one appears, but hides the same goal. Dominant discourses are full of seemingly neutral categories of nation, patriotism, preservation of tradition, freedom of speech, democracy, free market, etc., even rejecting old totalitarianisms. It is an ideology of “non-ideology” – which only means that it is even more dangerous and insidious. The same is true for the street production of right-wing activists: virtually nobody can disagree with the content of the graffiti by the Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia reading Stop the repression! or Freedom or Pride, not hatred! or Destroy the system. Postmodern fascists use seemingly “neutral symbols” like national flags, Celtic crosses, hidden codes, arrows, the symbol of the Stone Island apparel brand, the Burberry plaid (which a fascist imagination can transform into swastikas), etc. The graffiti of postmodern fascism even include a plethora of markers of the leftist subpolitical movements (the black-red-white colour combination, reference to avant-garde aesthetics/cogwheel, stylised depictions of people, etc.) as well as methods of organisation (bottom-up principle, DIYproduction, direct democracy, squats, music, Internet communities). Only an indepth understanding and knowledge of its ideological and political agenda reveals the true meaning of it all.
Spraying hatred 121 While modern fascism is an ideology of hierarchy (a hierarchal vision of race, gender, race, ethnicity), the postmodern fascism is an ideology of difference. It does not hierarchise but differentiates, builds on distinctions. To follow Balibar (1991), these distinctions are no longer racial but cultural, religious, civilisational. Faced with the unavoidable challenges of globalisation, postmodern extremism escapes into “cultural fundamentalism” and the “return of the local”: politics are seemingly depoliticised into culture. Modern fascists explicitly and proudly state who they are: the postmodern ones hide behind patriotism or “solely” nationalism. The latter do not consider themselves extremist, they even declaratively condemn Nazism and fascism (of course, they immediately add communism, frequently also capitalism or Zionism). Yet even a fleeting look at the content of their graffiti, websites, statements, and actions reveals that behind all of these hides a more or less clear neofascism. Similar excuses are known, for example, in England by the neofascist organisation the English Defence League, including slogans of the type Patriotism isn’t racism (Smith, Smith, and Ward 2010: 5, 16). The difference is also present in the outfit of modern and postmodern fascists: the first are much more uniform(ed), they are easier to recognize due to explicit symbolism (T-shirts and patches with Nazi or white power symbols, skinhead image, or military look), while the latter do not bear these markers, they wear a more indefinable and acceptable casual, in other words, urban style (black jackets with hoods, jeans, sportswear), which is – after all – also closer to the members of left subpolitical groups. The contemporary, postmodern, “smiling,” “cool” fascism is more dangerous than the classical, modern one, since it is more likeable, more elusive, and much less direct. The modern one achieves peace with coercion, while the postmodern does so with agreement, incorporation, the credit for which goes to new hegemonic praxes of mass culture, consumerism, and patriotism. Contemporary Europe – especially Central Europe and the Balkans – is denoted by the rise or even the supremacy of extreme right-wing parties, which work with people; which understand their distress; which channel their dissatisfaction from real contradictions and from real sources of crisis (global neoliberal capitalism and its local branches) to immigrants, refugees, and other minorities; and which, by using populist methods, build hegemony from the bottom up. In France, this was already going on in the 1990s: In France the New Right also derived its intellectual force from the native intellectual traditions of another sort, emphasizing nation, culture and race, while also conceptualizing its strategy in terms of a gramscisme de droit, which clearly originated in a nationalized Marxist tradition. (Desai 1994: 41, italics in original) Very similar observations are offered by the insightful study by Cammelli (2015: 32): the Italian neofascist movement CasaPound, which was created from the grassroots youth subpolitical groups, also puts the project of cultural and social hegemony before the political one.
But the real problem of postmodern fascism is not in the deception with leftist iconography or with the “cool” outfit or with the polishing of the edges of the hard-to-conceal intolerance. Neither is their perfidious “non-ideology” or even “meta-ideology” very disputable: the Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia, for example, spray together the crossed-out (red) star and the crossed-out $, also the crossed-out swastika and the crossed-out (red) star; their graffiti says Here’s no place for totalitarianisms! with the crossed-out (red) star, swastika, and the Muslim crescent.10 I have also stumbled upon the following graffiti: No /swastika/ No /sickle and hammer/ Only Slo patriotism (see Photo 8.3). This Slovenian patriotism – again a contradiction since it is written in English! – is just for the publicly acceptable cover for their extreme nationalism (or, in their words, for the national revolution), which is far more transparent on their website (e.g., in the ANSi Program Points). It is similar with the defense of Europe by Generation Identity: Europe supposedly needs protection from immigrants, refugees, Muslims, cultural Marxism, everyone different but not from turbo-capitalism, sexism, homophobia, racism, economic exploitation, etc. For them, these are not totalitarian ideologies and harmful praxes. The biggest concern is raised by the fact that the hostile speech sprayed, written, scratched, or pasted on the walls is not any different from the speech found in the centrist political, cultural, and media discourses and, unfortunately, also
Photo 8.3 Ljubljana, 2010. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
Spraying hatred 123 increasingly so in praxis. To say one after another: for almost 30 years, rightwingers have been trying to rehabilitate the Slovenian collaboration with both fascism and Nazism. The strivings for national purity are found in graffiti and stickers of neofascists as well as in, for example, in the case of the Erased, committed by the Slovenian democratic government. The new Eurocentrism – to paraphrase, Europa über alles – is also one of the strongest ideological mantras in Slovenia, which invites to unite on the inside, with the other European countries, as much as it separates on the outside, against all others. The alarmist discourse about the perils of communism restoration is the usual part of the vocabulary of the Slovenian transitional right: it has become a useful insult or the means of political and moral disqualification of opponents. It is similar with anti-fascism, from which the Slovenian party and non-party right distances itself or even criminalises it. To continue with the double unified discourse of extremists on the street and those on the podiums. Balkanophobia is also rooted in the discursive everyday of contemporary Slovenia: Balkanist outbursts are present everywhere from mass culture to “high” politics. It is the same with the anti-Roma sentiment: the events connected to the Roma Strojan family (when the authorities simply finished the deportation initiated by local vigilantes in 2006) are not an episode but rather the tip of the iceberg of the discrimination against this group, which in Slovenia, despite its long history, compact settlements, and numerosity, does not even have the status of a national minority.11 The same goes for the anti-Muslim attitude: the silhouette of the mosque is crossed by the street bigots, the same motif is found on the poster of the Slovenian People’s Party candidate from Ljubljana in the elections in 2004. The anti-immigrant graffiti, in a harsh manner, simply translate the operating logic of the new Berlin Wall on the territory of Europe, the Schengen border. Homophobic views can be heard from the podium in parliament, from the pulpits in churches, in various forms in mass media, and in our everyday lives. Violence against homosexuals and homophobic graffiti are simply a logical realisation of such discourse. The unreflected pride about one’s own national identity is found in commonsensical beliefs and in chauvinistic graffiti. Conservative folk music and TV shows swarm with the condemnation of foreign music, culture, race, ways of life – therefore another similarity with the content of graffiti that speak in favour of national autarchy. Ensuing from all this, it is not surprising that we find amongst the groups of people that Slovenians do not want for their neighbours exactly those groups that are the target of right-wing graffiti: Roma (40.3 percent), homosexuals (29.5 percent), Muslims (28.1 percent), people of other races (22.8 percent), immigrants, foreign workers (22.1 percent), and Jews (21.6 percent).12
Radicalism of the centre Such shameful compliance between the street- and the official extremism in Slovenia can be explained using the useful concepts by two political theorists: “extremism of the centre” by Seymour Martin Lipset and “radical centre” by Chantal Mouffe.
In his classic study, Lipset poses that the “politics of the center /is/ the most neglected type of political extremism” (1963: 129). Ideologies of postmodern or “supra-ideological” (i.e., seemingly non-ideological) extreme right-wing movements such as the Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia,13 Radical Ljubljana,14 or the Italian CasaPound (see Cammelli 2015: 40–55) seem suspiciously centristic, not at all distant from the dominant political discourses: they all fight for the preservation of national sovereignty; they advocate economic independence, cultural essentialism, cultural fundamentalism and anti-cosmopolitism; they promote antiimmigration policy, social integralism, or corporatism; they reject global capitalism; they support active demographic policy and the exclusion based on religion and belief. Following Lipsets’s “extremism of the centre,” Cammelli explains this new “extreme right centre” ideology: “Fascism of the third millennium results in /. . ./ local manifestation of the political integralism which is present under other masks in many other European countries” (ibid., 117). As such, fascism is “a product and a(n) (il)legitimate child of the /democratic, MV/ society” (ibid., 119). The radical centre, claims Mouffe, “transcends the traditional left/right division by articulating themes and values from both sides in a new synthesis” (2000: 108). With this, the confrontation of positions and opinions that is the foundation of any kind of democracy ceases to exist: antagonisms are turned into agonisms, enemies into adversaries. For the radical centre, “there is of course neither enemy nor adversary. Everybody is part of ‘the people’” (Mouffe 2000: 120, 121). The researcher of contemporary, postmodern fascism Shane Burley also problematizes such seemingly metapolitical centre, which connects the right with the left into a “third way” or “third position” (2017: 107–127). Fascism “borrows elements from the left, or uses left political ideas for far-right values and motivating meta-politics, so as to develop a synthesis that can appeal beyond their base” (2017: 16).15 A post-political situation, then, which creates a distorted image of a society without any conflicts – suspiciously like the left or right totalitarian regimes, religious and other repressive institutions and their corporative ideologies.16 Such “agonistic pluralism” (Mouffe 2000: 69–74, 105, 117, 135) or “consensus model” (Mouffe 2005: 69) blurs political differences on the inside – but at the cost of the outsiders. Consensus amongst us levels internal class, social, or gender hierarchies to confront with others on the basis of the non-negotiable, essentialised cultural, ethnic or racial differences. So instead of political struggle within society, we are faced with its imaginary unification and, simultaneously, with its confrontation with the real enemies from behind our borders. Instead of fighting social inequalities within, we are fighting national differences outwards; instead of a class struggle, a clash of civilisations, nations, races, cultures, or religions. In short, the radical centre creates agonism to the inside and causes antagonisms to the outside. Back to Slovenian extremist graffiti. All of what has been discussed also hides the answers to the second question posed in the beginning. Eerie similarities between certain elements of dominant discourses as well as the operation of institutions (from the state and party policies to mass media) and discourses and praxes of right-wing extremists on the street testify to the fact that these are two sides of the same coin. The first offer the background and framework for the activities of the latter, while the latter clearly and harshly express what the first do not
Spraying hatred 125 dare.17 In Slovenia, as elsewhere in Europe, the ideological connection between one and the other is apparent. Even more, there is evidence of the membership of street extremists in right-wing parties or of contacts between one and the other. Thus, the answer to the old question of Who draws the swastikas?18 is clear: these are not isolated acts of neofascists but evident continuation of politics by other means, to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz.
Decontamination instead of conclusion Researchers tackle hostile graffiti and street art in various ways. For some, it is solely an academic topic that concludes with a (critical) study. Others upgrade this with the aforementioned engaged or “militant research,” which – after taking evidence and later analysis – ends with an actual, physical decontamination of intolerant speech in graffiti and street art, therefore with the “cleansing” of walls desecrated by hatred. First, such graffiti are destroyed: stickers are torn; graffiti are painted over or scrawled over so that the original chauvinistic message disappears. The second, even more subversive manner of decontamination of sprayed hatred is the changing of the original messages with witty twists and parodies. The nationalist stencil 100% Fair 100% Slovenian thus becomes 100% Fail 100% Slovenian and later also 100% anti-fascist 100% Slovenian.19 Or I can say proudly I’m a Slovenian! only needs one single non to become I can say proudly I’m a non-Slovenian! The right-wing Celtic cross is frequently “hanged” on graffitied gallows. The Islamophobic graffiti with a crossed-out Muslim symbol bearing the inscription Stop Islam has been replaced by Stop idiots, while Stop Islamization has become Stop idiotization with a small intervention. Anti-fascism prevailed in the battle of additions: Anti anti anti-fa. A stencil with the name of the chauvinist group Littoral panthers with the Carantanian panther has been “corrected” by erasing the word panthers and the image of the panther itself, and adding fascists and whores. The white supremacism of the graffiti White people are fighting for survival acquired a completely different meaning when someone added of Native Americans. A message opposing multiculturalism, Multiculturalism is killing our culture!, has been transformed into Multicultural cuteness kills the thoughts of Evil! The racist Stop white genocide has been corrected with Viki krema /Slovenian brand of chocolate spread/ to every Slovenian village. Death to Titoists is supplemented into Death to fascists and the chauvinistic graffiti Serbs on willow trees with There are no willows. The nationally purist Stop immigration! is changed to Stop fascism Love to the World. The Euro-nationalistic Europe for Europeans is subverted with the subscription And for everybody else. In short, the neo-Nazi graffiti Slovenia for Slovenians! is changed into Slovenia for all!
Notes 1 Along with usurping other characteristics of left-wing subpolitical groups: dress codes, squatting, music, language, and the techniques, methods, and places of propaganda actions.
2 Members of other South Slavic nations are also found among nationalist extremists in Slovenia and are represented with graffiti of the type Knife Wire Srebrenica, Kosovo the Heart of Serbia, Kosovo a republic, Serbia for Serbs, Ante Pavelić a hero with a Croatian clero-fascist symbol, Orthodox boys killers of Ustasha and Bosnia in my heart, Serbia on my dick. 3 To remember, Anders Behring Breivik ranked Slovenia and Slovakia at the bottom of the list of European countries according to the level of multicultural indoctrination. In his own words, he was supposed to have loyal brothers and sisters in Slovenia. 4 “The Erased” is the name of about 25,000 inhabitants of Slovenia unconstitutionally left without the legal status a few months after Slovenia declared independence – i.e., February 1992. Almost all of them were from other Yugoslav republics, so ethnically non-Slovenians. 5 Bad Blue Boys (BBB) are football fans of FC Dinamo Zagreb. 6 Such as those by the clero-fascist movement Obraz in Serbia or HNK Hajduk supporters Torcida in Croatia. 7 In Croatia, a lot of Ustasha graffiti can be found: stylized ‘ear-like’ letter U, U with a cross, the Ustasha greeting For Home(land) – Ready!, the acronym NDH, Ante Pavelić, etc. 8 For more on the political symbolism of fans, see Chapters 10 and 11. 9 Slovenski radikali, Goriški panterji, Primorski panterji. 10 For example, the slogan of the last Slovenian anti-government revolts in 2012 and 2013 is usurped with the graffiti System, you are finished (in Slovenian, Sistem, gotof si) by underlining si twice (si – meaning Slovenia). 11 Slovenia obviously follows or even anticipates the European trends of new racism – if we only remember the organized deportations of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma from France and Italy at the time when Romania and Bulgaria were already full member states of the EU! 12 Data taken from the still unpublished research Slovensko javno mnenje (Slovenian Public Opinion) SJM 2017. 13 See their program or points at http://anslovenije.blogspot.si/p/tocke-ansi.html, accessed December 25, 2016. 14 This is their summarized program: For the Slavic descent, freedom and old values. Against the western degeneration, American imperialism and cultural Marxism. See www.facebook.com/Radikalna-Ljubljana-851736504884615/, accessed December 27, 2016. 15 In other words, “fascism has always required a certain ‘left-right crossover’” (ibid., 109). 16 Mouffe holds a perfectly clear opinion on this (2005: 79): “When democratic politics has lost its capacity to mobilize people around distinct political projects and it limits itself to securing the necessary conditions for the smooth working of the market, the conditions are ripe for political demagogues to articulate popular frustration.” 17 Nevertheless, some differences can be found between the discourse of extremists in dominant institutions and those on the streets. Despite all the stated similarities, extremist graffiti are mainly secular (do not refer to the Slovenian catholic soul, which is what religious integrists believe, or do not salute with God bless Slovenia!) and, which comes as a surprise from their patriotic viewpoint, prefer German Nazism over home-grown quislings (the number of Nazi signs is, namely, a lot higher than the one of the White Guard or the Slovene Home guard). 18 The article with this bombastic title was published in November 1981 in the Nedeljski dnevnik in the context of the so-called Nazi-Punk Affair, with which the communist authorities of the time wanted to settle the score with the punk movement in Slovenia by creating a moral panic. 19 100 % ponosen 100 % Slovenec; 100 % ponošen 100 % Slovenec; 100 % anti-faist 100 % Slovenec.
The new others – visual ideology of refugees in contemporary Slovenia
Refugees welcome to hell Graffiti, not far from my home in Ljubljana, 2016
From Ahasver to Muselman Watching regional media reports on the migrant crisis, I was constantly reminded of the old mythical story of Ahasver, a Jewish man cursed to walk the earth while waiting for the last judgement.1 Then I thought about another character, an even more tragic one: the Muselman, as Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben (1998, 1999) referenced a term from the concentration camp survivor, Italian Jew Primo Levi. Muselmänner applied to the weakest, the most exhausted, apathetic concentration camp inmates who were certain to die and possessed nothing more but their “bare life.” Somewhere between life and death, human and inhuman, the expression according to Agamben (1999: 69, see also 1998: 103, 104 and Rancière 2004a: 301) stood for “the guard on the threshold of a new ethics, an ethics of a form of life that begins where dignity ends.” I recognize this “new ethics” of bare biological survival and not of dignified living in the current ideological constructing of images of refugees from the Middle and Near East and Africa – these new Muselmänner – also in Slovenian public and political discourses. The dramatic events since the summer of 2015 are the moment of truth for the West, for the white civilisation, and the moment of its confrontation with the catastrophic heritage of its global hegemony and its present continuation. But most of all, these events demand a reflection on its future development and engagement. The Mediterranean route and now the (Western) Balkan route2 pose a fateful challenge to the Europe of national countries and their respective national cultures. With more than 3,000 drowned migrants per year (i.e., only those who were found and were not lost at sea, see https://missingmigrants.iom.int), the European Union can hide behind abstract phrases such as open borders, freedom for all or respect for human rights no more – beyond its trenches, all of these odes to joy have been quite obviously trampled over.3 The Schengen Wall is more efficiently insurmountable and deadlier4 than every other European wall in history, including the Berlin Wall, the fall of which has become the symbol of the latest unification of Europe.
The purpose of this chapter is to analyse hate speech “à la slovène” in this much larger context. I will research how the image of refugees as the new Other to Slovenianness are created in various Slovenian discourses from the spontaneous or street ones to structured or formal ones. To be more precise, how have Slovenia and its society, which is notoriously lacking cosmopolitism, the tradition of multiculturality, and the acceptance of anything different, come to normalise hate speech against refugees. Since the summer of 2015, I have been systematically collecting, classifying, and analysing media reports; the statements made by politicians and state officials – the dominant discourse – and the photos of graffiti and street art – that is to say, the street comments on the situation. What is more, the extremely hateful graffiti have only anticipated the steps taken by state authorities: the street has run ahead of the official politics, showing it the xenophobic direction and diction. To translate into street slang: what were once vices are now habits.
Double matrix of exclusion The ideological construction of the refugee in such hate speech goes through a double matrix of exclusion. First comes unification: refugees per se are imagined in an abstract way, as they are all the same – by definition and in every way different from us, the natives. The second step of the matrix is their differentiation in accordance with the level of threat these refugees supposedly pose to – again – us, the autochthon population. Here, they are divided into those who are somehow still acceptable for Slovenia or Europe and those who are definitely not. Step one: the unification of refugees – the refugee as the abstract other The first step of exclusion puts the image of the refugee in opposition to the imaginary image of natives: the former become what Lévi-Strauss calls the “zeroinstitution,” giving meaning to its surroundings by turning it against itself.5 Europe or Slovenia is unified through fear towards them. In short, refugees are not us – a statement that completely overlooks and denies their actual class, political, cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, and belief heterogeneity. This step finds where they are coming from, who or what they are, why they are coming, and where they are going irrelevant; what is important is that they do not belong to us. The homogenisation and inclusion of ours on the one hand, the exclusion and consequently the segregation of them on the other. The creation of the Other, othering, develops through a series of techniques following a classical conspiracy model.6 A refugee is the Other in a natural sense: the media used naturalised metaphors like the river of refugees that finds its way, of an avalanche, a current, a flood, a wave, a tsunami, a shipment, a stampede, a swarm, of immigrant vermin, cancer, etc.,7 which pushes forward, gushes. Again, a typical naturalization of politics, therefore, described by Barthes (1991: 128–130). The rhetoric of “depersonalization of refugees” (Jeffs 2015: 41) has intensified with the cadres in the television news: a nameless crowd of people
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moving towards the cameraman or being recorded from a safe height (a helicopter, for example, like other natural disasters). Due to its small size and draftiness, Slovenia embraces a strong ideology of self-victimisation, the “Calimero Complex,” which is why the image of the refugee has been constructed in relation to its threatening numerosity. Refugees are robbed of their individuality. Time and time again, commentators have emphasised their uncontrollable numerousness (although almost none of them stayed in Slovenia!) – almost never mentioning any internal differences or structure, which, of course, opened up a space for various insinuations and manipulations. Furthermore, a refugee is also the Other in terms of security, which opens the door to securitisation praxes, including militarisation of the border: there were talks of enemies infiltrating Europe, undercover jihadists, terrorists were to make use of the refugee crisis as camouflage, these were to be the future sleeper cells or the fifth column, a bomb that is to be exploded,8 etc. The political otherness can be seen through the blossoming of various conspiracy theories: this is nothing more than a plan to turn Europe into an Islamic country, into Eurorabia or Eurabia. Xenophobes were obsessively searching for answers to the questions of who is behind this, a part of what demonic plan refugees are. Besides the Muslim conspiracy, there are also the American and the – surprise, surprise! – Jewish conspiracies:9 all of them are trying to weaken and destabilise Europe by encouraging migrations. The theories go that they are also useful for the home leftists – a silent connection is apparently being established amongst them and the Islamists. In the case of Slovenia, migrations are to ensure votes for the abstract or the concrete left (one of those psychotic calculations ends up with 200,000 potential voters for the United Left party), bringing the destruction of Slovenian culture and nation. And the last conspirators are the multi-culti EU bureaucrats wishing for a non-national Europe. Refugees are others in a historical sense too: the long tradition of Christian Europe battling Muslim Arabs and Turks has been emphasised. There were appeals for a relighting of bonfires (in Slovenian lands a means of communication in times of wars with the Ottomans, a deterrent against their attack). A more recent history has provided another example of this long struggle: the war on terrorism since September 2001. An abstract refugee is also the religious Other: Islam is supposedly attacking Christianity. We could read that there is a planned invasion of Muslim fundamentalists aiming to establish sharia law in Europe or a caliphate.10 Various academics have also contributed to religious alarmism, saying, for example, that Islamic extremism holds a dangerous presence in Slovenia and that there is no stopping the flow of people who look quite fanatical! Furthermore, an always handy excuse for creating the Other is the economic one: the refugees are endangering our jobs; they are a social burden as they would enjoy the same social rights – at the expense of native population, of course. This line of thought emphasised how much the maintenance of one refugee costs in opposition to our unemployed and poor people. In the legal sense, they are perceived as privileged others as they have no personal documents, break our laws, cross our borders without being persecuted, etc. Of course, not like us who have to obey the rules is always added. In the social sense, they are others due to their
different habits, their substantially higher fertility which is pushing Slovenian or European population into soon becoming the minority in our own homeland. They are destroying the existing balance in society. Different “experts” arbitrarily set limits on what percentage of foreigners is still acceptable for society to work normally; what is their upper limit? Refugees are apparently also socially and psychologically different from us: not just different but worse since they steal, fight, refuse our food, are dirty, etc. In short, they are nothing other than violent migrant hordes.11 The sexual otherness of these refugees only serves to reproduce the old patriarchal formula of protecting our women against various foreigners, which appears as the final argument of every racist or nationalistic ideology and politics: here, again, the refugees are rapists (and often called rapefugees).12 Racial otherness is self-evident: news reports have often mentioned darker skin or the North African appearance of refugees. Let me conclude the list of refugee otherness with the cultural or civilisational argument: apparently, they are barbarians who are putting Western civilisation in danger and degenerate it: multi-culti is the white genocide. In a classic Huntington way, this exclusionist discourse reduces people to members of different essentialised, incompatible and conflicting groups that cannot possibly live together. Slovenian extremists issue stickers that read Euroarabia? No, thanks! Let’s Stop the Islamization of Europe and the Spread of Islamic Extremism, Europe for Europeans!, with the obligatory Celtic cross, of course (2016, see Photo 9.1). To summarise all 13 refugee othernesses: the argumentation is the same as in the Nazi anti-Semitism of Alfred Rosenberg that treated Jews as an essential threat to the Aryan essence (Patterson 2012: 122). The criminalised, dehumanised, or bestialised refugee is also a universal threat to the native population – be it Slovenians or Europeans. It is eerie to think that the media often reported the suffering of animals caught in the razor-wire border fence with much more empathy and understanding than the suffering of refugees in the protective ditches of Fortress Europe. Step two: the differentiation of refugees Yet this dramatic discourse does not perceive all refugees the same: their forced unification is followed by another bio-political step, their division into more or less acceptable for us. In the classic Foucauldian sense, this second step of authoritative strategy of separation and control goes as follows. First of all, real refugees are separated from just economic migrants (or “refugees,” i.e., refugees in quotation marks, as found in some media and graffiti). The former should honestly be fleeing wars and violence, while the latter are simply just searching for work (or a leisurely life on social support). What is more, the latter are actually not even searching for employment or social benefits but are covert terrorists. Next is a division into Christians and Muslims: a ticket to Slovenia should be a certificate of baptism, this is how selection should be made. Similar is a division into light and dark skinned with a sequence of supremacistic
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Photo 9.1 Euroarabia? No, thanks! Let’s Stop the Islamization of Europe and the Spread of Islamic Extremism, Europe for Europeans!, signed by Autonomous Nationalists of Slovenia. Ljubljana, 2016. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
qualifications for the former and racist disqualifications for the latter. Refugees were also divided into young men and all the rest, asking why the former do not fight for their homelands. The frighteningly larger percentage of young men has, of course, been emphasised since, in accordance with the first step of
differentiation, they would take our jobs, social benefits, women, etc. Refugees are either obedient, meek or disobedient, uncontrollable: violent incidents have been presented as proof of their inability to integrate into our culture. All this can be resumed by one single fact: everybody else has been talking about the refugees but the refugees themselves.13 In the end, the most useful mechanism of creating others out of refugees was the combination of police isolation of refugees (dislocating them as much as possible from the local population)14 and the media blockage (they were the only ones not being asked about their fates, difficulties, situations, and plans, while every other person in any kind of contact with them had an occasion to be heard). Let us see them and know about them as little as possible! This is the only way to uphold the constructs of cognitive dissonance, such as this is an Islam overtaking of Europe (while the majority of refugees is fleeing none other than the violence of ISIS and other religious extremists); they will take away our jobs (and simultaneously live off our social support); they are primitive (yet at the same time, we are shocked that they use mobile phones, speak English, etc.) and wild (although they are scheming a deliberate Islamization of the West); they exploit us (all the while being the cheapest and most underpaid workforce, the most abused, rightless, and precarious workers); or those able to fight choose to not do so for their countries (first for their obviously stated pacifism and second when countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc., exist only on paper while the more or less paramilitary groups supported by local or global superpowers share authority amongst them).15
The typification of refugee images Based on this double exclusionist matrix, Slovenia saw four paradigmatically different refugee images emerge. First, I will briefly describe each of them, then list the measures proposed by its creators and re-creators, and, finally, reflect the position of enunciation, which can be found in dominant media as well as in the actions of street activists. The first image is the image of a criminal: a refugee is of course a terrorist, a criminal, a rapist, a murderer, an Islamist, etc., which goes hand in hand with our self-image of victims. The proposed measures include active confrontation, a relentless position, a criminalisation of refugees: closing borders, limiting their movements, exile, using control techniques (including tear gas and other violent means), prison-like regime, engaging the military and the police in full gear, etc. One of the infamous right-wing Twitter activists even called for them to be shot at: they were to be stopped with bullets. This is an unmoving, genocidal, extremist, “Breivik” position, the “old” or “modern fascism.” The second is the image of the unwanted newcomer: refugees are qualified as different; we will not be able to integrate them; they will live off our social support; we have no jobs for them; etc. In short, mixing will only bring problems: they cannot be employed; they will not adapt to our way of life; etc. The measure against this is the classic NIMBY, Not in my backyard logic – i.e., it’s OK, we
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understand their situation and the distress, but let someone else take care of them; we don’t want them in our midst. This is an only seemingly “softer,” defensive stance, aforementioned “neo-racism” or “postmodern fascism,” which hides its radical exclusionism behind a more peaceful “centre” discourse and praxes. The third image is diametrically opposed to the first two: it is the image of the victim, which reduces refugees to poor, helpless, confused, ignorant people towards whom we feel benevolent and empathic. As if they were children that need to be cared for. The proposed measure is humanitarian aid for bare survival. I believe that this is a well-intentioned and kind, yet unreflective, “MotherTeresian” protective position that degrades refugees as passive and infantile, and makes them dependent on our help, on our goodwill. All three images depoliticise refugees: they are either criminals, good-fornothings, or victims. The last image recognises a political subject in them: it is the proletarian16 or the avant-garde of the 21st century.17 To paraphrase Marx, these people have nothing to lose but their chains: they are the subject of a revolution, a promise of a change that we are unable to make. This is the basis of the correspondent measure: their empowerment, the recognition of their politicalness, their revolutionary potential. Refugees are undoubtedly an important part of the global class struggle – yet however attractive this utopian-emancipatory position is, I can also reproach it with a certain idealisation. Their “direct action” really is effectively erasing borders, but does that make them an autonomous, reflective political actor – or merely a colourful, ad hoc conglomerate of individuals with very basic, survival goals coming from a simple reason that behind them quite literally a bomb is ticking, and so have no clear political ambitions? It is difficult to make generalisations, but I perceive them as an “industrial reserve army” in Marxist terms and not simply as global proletariat. The projection of refugees of being a priori a progressive, transformative, solidary, and coherent group is nothing but a romantic prejudice which repeats itself. In the last two centuries, similar over-expectations have also been projected to other predetermined “revolutionaries on duty” and their radical political potentials: the working class, intellectuals, and students. None of those was revolutionary as a whole: their ranks held revolutionaries as well as opportunists, conservatives and progressives.
Sowing hate, reaping war The numerous, mostly negative refugee images in Slovenia and Europe sadly belong in the context of similar processes of radicalisation of the post-cold war, united, democratic, tolerant, free Europe without borders. This is nothing new; we have been seeing similar images for almost 30 years. Calls for defending Europe against foreigners were heard during the increased refugee passage in the ’90s because of the wars in ex-Yugoslavia18 and later during the accessions of new member states to the European Union.19 Images of hermetically sealed southern borders, the danger of foreigners invading our homes, their smuggling across the border, racist stereotypization, stigmatizing, extremist denominations, and operations of institutions (such as Slovenian refugee centres in the ’90s and early 2000s
with a scary name, “Centre for the removal of foreigners”!)20 etc., were already emerging then. In 2010 and 2011, the leading European politicians of that time were already convincing us that multiculturalism was dead.21 The current administration responded to the refugee situation in the Eichmann manner of unreflective following of orders22 issued by – in this concrete case – an unidentified client (or some abstract Europe). A deliberately ignorant newspeak (razor wire, for example, turned into technical obstacle, see Photo 9.2 questioning such discourse) was used to write and speak about protecting the Schengen border, safeguarding Europe, etc. In symptomatically many cases, the official discourse was no different to that of right-wing political graffiti writers: statements such as Slovenia protect borders! or A refugee is not the same as an economic migrant or Send the military to the borders could be heard from leading politicians or read on the walls. Those appeals appeared simultaneously with the militarisation of the southern Slovenian border and new legislation on increasing the powers of the army. Xenophobia grew from a latent to a manifest, open one; it was not hiding anymore – this while Slovenia was governed by a centre-left coalition. I can cynically comment that no political right is needed when such a centre-left fulfils all of the right-wing goals! In November of 2015, the Slovenian prime minister even accompanied the erection of the barbed-wire fence with a schizophrenic statement saying that he felt bad as a human being to be putting up
Photo 9.2 Technical obstacle? Ljubljana, 2016. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
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fences but as the prime minister [he has] to take on the responsibility of ensuring safety to refugees and citizens. Loud official/unofficial extremist discourse and systematic/spontaneous xenophobic praxes emerged regardless of the fact that practically no refugee wanted to stay in Slovenia23 which – in my view – should really be a cause for our concern. They were merely crossing on their way to Germany or elsewhere in the West. And yet the planned intimidation of people again proved to be an effective governing strategy as it makes their managing easier and justifies repressive government measures: public opinion research shows that today the majority of Europeans (and Slovenians) are very reserved towards refugees. I could add a sarcastic remark that Europe (and Slovenia) is finally united, unified, connected – against a new “enemy.” Unfortunately, the negative consequences of such a politics of foreigner criminalisation (or in the best-case scenario, their ghettoisation – but remember the French banlieue riots of fall 2005!) and a self-victimisation of the native population are quick to be seen: growing hate and fear lead to a radicalisation of discourses and praxes on both sides. In the words of an old proverb: if you sow hate, you reap war. I sadly expect that the mandatory quotas that will have to be accepted by every EU member state will only make matters worse: attempts at settlement, schooling, employment, and overall integration have so far already been met with resistance (threats with self-organized vigilantes, referendums, demonstrations, etc.). This will remain a powerful fuel of right-wing populism in the future. Since 2015, there has been practically no talk of the essential reasons of why the refugees are coming in the first place. People have been being convinced of the dangers that the refugees bring, and it has not been explained to them why they are here. No one really asks why are they coming at all. The discourses and praxes of the extreme centre systematically hide the true reasons for the refugee crisis by transferring hate onto the refugees themselves. In my opinion, there are three main reasons for the latest mass migration into Europe: the heritage of colonialism, the consequence of neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism, and the failed military and political interventions of the last 20 or 30 years. The first is summarised in a Paris graffiti: We are now here because first, you were there then! Between the end of the 15th century and the First World War, the old colonial superpowers – Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, etc. – ensured a long-lasting subordination of the world’s periphery to the world’s centre. The largest part of the responsibility for the refugee situation should therefore sit on their shoulders. Secondly, a neo-colonialism which follows the formal decolonisation after the Second World War only strengthens this supremacy on the one hand and the dependency on the other: pillaging and ravaging continue. The nature of capitalism changes as well: it turns from the liberal, monopoly, and imperialistic capitalism into the financial or debt one. New global players and new colonisers emerge: the USA, Soviet Union or Russia, China, multinational corporations, the European Union. The third reason is a sequence of completely failed interventions and campaigns of great powers in the Middle and Near East and in North Africa. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, etc., now Syria. Everywhere, there are “failed states” (Woodward 2017) where
new governments are even more violent, more autocratic than the previous ones, where religious fundamentalism and radicalism are now rising at the expense of the former secular leadership and current antagonism with the West. The refugee crisis is, therefore, not the cause of difficulties but a logical consequence, a structural turn, a metaphorical “subconscious revenge” of the Third World upon the First World – the First World that caused and is perpetuating the global economic, social, and political crisis. We are witnessing a simple “boomerang effect,” it is payback time: it is entirely logical that people from the poor global South will flee to the rich global North.24 Yes, refugees are the consequence and the responsibility of the West, as their flight is due to its former and current interventions. Slovenia – along with other peripheral Balkan countries: Turkey, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Hungary – contributes by doing the dirty work of intercepting or containing the refugee wave, i.e., acting as the vanguard, a volunteer gendarme of the rich Western countries and former colonial and current neo-colonial superpowers that are the most responsible for this situation. By militarising discourse and praxis, the government turned the refugee question into a security one: Europe has found itself in a certain permanent state of war. Safety against refugees comes before helping them: this is why the European Union granted Slovenia almost three times more funds for security than for helping migrants.25 This is, therefore, no refugee crisis, but a reception crisis. Refugees are not a problem per se, nobody wishes to take dangerous routes to an unfriendly new environment – this is a crisis caused by global social unfairness. The critical thinker Igor Štiks believes migrations to be “the consequence of the catastrophic capitalism in which we live and the wars and exploitation of which ravage the periphery. This causes migrations.”26 Creating and reproducing an anti-refugee discourse benefits the institutions of global capitalism, which then control the world more easily by dividing it into the centre and the periphery. Whenever someone mentions refugee crisis, they must be reminded of colonialist heritage, continuous military interventions in the Third Word, and neoliberal “fast capitalism.” The current solving of the refugee problem – be it Frontex or the administratively set quotas of relocation, concentration camps in Turkey or a more stringent asylum policy, accepting refuges ad hoc or setting up razor wire on borders – is merely dealing with the effects instead of facing the causes. Not turning towards the real reasons for the flight will only worsen the situation. Refugees will keep on coming until the global distribution of power and wealth is fair, until global exploitation and global apartheid is minimalised, if not eradicated.
Transferring hate In Slovenia as elsewhere in Europe, refugees serve as an excellent opportunity for the discourses and the institutions of power to transfer hate. Adorno efficiently explains the “functional” character of anti-Semitism: “The aggression may be deflected, at least in part, from the Jews to another group, preferably one of still greater social distance” (1949: 609). “‘Mobile’ prejudices” (ibid.: 610) can be
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transferred from one marginal group onto another one, a new one: in this case the refugees. Psychoanalyst Alexander Mitscherlich (1999: 15–17) explains the processuality and the transfer of prejudices from one group onto another: they do not always have the same goal but can target ever-new enemies. How does this show in the case of countries on the so-called Balkan route? Instead of pointing to the real culprits for the real crisis, which shows through increasing poverty, unemployment, demontage of the welfare state; collapsing local economy; and political instability – i.e., local consequences of global capitalism – a tactical diversion points to convenient scapegoats, to various others. In short, blame the weak! It is, therefore, not the economic and political oligarchs, tycoons or narrow elites with Panama bank accounts that are responsible for the bad state of things – but whoever deviates from the ideological imagery of our identity (Slovenianness, Europeanness, Western civilisation, Christianity, etc.).27 In the end, this provocatively banal and horrifyingly efficient anti-refugee hate speech with its corresponding praxis do not even consider refugees as such but in a way as the “accidentally” next others, the new others to the imaginary centre, the imaginary us – this is where the introductory mention of Ahasvel and Muselman is coming from. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that in this hate vocabulary and activities – spoken by either the inciters wearing ties and holding PhDs during the primetime shows and covers, or those holding cans of spray (or baseball bats) on the streets – refugees figure alongside other “constitutive Others,” other stigmatised “weakest links” of the Slovenian post-socialist transition. And so, it was literally at the same time with many dominant discourses and praxes that those same extremist bigots raised their cans to produce anti-refugee graffiti, stencils, and stickers (Slovenia protect your borders, Stop Islam, People hungry, refugees fed, Stop invasion of Europe, Stop immigration infiltration, Stop the invasion of “refugees”, Pro border pro nation stop immigration; see an example of, hm, neoliberal anti-refugee graffiti in Photo 9.3) as well as graffiti against all other marginal groups of Slovenian society (Let’s rape leftist women, Refugees raus, we have enough of our own vermin /Čefurs . . . /, LGBT is degeneration, degradation, decadence!, Stop LGBT revolution, Against gender theory, Stop the degeneration of Europe, Čefurs raus!, etc.) or against their ideological opposition (Communism is dying, Stop the red parasites, Better dead than red, Communism is the definition of failure, Lie is the immortal soul of communism, etc.). In short, this is the invasive vermin helped by home traitors and the fifth column, as stated by one of the right-wing commentators. In this savvy ideological turn, refugees and all of the aforementioned – and not global and local exploiters – have now become the new Other, that is, the new enemy. Not to criminalise, victimise or idealise either the abstract us or the also abstract refugees, I see the current refugee crisis as a civilisation challenge, a maturity exam of everybody on either side of the razor wire in the sense of a bilateral learning to live together in peace and collaboration. I see it as an opportunity, not as a constraint. This does not mean one adapting to the other, which implies fixed
Photo 9.3 For an easier flow of capital not “refugees,” Ljubljana, 2015. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
identities and a subsequent submission of the weak one, but a patient construction of new, in between, hybrid, ever-developing identities. Integrations on both – or better to say on all – sides. It will not be straightforward or easy; this much is clear, as no progressive initiative in history has ever been easy.
Notes 1 See Perry and Schweizter (2008). 2 See excellent studies of Acerbic Distribution 2016 (2016) and Kogovšek Šalamon and Bajt (2016). 3 Including the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union in 2012 for the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights. 4 UNITED, UnitedAgainstRefugeeDeaths.eu, the European network against nationalism, racism, fascism, and in support of migrants and refugees, listed 34,361 documented deaths of refugees and migrants due to the restrictive policies of the EU from 1993 to May 2018. 5 He believes that “these institutions have no intrinsic property other than that of establishing the necessary preconditions for the existence of the social system to which they belong; their presence – in itself devoid of significance – enables the social system to exist as a whole.” In other words, these institutions have “no function other than that of giving meaning to the society in which they are found” (1989: 158, 159). 6 See the excellent study of conspiracy theories in Knight (2000). In the case of construction of ideological image of refugees, I can easily observe the “iron matrix”
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7 8 9 10
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25
of stereotype-making which goes like this: selection, extraction, negativization, or demonization and generalization. Therefore, much in the spirit of Marine Le Pen, who described the coming of refugees as bacterial immigration. In the words of Silvio Berlusconi in February 2018. References to George Soros, who was supposedly behind all this, again came in handy – for example, the title The Billionaire Who Put the World Out of Joint! (the cover page of right-wing magazine Demokracija, Ljubljana, December 29, 2016). In opposition to Slovenian catholic ideologists, the pope has, interestingly enough, shown a humanist attitude towards the refugees on several occasions, reminding people not to treat them with indifference: he believes that every European parish should accept a refugee family. Slovenian catholic missionary Pedro Opeka also spoke of refugees in a positive way. The right-wing media generally praise the iron-fisted Višegrad rulers, such as the Slovak social democrat prime minister Robert Fico, who believes the refugees to be the highest threat as they cannot be integrated, or the Czech president Miloš Zeman, who supported the exile of economic migrants and religious extremists, yet most of all and occasionally with outright fanatic fervor they speak of Viktor Orbán. Illustrated most picturesquely on the cover page of the Polish nationalistic magazine WSieci (February 2016) featuring the alarmistic title of Islamic rape of Europe, where several dark-skinned male hands are violently grabbing a blonde Caucasian female draped in the European flag. The same motif could be found on the cover of the right-wing Slovenian magazine Demokracija (August 2018). The archetype motive of the rape of the Sabine women is found in the political propaganda of all modern wars in general. I remember, for example, a Studio City broadcast on national television where questions such as Does Slovenia need a fence? were answered by the state secretary at the Interior Ministry and a representative of the Bela krajina Tourist Association but not by refugees or activists. Acerbic Distribution 2016 (2016: 20, 21). In praxis, this even meant repressive organs turning away self-organized activists. See the short yet lucid analysis by M. Dimač 10 Refugee Myths, Počasnik, the INDE community newspaper, No. 1, February 2016, pp. 20–24. See interview with Rastko Močnik, We live in the dark ages of the Tsardom of Russia. We now call it the European Union. Mladina, Ljubljana, October 2, 2015. See the publication edited by Peljhan and Hribar (2015). A study of the situation then (Pajnik and Lesjak-Tušek in Gregorčič 2001) is still very much valid and useful in the situations now: the excluding discourses – the structural and the street one – are practically identical. See examples from the then official EU publications and media in Velikonja (2005). Center za odstranjevanje tujcev (COT). Angela Merkel in October 2010, David Cameron in February 2011 and Nicolas Sarkozy in February 2011. In an echo of the refugee situation, similarly shocking opinions were expressed also by Slavoj Žižek at the Festival of Tolerance (!) in Ljubljana in January 2016. In his work on how the Holocaust is rooted in modernity, Zygmunt Bauman (1989: 17) finds that the extermination of Jews was a simple “product of routine bureaucratic procedures.” Even though the Minister of Home Affairs was afraid that in the case of closing the Austrian border, a refugee pocket would form, and those people would not evaporate; they would stay with us (Delo, Ljubljana, January 19, 2016, p. 3). Even though this statement requires a quick correction: only a minority out of about 50 million currently fleeing refugees is headed that way. The majority stays close to the crisis points, deep in the Third World. According to the information provided by the Slovenian Ministry of the Interior, Slovenia was granted 14.7 million euros from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund
(covering asylum, legal and illegal migrations), while it was granted a total of 41.2 million euros from the Internal Security Fund (covering police cooperation, prevention and fight against various forms of crime, protection of critical infrastructure, crisis management, and for borders and visas). 26 www.rtvslo.si/kultura/novice/igor-stiks-migracije-so-posledica-katastrofalnega-kapitalizma/ 387415; accessed December 18, 2016. 27 Let us remind again the concise words of stencil on Photo 1.2: I noticed in many exYugoslav cities: You are screwed by capitalism, not by fags.
10 The chosen few – football fan graffiti
Football is for you and me, not for fucking industry! Joint sticker of various Romanian club fans, Timișoara, 2017
“Football: A Dear Friend to Capitalism,” was the critical comment addressed during the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup in the summer of 2010 by the Marxist culturologist Terry Eagleton. Like any other activity, all versions of any sport (recreational, mass, competitive, high-level),
Photo 10.1 Football is for you and me, not for fucking industry!, Timișoara, 2017. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
reflect dominant ideas and praxes in society1 but also reflect struggles in it (see, for example, Zirin 2005). This makes football as the most important of all unimportant things especially intriguing. From a historical point of view, this was first a folk and then a working man’s game, later capitalistically incorporated as the “opium of the masses,” or in the words of another critical culturologist and activist, Gabriel Kuhn (2011: 18, 19), a distraction from the political struggle, as a means by the powerful to keep the workers complacent, as a potential tool for nationalism, as a formula to pit workers against workers in competition, as a way to create stars, thereby undermining workers’ solidarity. Therefore, instrumentalised in every which way. On the other hand, “football appeals to deeply rooted notions of collectivity and solidarity” (ibid., 51). The same goes for football-fan subculture that is, looking at it as you may, not an ideologically neutral or apolitical action; this is also why this kind of street visual production found its way into this book. Football fan graffiti and street art speak loudly not only about the fans, about The chosen few, as the FC Hamburger fans call themselves, but also about society as a whole since they often represent the pointiest tip of the iceberg of social activities and are in one way or another directly or indirectly connected to the relations of power and social struggles in it.
The specificities of studying football fan graffiti At first sight, football fan graffiti and street art amaze with the variety in their form, colour, technique, and content, yet as a graffitologue, I am also interested whether this is also the case in the ideological sense. Neither can be easily understood. What, then, does this multicoloured language say to the passers-by, to the “city users?” What does it call upon them to do? What does it communicate? And, secondly, how are we to understand the ideological multitudes of the cultural variety that lies in fan graffiti? Are these as heterogenous as the ways in which they are expressed? How come their visual ideologies feature not only so many differences but foremost so many contradictions? All these years, I have been taking photos of graffiti and street art by the avid football fans, the Fervent ones, as states a FC Viitorul Constanța fan sticker, together with other political graffiti. Their numbers rise to the thousands; examples originate from practically the whole of European football (and once-Soviet central Asia): from Edinburgh to Bishkek, from Scandinavia to Italy. The majority of course comes from the region that is of most interest to me in this book – i.e., the Balkans and Central Europe.2 I performed a comparative and a historical analysis, examining the current fan graffiti as well as graffiti from the clubs’ past. This part of the book, too, leaves other public visualisations of football fan subculture (choreographies, dress codes, tattoos, interior design of their places, web pages, Facebook profiles, blogs, magazines, etc.), non-visual representations (chants, club anthems, unofficial songs/mostly by punk or ska bands, cheering, their slang, expressions, etc.) and their ways of organizing and their group dynamics aside.
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I did take notes on all of these in order to contextualise graffiti more efficiently. Amongst the four sites of meaning of graffiti, I chose the third one for this chapter: the site of the graffiti. Let us first explore the technique and the site and then dive into the content and the features of such street football fan production. It comes as no surprise that stickers have become the main medium, therefore the one of the main techniques of street art. Creating graffiti (or even using a stencil) is a longer and more dangerous mission, requiring advanced know-how, while stickers are made in advance, cheap, mass-produced, less dangerous to post, and can be spread over a vast area in a very short time. Murals remain a story in their own right; they are legal paintings of larger proportions, usually done by professional designers (mostly ones with a graffiti past) at the request of fan groups and in agreement with club managements or even city authorities. Graffiti battles are also worth mentioning: sprayed or posted visiting team and fan groups’ symbols enrage home fans, much like waving a red cloth would: no sooner do they appear than they are already crossed out, doodled over, painted along, eradicated, laughed at, whitewashed, taken off. The time and space frequency of fan graffiti and street art rises with approaching important matches and with the proximity of a stadium. A double crescendo, as important as the content itself if we wish to comprehend graffiti. Most of this production can be found on arterial roads as a certain marking of the terrain: letting everyone know whose turf this is. Then there are stadiums and their vicinity with the main roads leading to them. The third-most preferred place are gas stations and bus or train stations that are the arrival or the departure points on the way to the match and are as a rule covered in fan symbols. There follow, of course, the “infamous” quarters (self-proclaimed), ghettoes, and their sections of fan groups. Political graffiti writers in general and football fan graffiti writers in particular appreciate bombing or stickering the city or even the stadium of the opposing team (e.g., a FC Dinamo Zagreb graffiti is more valuable if it is painted somewhere in the region of Dalmatia or even in the town of Split itself). As far as time context goes, the intensity of painting/stickering gets higher just before championships, their peaks, fatal away games, etc. In short, football fan graffiti and street art need always be contextualised in time and space. There are two deeply rooted football fan group generalisations taking hold here, and I will try to overcome them or at least explore their complexity that is neglected by such rules of thumb. One is that all fans are the same, as are their values, the reasons for them connecting, the ways of their socialising, etc. The second generalization degrades them into violent, delinquent, stupid, uneducated, unwitty, thick, authoritarian, and herd-following, paramilitary, extreme-right youngsters; young hooligans in the best-case scenarios. I avoid generalising and condoning a priori but try to carry out balanced, sober, and critical research into the graffiti aspect of their subculture in all its cultural diversity, political complexity, its contradictions, internal (il)logicalities, and (in)consistencies. As the basic epistemological rule goes, experience before judging. In principle, football fans can be divided into three groups. The usual fans enjoy rooting for the home club as a weekend pastime; they are less organised, peaceful, more passive on the terraces and in general, there are more of them and
they are diverse as far as age and gender structure is concerned – often, entire families join in these events. They buy their fan clothing and gear in specialised club stores. Ultras are their narrower, younger and more hard-core core; they are the more organised and fanatic (an expression they use themselves!) fans who deliberately plan their fan activities – from chants and choreography to the use of flares and graffiti. Their fan production is very DIY. An even narrower, even more hard-core, even younger and fiercer core are the hooligans, whose main motive in supporting is violence (spontaneous or organised, physical or verbal, actual or symbolic) against opposing fans or the police. In order to camouflage their intentions, they attend matches in neutral sports clothing – casuals – and wrap their faces in scarves during fights.3 What is more, those groups will sometimes agree to fight in advance, even outside sports buildings.4 I explore the cultural broadness and the ideological depth of football fan graffiti and street art with the help of two connected theoretical concepts: rhizome by the French post-structuralists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari and metamodern culture by the young Dutch cultural studies scholars Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin Van den Akker. A rhizome “ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organisations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (Deleuze and Guattari 2005: 7). As such, “it has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills” (ibid., 21, see also 25, 263). So it “connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even nonsign states” – in short, it “is reducible neither to the One nor the multiple” (ibid., 21). Graphically, we can envision it as polymorphous mycelium; as open rings that develop multiple connections and lines all around, instead of establishing fixed spaces or positions; or as a multiplicity. For my analysis, this means that not only do the multiple roots of these visuals need to be researched but mostly their different branches, leaves, twigs, intertwined organic structures, and horizontal transfers often internally contradicting, which “may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines” (ibid., 9). Vermeulen and Van den Akker define metamodernism as the period that culturally replaces postmodernism. I prefer to perceive it as a not necessarily timebound paradigm. In any way, metamodernism “is characterized by the oscillation between a typically modern commitment and a markedly postmodern detachment” (2010: 2; see also Nicolau 2016), “between hope and melancholy, between naïveté and knowingness, empathy and apathy, unity and plurality, totality and fragmentation, purity and ambiguity” (ibid., 5–6). Between modern determinacy and postmodern indeterminacy. In metamodernism, meaning is a consequence of unsuccessful and ceaseless negotiations between two opposite poles, always somewhere and something “in between” and on the way. These negotiations are interconnected with other negotiations followed by yet other negotiations in endless rhizomatic multiplicities. If modernism can be summarised in a word for (that brings determination, devotion, progressism, even fanaticism); postmodernism with neither, nor (doubt, coming to terms with free-floating); then the
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key word for metamodernism is and (constant negotiations between enthusiasm and irony, commitment and frivolity, permanency and transience, coherence and chaos, engagement and nihilism, etc., etc.).
Multiplicities of meaning until . . . The four main content areas of football fan graffiti and street art in all their inclusive contradictions are fans’ visual self-image, recognisable aesthetics, presentation of fan values, and direct display of their political preferences. Let us first address how fans present themselves through graffiti. In short, Not arrogant simply the best, as an FC Anderlecht fans sticker states. Their graffiti and street art state that they are outlaws & defenders of tradition: at every step you can find the Alone against everybody cliché and other expressions of delight with an “us against the world” attitude (Thornton 2012: 120). On the other hand, there is the frequent Ultras world sticker, referring to a global alliance of all ultras and featuring a daddy ultra taking his son to a match with slogans, such as faithful to tradition or always faithful. Fans featured in the graffiti can be known & unknown: there are murals in homage to dead members – for example, to Ivan Pađen Šef of the fan group Red Fuckers FC Orijent from Rijeka, others pay tribute to arrested comrades. On the other hand, they hide in anonymous collectivism: in graffiti and on stickers, they appear disguised as mere silhouettes (e.g., the Salt City Boys or the Tuzla Fukare (Lowlifes)) or caricatures (e.g., one of the Marseille fans subgroups). Individually or together, known or unknown – always united, or in the words of a recurrent graffiti and sticker slogan: You’ll never walk alone. What is more, fans paint themselves at the same time as rough & kind, hypermasculine and orderly: their artefacts sometimes presents them as tough, full of bad boyz attitude, while at the same time, I found a CSU Voința Sibiu sticker from Romania that displays a loving motif symbolising how belonging to the club is passed on From father to son. They combine the incompatible: the stickers by the Virtus Entella fans from Chiavari, crudely called Rude Boys, present them as dandies à la Rudolph Valentino from the twenties or the heroes of Guido Crepax comics from the late sixties. The FC Sturm fans from Graz and FC Krka from Novo mesto self-ironically call themselves Jewels and Manekeni (Models), respectively. They express their smallness & superiority, unimportance and holiness: stickers show them as nobodies, riff-raff, literally Small faces, as one such group is called, while at the same time they use and paint metaphysical categories like holiness, honour, and eternity (e.g., the slogan Honour – glory on FC Sporting Lisbon fan stickers, Above all on a Grobari graffiti, or Sol Invictus, Unconquered Sun, the official sun god of the later Roman Empire, in the name of a group of AIK Stockholm fans). They are sporty & not so sporty: images of the former appear amongst others on the stencils by Delijas, the Belgrade Crvena zvezda fans, while the FC Eintracht fans from Frankfurt proudly announce that they are High again – their symbol, the eagle, spreading its wings amongst cannabis buds. They are pro & contra: on the one hand they stand for the club and the mainstream
values – on an FC Cibalia Vinkovci fan sticker, we can read Let it be heard, let it be known/that there are only God and Croatia above Cibalija! and see a soldier wearing a Nazi helmet. On the other hand, they are against all of the usual others in the ideological imaginarium of the post-socialist transition. FC Lokomotiv fans from Moscow printed a sticker on which they proclaim in English (!) and in stylised (neo)Nazi signs to be Against tolerance towards anarchists, communists, sharp skinheads, Muslims, Jews, and homosexuals. In a very Deleuze-Guattari style, the graffiti and stickers are plain schizophrenia & paranoia: exaggerated images (or names)5 of themselves as madmen, lost, or drunk people and opposed by outbursts of proud objections to unidentified persecutors, such as the Bad Blue Boys slogans Nothing can stop us, You cannot extinguish our ideals or Despised by everyone, controlled by none. Secondly, in an aesthetic sense, there is complexity & directness of the motifs to be found in them. We can observe an intricate sticker with a lyre, old ornaments, local colours, and the FC Nantes Brigade Loire group acronym and year of establishment or a similarly designed sticker by the FC Steaua from Bucharest featuring the Celtic cross, a skull, the Romanian national and club coat of arms, and Combat since 2009 in Gothic script, all in their club colours. Yet there is also a simple stencil by those same Steaua fans with their star and script and FC Zürich or HJK Helsinki stickers with only a script, year of establishment and club colours, or even straightforward spray-painted or stickered “punches in the face” by many fan groups. The dynamics of local & global inspirations that fuel their creativity is also interesting. The Balkan memory studies scholar Tea Sindbæk takes examples of the Belgrade Partizan and Crvena zvezda with their respective fans’ groups to efficiently show how “various types of history are used in different ways in the discourse of the football clubs” (2010: 540). At one end, we find local markers – for example, an old warrior and the English flag that represent the fans of Doncaster Rovers FC from South Yorkshire. Often, their discourse is marked by the use of dialects.6 At the other end, there are those who belong to the symbolic inventory of the entirety of football fan Europe: an RAF roundel or the Union Jack, originating from the early periods in the development of British subcultures (mods, skinheads, and later punks), a laurel wreath, the acronym ACAB or the code 1312 (and the slogan Fuck the police! in every European language . . .), a skull, a fist, the Celtic cross, Gothic script, the middle finger, a megaphone, the police sketched as pigs, a pint of beer, and a bottle. I found the Rebel f lag, the flag of the Confederate States of America from the times of the American Civil War, even on FC Baikal stickers from Irkutsk, Siberia. Consequently, fan graffiti also find inspiration in old & new symbols or icons – e.g., the Polish white eagle appears on a sticker by the Wisła Fan Club from Kraków with an explanation: White star, white eagle, these are our ideals. Alternatively, we find the three simple Adidas stripes on a sticker by The Bees fans’ group of Brentford FC from Brentford, central London, or images of anime characters or the Joker from Batman on a couple of other stickers. Pastism and presentism, pictures from another and from the present time, looking back and
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reflecting the current. And, finally, their pure technical quality: fan graffiti, stickers, murals, stencils, etc., are made crafty & on a do-it-yourself basis. Amongst the many cases of really extremely elaborate murals I must definitely mention those by the Armada (Army) of FC Rijeka, Demoni (Demons) of FC Istra 1961, and Horde zla (Herds of Evil) of FC Sarajevo, as well as an infinite number of really bad graffiti (a Torcida graffiti from Sinac, Croatia, stuck in my memory as one such example: a crude drawing of a phallus and similarly crudely handwriting and misspeling told their competitors: Dinamo Fack). Thirdly, football fan graffiti and street art express the following values. Love & hate: a First Vienna FC fan sticker’s centrepiece is a heart resembling an old leather football ball, while Sezione Ostile (Hostile Sector) of the FC Olimpia from Satu Mare, Romania, produced a sticker featuring a fan throwing a Molotov cocktail. Violence & peacefulness are common motifs too: there is a Banja Luka fan graffiti saying We are Serbian fans, Europe be afraid of us with the added Serbian Orthodox Church coat of arms, while the opposite pole is represented by a fairly flower-power-inspired sticker of Rubin Ultras of FC Rubin Kazan. They depict old & new heroes: St. Petersburg’s FC Zenit fan stickers show, for example, Aleksander Nevski as well as Jason Voorhees, the Friday the 13th series killer wearing a hockey goalie mask (see Photo 10.2); there is Gavrilo Princip on the Sarajevo Grobari (Gravediggers) stickers; and Bud Spencer on those by FC Eintracht, Frankfurt,
Photo 10.2 Welcome to Hell by fans of FC Zenit, St. Petersburg, 2015. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
and controversial Croatian general Ante Gotovina on Torcida’s. Fan graffiti and street art can be dramatic & playful, dead serious, and ironic: a Novi Sad graffiti announces that Death is being prepared for the Delijas, and a Banja Luka graffiti promises Death to cops. On the other hand, the Society Graz group of Grazer AK wishes to be seen as the sharp-dressed criminals from Reservoir Dogs7 and a mischievous busty cheerleader smiles from a FC Hertha Berlin sticker. They are pro-Europe & anti-Europe, global and local: they clearly oppose UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations) and FIFA that they perceive as yet another two multinational corporations destroying the local (football) scene and repressing football fans.8 Walls even speak of UEFA that supports terrorism. They prefer old football to the corporative one: illustrative of this are the AFC Ajax fan sticker with its clichés Fuck modern football and We kick that shit, old school, or the FC Paris Saint-Germain fan sticker with the same message (in English!) and a ’40s or ’50s black-and-white photo of boys chasing a ball on the street. At the other end of the spectrum, there are fan stickers celebrating the success of their respective teams in Europe: there is one by the Viole fans of FC Maribor, Slovenia, saying Viole Maribor on Tour – Europe, here we are/We will conquer you! They are (local) patriotic & internationalistic: the Vojvode (Dukes) of FC Teteks, Tetovo, choose to be represented by the Orthodox cross, and the Bad Blue Boys maintain to be Defending the city, then and now. Their localism goes as far as claiming the symbolism or the language of the conquered native inhabitants, one example being a sticker by the fans of FC Baltika, Kaliningrad, which depicts one of the fans with a baseball bat and a killer’s smile, accompanied by the words Königsberg Ultras. On the other hand, fans of FC CSKA, Moscow, and FC Partizan, Belgrade, issued a sticker proclaiming Russians and Serbs, brothers forever. Similarly, I found an FC Bayern München Supporters Slovenija sticker in Slovenia that combines the club coat of arms with the Slovenian national coat of arms (while the inscription is in English!). They mark their terrain at home & abroad: we are well aware of the former; home-based fans make sure to mark their turf by occupying every visible space in the town and its vicinity. However, they also zealously spray-paint their love for their club/hate towards others as far away as they can. Allow me to list only two of the most bizarre examples I found doing fieldwork: a Juve Merda (Juventus is shit) graffiti on the Lower East Side in Manhattan and a scribbled Forza Lecce (Forward Lecce) deep underground in a Wieliczka Salt Mine elevator near Kraków. They often love their club & oppose its management: this can be seen on stickers by the Bad Blue Boys for whom Love is measured in kilometers – i.e., visiting matches, yet who hate the club president, Zdravko Mamić (crossed out on stickers and called Serb, Gypsy, etc., in graffiti). In another (apparent) paradox, bigger fans simultaneously love their city & have to fight for it, as they are on bad terms with other fans from the city and stand against them as much as they would stand against fans of other clubs. This is apparent from mutually hateful graffiti by the fans of two Kraków-based teams, Wisła and Cracovia, two Rijekabased teams, Rijeka and Orijent, two Belgrade-based teams, Crvena zvezda and
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Partizan, and two Graz-based teams, Sturm and Grazer AK (GAK). There is also the dispute between the Prague-based clubs with practically identical names FC Bohemians and Bohemians 1905 about the right to use the name “Bohemians”: the Bohemka (Bohemians 1905) sticker warns Střížkov (Bohemians), saying Don’t fuck with Bohemka! And, fourthly, some of the football fan graffiti and street art also carry strong and direct political messages, meaning they are also political tifos. For starters: they are apolitical & political. Supposedly, they are only interested in playing ball, which is expressed by images of old balls, pints of beer and megaphones, yet I regularly notice (current) political and nationalistic topics in them. The Hajduk Torcida often does visual marketing with Ustasha or Nazi symbols, or renames itself into Hajduk Jugend in graffiti. Stickers, graffiti, and stencils mix sports & politics: a ball combined with a Celtic cross9 by the Sofia CSKA fans promises Loyalty to the nation and the club!, while the Moscow CSKA fans prefer a combination of the city-quarter name, club coat of arms (with a red star!), and the Nazi version of the Totenkopf. The majority of various Croatian fan groups feature an Ustasha version of the Croatian coat of arms (starting with a white field in the upper left corner). Furthermore, I find Nazi aesthetics & socialist avant-gardism: the former is popular with the fans of FC Senezh, Solnechnogorsk, and the latter with the fans of CSKA or FC Lokomotiv, Moscow. Graffiti, stencil, and sticker themes can be left-wing & right-wing, yet it is obvious that the latter prevail.10 Leftist stickers are produced by the fans of Ajax, Amsterdam (Always anti racist), FC Rapid, Vienna (a fist shattering a swastika, and the inscription Never go right), and FC Sparta Prague (an image of Hitler with a gun in his mouth and a classic antifa slogan Follow your leader!, see Photo 10.3). Examples of right-leaning messages include a Diósgyőr Hooligans sticker by the FC Diósgyőr, Hungary, that shows the Nazi Totenkopf and, in Gothic script, the name of the German Romantic movement Sturm und Drang, a common reference in extreme nationalism; or a sticker by the Moscow-based Spartak fans with a Stahlhelm. They often contradict themselves: the largest Belgrade and Zagreb clubs carry typical socialist names and some even have the red star in their coat of arms (Crvena zvezda, Partizan and Dinamo). In contrast, the iconography of their fans, Delije, Grobari, and Bad Blue Boys, is distinctively right-wing, nationalist, even fascist, as they celebrate the quisling commanders/units of Second World War or the recent Bosnian War, going as far as donning the name of their formations (Chetniks, Škripari,11 etc.).12 Furthermore, a frequent criticism of football states that it “ignites, concentrates, and amplifies nationalist and sectarian feelings” (Kuhn 2011: 59). However, football includes a variety of opposing, anti-nationalist, and free-minded individuals, groups, and tendencies (ibid., 105–183, 198).13 Football fan graffiti can also be non-chauvinistic & chauvinistic: transparents and graffiti by St Pauli state Refugees welcome, and the FCI Levadia Tallinn fans’ sticker appeals to the passersby in Russian and in the Cyrillic script. On the other hand, the Patriot Boys or the Lešinari (Vultures), fans of FC Borac Banja Luka, produce stencils with the Serbian nationalist sign (the first three-finger salute) and words Because I hate
Photo 10.3 Follow your leader! by fans of FC Sparta, Prague, 2016. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
Bosnia. Players and fans of Ajax, a club with Jewish roots, regularly receive antisemitic insults, while the fans of Korona Kielce display images of Ku Klux Klan members and burning crosses, together with English inscriptions We stand for god, race & country. Unidentified Russian fans post stickers Against Caucasian football with upside-down coats of arms of Caucasian football clubs playing in Russian leagues. All the while, these extremists manage to overlook the fact that the white Europe clubs attract more and more players of different races, from other continents, and from arguably barbaric parts of Europe, such as the Balkans and the Caucasus.
. . . One prevails What an unimaginable production of fan graffiti, stickers, stencils, murals, and other forms of illegal public expression!14 I am even more in awe of this diversity, since fans are mostly seen from one perspective, treated fairly one-dimensionally. Instead of conceptual uniformity, homologies, integrity, or underlying structure, I find illogical conclusions, incoherent connections, internal contradictions, impossible combinations, and incompatibilities on the walls.
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A veritable “chaosmos,” then, where everyone everything everywhere is simultaneously in the game of competing meanings which “coexist, interpenetrate, and change places” (Deleuze and Guattari 2005: 36). Such an amazingly vast diversity of imagery cannot be perceived through the simplistic marketing catch-all model, the postmodern anything-goes principle, and even less through modernist dialectic syntheses, centralised unities, or even linear positivism. Any forcing into a common explanatory cadre, into a hierarchic interpretation, is unproductive as motifs neither stem from the same source nor are they, to channel Haydn, “variations on a theme.” It is pointless to search either for a hidden unity that would fragment and manifest itself in a set of diversities or for a limited number of common denominators that would somehow explain the differences. Likewise, interpretations must not remain solely on the level of fixed antagonistic oppositions and say, “It is either this or that, no in-betweens.” In my concrete example of football fan graffiti, this would mean that they could only be political or apolitical, left- or right-leaning, etc. No, we have to conclude the exact opposite: final interpretations must at the same time accept their unstoppable diversity and endless connections – connections of everything and anything, connections of various meanings, as much as it seems contradictorily inconsistent looking from afar. This is a dialectic of continuous creation and demolition of the connections between these oppositions, coming from different roots, for their “double-bind” (Vermeulen and Van den Akker 2010: 6), for a “magical” intervention of the and in between two mutually exclusive poles that can never come together and join into one. In opposing antagonisms of such irreductibly plural street creativity, conjunctions or and and yet are replaced simply by and that connects them in contradiction. To make a concrete example of football fan graffiti, this means that fans will present themselves as hooligans and town protectors, and political and apolitical, and rough and polite, and this and that, all in a countless string of inconclusive interactions and only seemingly strange concordances. Meaning is not established through logical vertical ontologies but rather through endless anti-genealogical, unexpected, even shocking horizontal connections: in “moves for the sake of moving, attempts in spite of its inevitable failure,” in seeking “forever for a truth that it never expects to find,” and in “impossible possibility” (Vermeulen and Van den Akker 2010: 5). To make use of the DeleuzeGuattari vocabulary: these are not “arborescent multiplicities” but “rhizomatic multiplicities” (2005: 33).15 Instead of a pyramidal structure, we should, therefore, seek a ramification, for a broad spectrum of these intersections. Each point meets every other point, touches everything; one current meaning can only be a short, interim juncture of the previous two meanings that happen to coincide – i.e., be “one and the other” – but in the next moment, it is replaced by another meaning, and then by the next one, and the next one and so forth. In short, “there is no longer a vector or line of the universe which extends and links up the events” – in any given moment, an unexpected event can “interrupt or deflect the search fortuitously” (Deleuze 1997: 212). In this contradictory mass of football fan graffiti themes, it would be wrong to seek fixed meanings, to hope for a single explanation. They do not form exclusive
and stable identities. Instead of explaining, contemplating, leading to True meaning, these assemblages of meanings convince, seduce, mobilize along simple, but persuasive motifs (community, courage, belonging, identity, history, pop culture heroes, etc.). Meaning is defined ever anew; it depends on the context and the intention of the creators of such artefacts. As such, it functions not despite its differences but precisely because of them, not because of its exceptions to the rule but because of the exceptions as a rule, and not despite identities that change through space and time but, again, because of them. A thesis is not confronted and synthesised with an antithesis but upgraded with another thesis, and then another one, etc., in a nomadic continuity of inconclusive interactions and plural particularities. This follows the line of thought of critical philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri: multitude is “composed of a set of singularities and by singularity here we mean a social subject whose difference cannot be reduced to sameness, a difference that remains different” and as such it “is not unified but remains plural and multiple” (2004: 99). The initially mentioned cognitive dissonance, provocative nonsenses, or obvious contradictions are not problematic: everything “works,” but not due to a “preexistent development or perfection but . . . instead [due to a] global and relative equilibrium” (Deleuze and Guattari 2005: 48). Football fan graffiti reveal the acentricity of a “new subjectivity” that seems incredibly effortless in linking the extremes not by cancelling them but by living with them; it unites by preserving disunity; it heals the unhealable in such a way that it still leaves the meaning open.16 This explains why black home players are also applauded by the racist home fans or why Nazi imagery and praising Hitler can also be found amongst Slavic fans, if we know that Nazism treated Slavs as subhumans good only for eradication (right after Jews and Roma) or in the best case for slavery. The postpolitical state joins the traditional right and left wings in a common fight against outsiders, the postnational state hides nationalism in the universal human condition, the post-ironic condition combines seriousness with jokes, and the post-real combines true and false. And exactly as such, football fan graffiti seem to be a radicalised microcosmos of the ideological imaginarium of the macrocosmos of contemporary society. Looking at them really closely, we can perceive the values and the activity of society as a whole. It is their visual aspect that helps us understand society. The only possible commonality lies in the appropriaton of such an open semiotic system by different power structures, which in practice always happens anew and always in specific circumstances. An imposed and enforced unity erases the irreducible plurality of ad hoc, even contradictory semiotic alliances for practical purposes. Everything is already here, everything comes in handy, prêt-à-porter, ready for (political) use. Every instrumentalised load of old rubbish can have, in the words of Adorno (1973: 92), “its reasonable basis in the world. It hides the fact that both it and the goal at which it aims are manipulated.” This is why we cannot accept the frequently apologised use of extremist rhetoric and symbols in football fandom, including its graffiti and street art, by saying they don’t really mean it and perceiving over-determined symbols like the
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Celtic cross, the swastika, or the Nazi Totenkopf as merely fan ornaments and monkey chant simply as a form of cheering. Indicative is the example of Amsterdam Ajax, a club with Jewish roots, and its fans who declare themselves Super Jews (although by birth, they of course are not) and fly the Star of David and the Israeli flag. Opposing fans shout Jews to the gas chambers! or provoke them with a hand raised in a Nazi salute. This is not perceived as “real antisemitism” but is defended as a plain and ordinary fan stance against the opposing team. They fight synonyms with antonyms: if they are A, then we are anti-A, no matter how painful the comparisons are. Fan-based defenders like to (and are really deft in doing so) refer to the inherent sign polysemy, to the fact that each sign holds many meanings. In principle, this is true: through time, cultural forms begin an independent existence; they separate from their signified. However, not all signs are equally controversial: a firefighter sign or a pharmacy sign or a character from The Simpsons surely do not evoke such an uneasiness as racist or Nazi signs do. Any tries at depolitising political signs in football fandom implicitly reveal exactly what they wish to explicitly deny: a symbolic antisemitism, chauvinism, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., on the ladder of evil that can (again) turn into reality, into praxis. To be even more critical: modern Europe is no stranger to loud or subtle, spontaneous or structured racism, xenophobia, chauvinism, and other exclusivisms. One cannot use political signs, especially those contaminated with crimes, and pretend not to be political. To paraphrase, there is no neutral use of signs and appeals marked by the extremist past (and present!), these are never just for laughs, never just a part of the fan jargon, however (un)conscious of this fact the fans – and the rest of the society – are. Institutions of power can take such rhizomatic heterogeneity and polysemy, the fact that everything is already present, and turn it into a certain direction. The they don’t mean it seriously is then changed into something dead serious: a free-floating signifier into a determined call for action. Ideology always begins with – a word. Football terraces and the entire fan performance including graffiti have always been a display not only of sports aficionados but also of political agitators. Since the ’90s, initiatives such as Kick It Out or Football Against Racism in Europe17 have been among those who draw attention to this fact. When wars began in ex-Yugoslavia, it became clear how thin the line between organised fan groups and paramilitary groups is; how marginal discourses of football fans quickly grow into dominant political discourses and, sadly, also praxes. The first ethnic violence erupted on football fields, the first volunteers left the terraces to go to the front (Čolović 1996, 2011: 109–133; Vrcan 2003; Sindbæk 2013: 1017). Regretfully, these actions also remain alive today as extremist groups will often recruit members amongst football fans. Let’s recall the Ustasha salute (answered back in a thunderous unison of several thousand fans) by the Croatian national team defender Josip Šimunić after the game against Iceland in November 2013, the enormous swastika painted into the Split football field at the Croatia-Italy match in June 2015, flying Chetnik and Ustasha banners at matches and spray-painting/stickering their symbols practically everywhere,
Serbian extremists18 shouting Nož, žica, Srebrenica (Knife, wire, Srebrenica) to clubs or the national team of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the sad list goes on and on. And this is when football becomes quite literally what people call it: more than just a game.19
Notes 1 A small example: in socialism, the zeitgeist showed also in the names of football and other clubs. Yugoslavian examples feature Spartak, Dinamo, Partizan, Kladivar (Blacksmith), Radnik (Worker), Radnički (Worker’s), Crvena zvezda (Red star), Rudar (Miner), Rad (Work), Jugoplastika, etc. 2 It is interesting to note that – comparing to Europe – there is practically no fan graffiti or stickers of clubs rooting for any of the four most important collective sports that are “a must-have” in every major American city: basketball, American football, hockey, and baseball. Much less for smaller local clubs. 3 For more on hooligans and ultras, as well as the (generally exaggerated) responses of the media and the police, see Kuhn (2011: 65–68 and 159–168), while Thornton (2012) analyzes the development of English fan fashion or the new terrace chic that spread through the fan world (Scallies, Perry Boys, Cockneys, Scousers, New Lads, and Nu-Casuals). 4 Usual fans can, therefore, be classified as “subculture scenes,” while ultras and hooligans form “subculture cores” (Velikonja 1999). 5 For example, Maniacs of FC Željezničar, Smugglers of the Albanian FC Shkupi from Skopje, etc. 6 The Armada from Rijeka, for example, claims Krepat ne molat, which is a very thick dialect for Rather die than give in. 7 Quentin Tarantino, 1992. 8 See Kuhn (2011: 164). He describes FIFA as an “extremely powerful and rich organization, rife with corruption and oligarchic structures and tied into many political and economic interests” (ibid., 56), not to mention its Eurocentricity or Westerncentricity. 9 In the last couple of years, however, the use of the Celtic cross has been forbidden by UEFA and clubs whose fans fly it at matches are punished. 10 Left-leaning fan base includes clubs, such as the German St Pauli, the Italian Livorno, the Scottish Celtic, the Israeli Hapoel, the English Liverpool, and the Spanish Rayo Vallecano. Their icons (Che Guevara), symbols (red stars, red banners, hammer, and sickle), songs (Bandiera Rossa), and slogans (For a coloured terrace!) are diametrically opposed to the right-wing ones. The Balkans only have a small number of leftleaning clubs: the FC Zagreb White Angels, the FC Velež Red Army from Mostar in Herzegovina, and the Čelik Robijaši (Convicts), Zenica. 11 Škripari were named after the Second World War Ustasha guerrillas. 12 For more on the complexity of historical appropriations and rejections, continuities and amnesias of the three clubs, see Sindbæk (2013, 2010: 541–544). 13 It is not long since clubs that national and international associations began organizing the Kick Out Racism campaigns, but those deal more with the manifestations of racist extremists than with the systemic roots of this exclusive ideology and praxis. 14 As well as in other aforementioned activities. 15 The former are “extensive, divisible, and molar; unifiable, totalizable, organizable; conscious or preconscious”, in short “macromultiplicities,” while the latter are “libidinal, unconscious, molecular, intensive,” or “micromultiplicities” (ibid.). 16 That same efficient action can also be seen in other fields of social and political life: modern populist parties employ right-wing as well as left-wing rhetoric; postmodern fascists also wear T-shirts with the image of Che Guevara and listen to songs by
The chosen few
left-leaning bands; the most influential people or the richest institutions, such as Donald Trump, Silvio Berlusconi, churches, or Bono, go on and on about social justice, speaking from the position of the little man, etc. 17 www.farenet.org and www.kickitout.org. 18 Also Slovenian handball fans at a Maribor match in February 2012, as well as Greek football fans in Piraeus in November 2016. 19 Or, in the words of Bill Shankly, the legendary FC Liverpool manager: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
11 One club, one honour! – the graffitiscape of Slovenian football fans
Our town, our rules Graffiti, Celje, 2014
No matter how subculturally insensible, how oblivious to graffiti aesthetics, or how non-sporty they are, every inhabitant or visitor to Maribor, Ljubljana, or any other Slovenian town will be instantly able to tell you which football supporters’ group rules the land. I ran into examples of graffiti territorial marking similar to the one noted earlier everywhere around Slovenia, which otherwise does not belong amongst the more succesful European countries as far as football goes.1 Much like graffiti, so is fandom a complex modern phenomenon that can be explored in many ways, employing various theoretical end methodological approaches, and seen from different social science and humanities perspectives. Not many useful studies exist either on the one or on the other, which, again, comes as a surprise, as these are fairly common phenomena. Graffiti writers and football hooligans are similar in the search for street fame, respect, elevated status in a group’s hierarchy and in strong self-concept (see Macdonald 2001: 66). Neither the former nor the latter wish to be heard in public except in their unconventional ways; they are seldom known by name. And in the research of both graffitiing and fandom, not many people ask the protagonists about who they are and what they are doing, what their values are, what they want or do not want.2 One partial reason comes from the outside: the social stigmatisation of fans and the illegality of graffiti writers. The second reason is an inner one: their voluntary outsidership, enjoyment of the self-important mysteriousness at the border between the hidden and the public, hiding in the light, as Dick Hebdige, an iconic subcultural author, entitled one of his studies (1989). His colleague Phil Thornton establishes how “hardcore followers of any subculture react negatively to mainstream media exposure, as it infringes upon their sense of ownership and the feeling of elitism and uniqueness” (2012: 114). They are proud of their No one likes us, we don’t care, as AFC Ajax fans claim on their sticker. Football fans are not passive viewers of football matches but active creators of material, audio, performative, and visual fan subculture. In this chapter, I will be interested in one side of their activity: graffiti and street arts, the street ways of expressing their group, political and ideological agenda – in a wider context,
One club, one honour!
of course. I connect graffiti with fandom, but in contrast to the previous chapter, also from the viewpoint of those football fans who actually create graffiti. What is their way of viewing the world – in their words, with their graffiti and with their stickers? The Slovenian public seems to theorise an awful lot on fans: apart from rare exceptions,3 the prevailing attitude is negative, the moral panic is not unlike the fear that erupted when other subcultures (ravers, metalheads, punkers, first rockers, mods, etc.) began establishing. If we cannot claim that the community of home-club fans is big, it is most certainly “visible,” as their graffiti, stickers, stencils, posters, etc., are present all over the Slovenian urban and rural landscape. Similarly, fan graffiti of the biggest ex-Yugoslav clubs are represented in vast numbers: the already-mentioned Delije, Grobari, Bad Blue Boys, Torcida, and Lešinari (of Borac from Banja Luka) and their Slovenian branches.4 I analysed the visual ideology and the political agenda of such graffiti in two ways: firstly, bottom up, from the site of author, by doing interviews with the graffiti-creating fans and the observers of the Slovenian fan scene. In contrast to the authors of articles and studies on fans who keep a safe distance, explore only secondary sources, and never actually get in touch with them, I was foremostly interested in their opinions, ambitions, and first-hand experience. I followed the Cammelli (2015: 18) methodological advice: “I had to get involved, get in the ring: this is the meaning of ethnography.” I wanted to listen to them, ask them who and why holds the spray can, the sticker or the stencil, and how do they do it – while I was reflecting their reflections, checking their claims, and putting them into a wider theoretical, historical, and comparative context on the way. On the other hand, my research was top down, from the site of the graffiti; here, I used comparisons, did participant observation at football matches, read media reports on them, and browsed their web pages. I have compared the results of both main analysis methods – their testimonies, as well as the semiotic meanings of their wall visuals – in order to establish any (mis)matches and (in)consistencies between what fans had to say about their graffiti and the graffiti.
First half: interviews I interviewed representatives of 9 of the more active and organised fan groups of Slovenian football clubs playing in different leagues,5 15 people altogether, mostly informal current- or ex-leaders of fan groups as well as higher-ranking members who created fan graffiti themselves and/or supervised bombings by others in a fan group. In addition, I interviewed six individuals who can be described as “observers” and have considerable close-hand knowledge of the Slovenian tifoscene.6 The latter are either very keen on football, extremely informed about the fan scene, generationally and socially close to these groups, and go to matches, so they can be described as “football enthusiasts” or are close followers of fan behaviour in current political situations. I performed interviews with these football fans7 in 2014, combining the semistructured with the in-depth form and asking a smaller number of specialised questions, which resulted in longer interviews. As for the observers, I performed
unstructured interviews. Since the topic was delicate, I was only able to reach fans through a “chain of trust”: one of the observers directed me on to the first fan; he suggested another (much to my surprise, it was a member of the opposing supporters’ group with which his own was formally in dispute!); this one recommended me on to several more, etc. On several occasions, the interviewee himself took charge at the end of the interview and called my next potential target while I was still present.8 At first, I wrote them an e-mail or a text message: I presented myself, told them I was researching political graffiti at home and abroad, and asked them for cooperation. As I had referred to previous interviewees, they welcomed me at once and completely – in a way, I became theirs. I promised them anonymity (they were all for it) and ensured them that their answers (as well as their identities) would be kept safe at my home, in my archive, and would only be used in scientific purposes. They were also asked to bring (or send) photos of their fan graffiti and street art or their stickers. The majority agreed immediately9 and we usually agreed to meet in their areas: in bars or in their “nests” (on their premises or in those bars that they frequent before and after matches). Generally, they came prepared – with answers as much as with clothes (fan T-shirts and hoodies) or other visual fan attributes (sleeves/ pant legs rolled up to show fan tattoos, fan paraphernalia such as lighters, key rings, etc., laid on the table). They found it great that finally somebody would write down their truth about themselves, as they emphasised on several occasions. Without exception, the interviews took place in a kind, relaxed, and constructive atmosphere in which the fans really opened up: their explanations could become very emotional, much unlike their public image of tough guys. Any mistrust had been waved away merely because I had been referred to them by their co-fans for which they felt – as I will explain later – respectful rivalry. It, of course, helped that I was sincere, accessible, and non-judgemental (which is sometimes not the fact in such situations). I applied the old ethnological rule also used by Cammelli: “empathy, but not sympathy” (2015: 20). From the research point of view, I did not only judge the interviews to be relevant but also found meaning in the search for the right interviewees and in meeting them. Even though I was especially interested in their fan graffiti and street art, I approached the interviews (and my research in general) in an integrated and contextualised manner, knowing that this activity is only a part of their entire (visual) expressivity or performativity. Other undertakings that constitute it are ways of dressing, scarves, patches, caps, tattoos and haircuts, choreographs, banners, chants, car paraphernalia and bike decorations, pyro,10 web pages, Facebook profiles and Instagram, fanzines (in the ’90s), comments on web articles, etc. Yet there is one important difference: graffitiing and stickering are illegal. Whichever method of expression they choose, fandom is the lifestyle they chose of their own volition – this is what many interviewees, who also socialise outside fan circles, agreed upon. Firstly, I was interested in what techniques of graffitiing and street art they chose and how they combine images with text. Each and every one of them listed stickers and stencils as their first choice, while they do not do graffiti and other
One club, one honour!
techniques much, the reasons for this being a) that is safer (stencils and stickers are done faster) and b) that they are not well versed in creating nice graffiti, as they put it. They admit not being true, subcultural graffiti artists – if a need arises for a special graffiti or mural, they outsource it; only one of them was an actual graffiti writer. On the other hand, they make stencils and stickers themselves, finding inspiration or even templates for them on the Internet. Urban authorities are unfavourable towards decorating towns with fan graffiti, not allowing them on arterial roads (which are a popular graffiti spot along with town centres, stadiums, and tower blocks). Fans follow a simple imperative: to repeat ad infinitum; the more stickers, graffiti, and stencils wherever, the better! In the following days, the results of such “night actions” in home towns are checked and evaluated by the fan-group leadership. Secondly, I asked them what the main values of their fan group are that they seek to express through graffiti; what they are striving for, what they are against, and what their goals are. The majority agreed on having three core values: belonging to the fan group, belonging to the football club, and belonging to the town. This was also backed by the observers. On the inside, for the fan group itself, however, graffiti and street art express bravery, solidarity, masculinity, and outsiderness. One of the interviewees expressed himself especially explicitly, saying that their answer to the devaluated world are what can today be seen as a tad traditional, reactionary values: fidelity, belonging, solid identity. In this context, two of their values appear interesting. Firstly, they almost do not watch global football: their stickers and stencils prove their opposition to, as they call it, modern football, as it is true that cash plays the game, not footballers. Instead, they prefer local football, their home footballers, some of whom are almost amateurs. Similarly, they are against UEFA and FIFA because of their over-commercialisation and turning football into a global spectacle. You cannot watch football from your couch, was a recurring phrase – you watch it loudly, standing on the terraces.11 And, secondly, more than national identity they underlined local-patriotism: they practically never attend Slovenian national team matches, and if they do, it is definitely not organised with their fan group as they would clash with other groups. This is another anchor that holds them in their local, town environment, and was also confirmed by the observers. The third question was connected to presenting their club in graffiti and stickers, more precisely, how they depict it. At the same time, the question also aimed at finding out how their own graffiti and stickers depict opposing clubs and their fan groups. Firstly, they do so with official years of establishing their group – e.g., (19)87, 19(88), 19(89),12 even though it must be said that fans were, of course, also present before but were less organised. Secondly, with holy coats of arms, abbreviations, and other symbols of their groups (colours or anonymous characters: Viole, for example, with the image of a skinhead holding a beer and a chain, and a Celtic cross in the background, see Photo 11.2). They emphasise the symbols and the names of the region, the town or the quarter, or the names of the fan sub-groups (various youth sections, e.g., Frontline Youth, Baby Crew or Youth Crew). Thirdly, their stickers feature pop-cultural icons of likeable bullies, drunks, or lamers à la
Homer Simpson (and his drinking buddy Barney Gumble), Hägar the Horrible, Beavis and Butt-Head, or Andy Capp. Some will pick more resolute characters for these metonymic illustrations – for example, Robert De Niro from Taxi Driver (see Photo 11.1)13 or the masked face from the cover of Kasabian’s debut album (2004). When I asked why, they answered that there is no deeper story, I just found it cool. And, fourthly, with town landmarks, such as the coat of arms, the skyline, and the town’s abbreviation. Every interviewee underlined how important graffiti aesthetics is (they do not like kids who only scribble on walls; they wish their town to be beautiful, which is the reason why they do not write graffiti on houses, new and beautiful structures, churches, etc.). The majority admitted to finding inspiration for the entire fan performance in foreign fan groups (from Italy, England, and ex-Yugoslavian countries), match broadcasts, and football fan films. It is their opinion that their stickers, graffiti, and stencils serve more as an affirmation of their own image (be it fan, club, or city) than as a contradiction aimed against images of other fan groups: they promote themselves more than they attack others. Furthermore, they often affirmed not seeing opposing fans as enemies but rather as competitors with whom they share common fan values and lifestyle even though they root for different clubs. This is also why they respect
Photo 11.1 I got some bad ideas in my head by fans of FC Celje Celjski grofje (Counts of Celje), Celje, 2014. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
One club, one honour!
each other – as they explicitly stated on several occasions – and work in solidarity with others when they clash with the law.14 They have other enemies: journalists or media in general, police officers, and in some cases club management and owners (which at times results in boycotting matches until their demands to change certain people are met). The next two questions were related to their political and national beliefs, and so my fourth question asked how politics reflects in their fan graffiti and street art. Everybody explicitly assured me that political beliefs influenced neither their cheering (in the words of one, There’s no politics on the terraces!, and in the words of another, Give your head, heart, voice for the club!) nor their graffitiing. Football is what is supposed to count, whereas politics is a matter of each individual not the group as a whole. Nevertheless, as a majority they agree that their groups act politically heterogeneously and are more right- then leftleaning.15 Observers expressed a much higher level of criticism: in the ’90s, football fan subculture was more apolitical, while later it grew to be more right-wing. They emphasized the strong connection between the Green Dragons/Viole and the extreme-right groups (nationalists, neo-Nazis, usually masked in the generic casual look sported by fans), which are efficient in recruiting youngsters, for example in high schools. Observers believe the first, the Dragons, to be more extremist in their political beliefs than Violas who, nonetheless, act as a certain
Photo 11.2 Viole Maribor since 1989 by fans of FC Maribor, Maribor, 2013. Sticker Source: Photo by MV.
political actor in their town due to the high number of its members.16 Of course, they are far from all being Nazis, as one of the observers pointed out – yet they continue to accept and tolerate those amongst them that express such extremist views, and hold on to extremist iconography. If they were really apolitical, as they declare themselves, their management would eliminate this. As for now, their lack of action and response means nothing but silent agreement. In the fifth question, I was interested in their national matters: is their fan group ethnically homogenous or heterogenous, and how does this express in their graffiti? I received similar answers (backed up by observers): they are ethnically mixed, nationality plays no role in their group, which all also shows in their graffiti that are not written in a nationalist vein (unlike those by fan groups of Serbian or Croatian clubs living in Slovenia, which my interviewees claim to be nationalist)17 but have a localist flair. This was again disproved by the observers: they pointed out racist and chauvinist outbursts of Slovenian fans on the terraces and elsewhere (e.g., monkey chants directed at black or Balkan players, shouting Gypsy, Gypsies). Given that fan graffiti often feature extreme right-wing political symbols – the Celtic cross, Carantanian panther, Gothic script, swastikas, the numbers 88 and 18, images of Hitler, etc. – I was interested in fans’ attitude towards them. Fans answered in five different ways. Firstly, that it all depends on individual understanding: kids only treat them as fan symbols18 while the right-leaning fans see their politicality. Secondly, they regarded the panther to be an old Slovenian symbol and as such justifiable, whereas the swastika and the Celtic cross were not. Thirdly, they use none of those political symbols, only some local ones – as the fan structure is also politically and ethnically heterogenous. Fourthly, they individualised such behaviour (it is a work of individual members, not the group as a whole). And, lastly, they avoided giving clear answers despite the fact that their members unambiguously showed Nazi political persuasion, also via graffiti.19 Fans wrote this off as a mere provocation, nothing more than a joke. One interesting answer came from a fan and an observer: fans will not use such symbols because they are Nazis but expressly and exclusively to oppose existing values. Even when they disagreed with what the symbols stand for, it was more important to show their contradiction to others! The seventh question explored other ways of expressing fan’s beliefs, apart from graffiti. I was listed numerous activities that never make it into the news: blood donations, clothes collections for the homeless and the poor, cleaning and maintaining sports grounds, donations for any imprisoned (opposing) fans, etc. Question number eight concerned their attitude towards media reporting, as well as the police attitude towards them. Fans expressed extremely critical views on both topics, whereby the term mob was used more than once. Journalists were described as clueless, uninformed, insulting, catastrophic, generalising, inciting, sensationalist, two-faced, and scandal-seeking (more people get hurt at village fetes than at football matches!, one fan claimed resolutely).20 The police fared no better, being called generally not capable of their work and accused of persecuting fans for every insignificant matter and treating them as bullies or second-rate
One club, one honour!
citizens in advance. That being said, the fans did mention the correct regard that local police officers show them.21 This opinion of fans was also shared by the observers.22 Similarly, everybody was opposed to the Anti-Hooligan Law, saying that it is too restrictive. However, fans claimed that chicanery by the media and police was ultimately good for fan groups as every such fuck-up only gained them more members. Several interviewees also emphasised that unlike the rest of Europe,23 there were never any serious or tragic fan riots in Slovenia. Fans are also never linked with organised crime; they do not deal drugs or control businesses. With the last, ninth question I inquired what it was that they wish to communicate to passers-by via their graffiti, why they chose this method of communications, and who they think reads and understands their graffiti. Their foremost inclination was to designate their territory: to show their love for their club and town and mark their turf. This is also a way of gaining terrain as they spray-paint and sticker everywhere they go (organised or not) – e.g., in other towns, rest areas, on traffic signs, and in bars. Secondly, they do so for self-promotion and raising their confidence by the means of fan branding (symbol, colour, powerful slogan). Next, they use graffiti and stickers as a means of communicating with the opposing fans, or rather as a means of provoking or agitating them. And, lastly, this is also a way of creating presence in a physical world not only online. As for appeals to violence (Kill, kill the Styrian/Frog!)24 in graffiti as well as in chants, one fan understands them only as a fan performance, as a ritual and not real violence expressed only on walls and in cheers. We don’t really mean it, says another. Allow me to conclude this first part of the study before going on to compare fans’ answers with their graffiti and street-art production. At the end, it took me by surprise how similar their answers were: they seemed to be mostly in agreement about the main matters. Secondly, I had heard many stories from other sources that were fairly different from those I learnt from the fans: there were, for example, anti-gay incidents, anti-immigrant, and anti-Roma opinions, banners,25 actions, and so forth. Thirdly, I gained a lot of insight into the workings of fan groups, which is not a part of my research per se: their organisation (inner hierarchies as well as their horizontal organisation, their branches in different parts of Slovenia, their youth), their other activities (cheering and chanting), peer pressure in the group (in the words of one of the observers: either you are a member of a fan group or you’re not, there is no third option; another observer who socialised with fans on the terraces was ordered: You must cheer!), different fan groups (the aforementioned division into the usual fans, ultras, and hooligans), general intercity and inter-regional antagonisms and animosities (which are only copied into the fandom), various relationships with other fan groups (spanning from alliance to neutrality or hatred), generational socialising through fandom (young people enjoy hanging out with their peers and a lack of other groups makes fan groups even more appealing, was an explanation given by an observer), reasons to join fan groups (bravado, desire to have a reputation, socialising, adventurism, desire to be a part of a group, way of letting off steam, etc.), their dress code (there is no way of being a fan in plain clothes, is there?), and so on. Observers made several other valid points, especially in regards to comparing two largest fan groups: the
hierarchically more organised Viole, and the more dispersed Dragons, who are often working out inner conflicts. Fourthly, fans would often catch themselves in contradictions: they would, for example, claim not to be nationalist/racist while mentioning nationalist/racist outbreaks. And last but not least, some fans exhibited a high degree of individual and social (self)reflection: they believe fandom to be a revolt against an existing way of life, a rejection of authority and commercialisation, a questioning of the repression that the others silently tolerate, and an alternative developing of collectivity and solidarity amongst the fans and in the face of atomisation and alienation of people in modern societies. Their marginal position comes not from fate but out of choice or, as one fan was happy to assert, We live our own way and not like the other ninety percent who don’t concern us. A case of typical subcultural exclusivism.
Second half: graffiti, stickers, and stencils It took me considerably longer to photograph Slovenian fan graffiti and street art than to do interviews with fans. Alongside the nine fan groups mentioned, I took to recording street art by Knapi (FC Rudar Velenje), Ribari (FC Izola), Black Gringos (FC Mura Murska Sobota), and Trotters (FC Krka Novo mesto). In total, my archive holds around 1,200 examples. Often, before or after the interviews, fans would lead me through parts of the town that they had spray-painted or stickered, if not, they would at least point me in the right direction. I gained additional data from other (non-)visual representations I mention in the introduction of the chapter. Graffiti, stickers, stencils, and other works of street art are classified and analysed on the basis of the same nine questions I asked the fans and the observers. In regards to the techniques they use, their answers proved to be correct: Slovenian town walls are mostly covered in fan stickers and stencils, while graffiti and murals appear in a smaller proportion yet point to a great many graffiti battles (see, e.g., Kropej 2008: 261–263). Unlike aesthetic graffiti, fan graffiti appear more uniform, technically weaker, monotonous in their content, much more numerous, and incomparably more dramatic in their diction. Secondly, fan graffiti do in fact express the main values that they pointed out in the interviews: belonging to the fan group (e.g., Ultra mentality since 1988 by the Green Dragons), to the club (e.g., Your loyal army by the Viole or Until death do us part by the Green Dragons), and to the town (e.g., Crazy boys from Zagorje, we are the pride of our town or Our town, our pride and I love the blue-and-white Gorica/I don’t care for the rest by the Terror Boys or My town, my club – Triglav Kranj – Small Faces Kranj). They also show solidarity with the imprisoned fans from their own group (e.g., the Viole graffiti Free Žile), or solidarity in general, with all fans (Freedom to fans, both in Slovenian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language). I was finding stencils and stickers calling for Justice for Uroš 26 in other parts of the Balkans as well as in Slovenia, and even in Amsterdam. In essence, fans wish to be seen as a sort of a “community of destiny.” Of course, they are proud of being tough guys and badasses: I found walls covered in masked characters, stylised silhouettes
One club, one honour!
of bullies holding baseball bats (there were several examples of the notorious A Clockwork Orange gang), casuals in a boxing stance, etc. Needless to say, this exhibits the romantic antagonist outsiderness or the state of being Alone against the world! The majority of fan groups at one time produced a series of stickers aimed against modern football (featuring drawings of an old leather ball, the black-andwhite one from the ’70s, or the brown striped one from the ’50s); some of them also explicitly reject UEFA and other symbols of globalisation and commercialisation of football. It was interesting to remark that apart from a few of the alreadymentioned clubs from Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia, I found almost no stickers or graffiti in favour of European football giants such as Real, Juventus, Manchester United or Bayern. Next, fan local-patriotism and traditionalism go without saying: they are present in practically every public intervention they make.27 Sometimes, they will utilise local dialects or foreign and archaic words.28 On the other hand, they seem to find no problem in applying global fan signs and symbols, such as the ACAB abbreviation, an old ball, old cleats, the Celtic cross, the RAF roundel, Union Jack, a pint of beer, a laurel wreath,29 and so on. One of the interviewees confided to me that everybody does it and it’s getting a bit annoying. They do express a belonging to their group, club, and city in the ways that they described (our dates of establishment, colours, symbols, skylines or landmarks, likeable bullies, and drunks). In the words of one fan, they believe themselves protectors of their town: this is often conveyed in a self-deprecating manner.30 Their graffiti also clearly express their dissatisfaction with club managements.31 However, despite their constant claims on the respect fans give to their adversaries, and their visual productions show otherwise: they invent various ways of ridiculing opponents (e.g., the 101% anti-Frog by the Viole, or the Green Dragons illustrating their claim to be Gruppo antiviola with a pierced violet pig’s head, or Anti-Gorgone crew by the Black Gringos; there are also the Kill the Frog/Styrian graffiti), while the graffiti and street art done by members of other fan groups are immediately crossed out or destroyed. I found the largest discrepancy between fans’ answers and their graffiti, stickers, and stencils in regards to questions number five – i.e., how does politics influence them – and number seven, their relationship towards extreme right-wing symbols. Not everything is as shiny and bright as the fans claimed. Although graffiti and stickers that are solely fan based (only feature fan imagery such as old balls, old cleats, pints of beer with Beer’n’ball written underneath them) can be found, almost all wall iconography boasts Celtic crosses, while a majority of it is written in Gothic script, as the openness of their meaning attracts both pure fans and neoNazis. We find a similar situation with the Green Dragons and the number 88: for pure fans, it is the abbreviated year of their establishment (1988, see Photo 11.3 of mural on the stadium of their team), while the right-wing supporters see it as a code for the Nazi Heil Hitler salute (in 2013, young Hitler’s image from the First World War even appeared on their banner). There is a high number of quite plainly neo-Nazi (Totenkopf, swastika, number 18) and white supremacist symbols (the number 14 and WPWW or White pride world wide).32 Affinity towards the extreme right can also be seen on the
Photo 11.3 Green Dragons, fans of FC Olimpija Ljubljana, 1988, with added in small letters Fan club (Heil!), Ljubljana, 2014. Mural Source: Photo by MV.
scandalous official FC Maribor poster – just to be clear, this is a club, not a fan poster! – from May 2015 promoting the Battle for Styria (match between the Styrian clubs Maribor and Celje) and depicting Maribor players with Nazi Stahlhelm helmets from the Second World War.33 It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the walls of Maribor boast violet swastikas or abbreviations SLO, with a cross over the O, and club initials. And, finally, their graffiti reflect no daily party politics or Slovenian foreign policy; the same goes for gender or class issues. With a few exceptions, there is also almost no left-wing symbolism or rhetoric: examples would include two Viole stickers (Antifa ultras Maribor and No racism in football) and one by the FC Nafta Lendava foreign fans with Love Nafta – Hate fascism – Smash homophobia. Fan graffiti tell us that their attitude towards the national also deviates from what they had declared. The nationally conscious fans of Slovenian clubs attack Serbian and Croatian nationalistic graffiti: this is no fan battle but an altercation between the home fan group and other nationalists. Such graffiti battles often employ hard-core chauvinist rhetoric, symbols, or expressions with heavy connotations (e.g., Raus!). On the other hand, there is an example of the Green Dragons taking the side of their long-time club janitor of Bosniak descent who was
One club, one honour!
in dispute with the new club management and showing their support in various ways, also with a mural and banners.34 Otherwise, fans of clubs from different ex-Yugoslav countries engage in the usual cross-out wars: fans of Slovenian clubs destroy their graffiti (Dragons will, for example, spray-paint green over the Grobari black or the Delije red, etc.). The same thing happens between fans of Serbian and fans of Croatian clubs (one will cross out the other’s graffiti and vice versa), as well as between fans of clubs originating in the same country (Slovenian walls are the battlefields for the Belgrade rivals Delije and Grobari or for the Croatian Bad Blue Boys and Torcida). The expression of one’s convictions through graffiti is rather well coordinated with other visual means: tattoos, banners, web pages, fan items (badges, caps, scarves, etc.). The highest degree of coordination is, of course, achieved with colours and symbols but also with the figures they use, paroles, appeals, and references from history, popular culture, general fan culture, and various (sub)political movements. This visual harmony proves fan groups to be at least connected and consistent if not centralised or hierarchically organised. Next, we move on to rejecting the media and the police. Apart from an occasional Fuck the media sprayed in club colours, there are very few graffiti or stickers that would problematise how the media paint a negative fan picture. However, those against the police appear in large quantities: not just the clichéd ACAB35 but also appeals to Stop violence against the fans, explanations that Pyrotechnics is not a crime!, rejections of the Anti-Hooligan Law, etc. On a Dragons’ sticker, a pig in a police uniform finds out that We fucked your wives! And, finally, graffiti and stickers tell a fairly similar story to what fans had to say when asked what they wish for their graffiti to communicate to passers-by. First off, they talk about fans loving their town and being its representatives: Zagorje, Zagorje, Zagorje, Zagorje, you mean EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING to us (Crazy boys); We are Maribor, claims the Viole skinhead holding a chain and a pint of beer, there is also the . . . oh, my Maribor, you are in my heart . . .; and the Celjski grofje call Celje My love and my home. At the same time, stickers and graffiti can announce their visit – e.g., the Ready or not, here we come! of (Naughty) Guests (/Po/Redni gostje) by the Viole. Or give support to their football club, like how the Viole assert to be an Army faithful to Maribor or how the Green Dragons are Loud & proud of their club. Graffiti build the fan group’s confidence and communicate their values to the public – here we can mention disguise and violence (Knapi), Beer – and nothing else matters and Incurable addiction since 1989, or MB boys we make the noise (Viole) – or mark important anniversaries (in 2013, Ljubljana was covered in small stickers celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Green Dragons). And, finally, fans use graffiti and stickers to invite passers-by as well as their supporters to important matches (Everybody to the derby!) or advise them on which part of the terraces they should sit in (Everybody to the South! or The North is always with you!). All in all, employing different techniques, fans wish to tell the others (and confirm to themselves) that they exist and love their group, town, and club – there is nothing more to their ideological imagery.
Extra time Just to be clear, I have absolutely no intention of making excuses for fans’ activities and opinions, defend them from frequent, albeit not always completely legitimate, criticism or speak in their stead. Quite the opposite: with these pages, I simply wish to “give a voice” to fans holding spray cans and stickers and compare it to their wall legacy. As several of their statements and views do not match their graffiti, stickers, murals, and stencils, the combination of research approaches is proved correct as the method used. From the point of view of comprehending their ideology, however, this means that their verbal expression needs to be understood as complementary and supplementary to their visual expression – no matter how contradictory this may seem. We simply find ourselves in the metamodernist spirit of oscillating between opposite poles. First of all, fans are, despite their heterogenicity and competitiveness towards other fans, united in their perception of themselves as parts of the same subculture, parts of an “urban tribe.” Their outsider stance comes of free will, their ghettoisation is exclusive – yet they complain when the media (the ideological state apparatus) describe them as such and when the police (the repressive state apparatus) treat them as such. Secondly, this entails fans’ symbolic positioning. What both the interviewees’ statements and their graffiti language show is that their “absolute enemies” are the media, the police, and the state with their restrictive measures, as well as the international organisations UEFA and FIFA – other fans are merely “friendly enemies” (or “frenemies”), as they share a common subcultural belonging and values. While fans show antagonism to the former, they show agonism to the latter in the same way Mouffe imagined it (“antagonism is struggle between enemies, while agonism is struggle between adversaries” – 2000: 102, 103).36 Fans are therefore discursively constructed through a conflictual consensus with other fans on the one hand and through a value-based dissensus with the institutions of the existing, unstoppably pluralised global society on the other. This also gives rise to the third contradicting dynamics that can be “saved” with the metamodern “and.” Fans oppose modern football, reject the globalisation, commercialisation, and spectacularisation of football – but without them, their clubs would play in inter-municipal leagues instead of national or European ones. The terraces and the walls scream xenophobia, racism, and Nazism – but there are many black and Balkan players running on the fields. As far as content, technique and aesthetics go, fans’ graffiti, stickers, stencils, etc., are strikingly similar to those from other parts of fan Europe; the names of fan groups also sound very global, internationalist, as a majority of them are in English. On the other hand, fans swear to belong in a local environment, which points to the traditional Slovenian decentralisation, strong localism or regionalism, “homeliness” (Žižek 1987: 9–46), and, last but not least, the recency of a unified Slovenian national ideology. The majority of clubs are named after towns or places37 and geographical sites38 – clubs with independent names are in the minority,39 while there are a few more bearing sponsors’ names.40
One club, one honour!
At this point, Slovenian-football-fan visual ideology meets the one that is predominant in Slovenian society today with its “jargon of authenticity” and the concrete praxes this jargon entails. “Grudges” between Maribor and Ljubljana, intolerance to all others of Slovenian society, normalization of rightwing extremism, “Garbo nationalism,” Balkan-phobia, etc. – this all sounds very familiar. Fan graffiti and sticker artists do not have to look far for inspiration. There is no loud schism between the ideology and praxis of one and the others; there is a silent agreement. A certain concern that is typical for the relationship of the Slovenian media and cultural and political mainstream towards fans is sooner a consequence of ideological closeness than opposition. To the protagonists of this mainstream, fans represent their “bad consciousness” rather than adversaries, and their wildness makes them easy targets for projecting all that is also ever so present in the centre. Fan graffiti and street art hold the mirror to modern Slovenian society which tries to avoid it with all of its might so that it may never recognise itself in it.
Notes 1 For the relationship dynamics between Slovenian nationalism and football, see Stanković (2004). 2 In graffitiing, the only exception to this rule are the big names; they feature in rich monographs and speak about their motives in printed and web media or online. 3 In 2012, Zdravko Duša, a Slovenian editor and translator, bluntly declared the Maribor Viole the most loudly declared expression of belonging to Maribor. 4 Orthodox Boys Ljubljana, Delije Sever, Armada Jelšane, BBB Slovenija, Lešinari Slovenija, and so forth. 5 These fan groups are Viole (FC Maribor), Green Dragons (FC Olimpija Ljubljana), Terror Boys (FC Gorica), Small Faces (FC Triglav Kranj), Celjski grofje (FC Celje), Gorgone (FC Nafta Lendava), Red Tigers (FC Slovan Ljubljana), Crazy Boys (FC Zagorje), and Tifozi (FC Koper). 6 Insider jargon: tifo is Italian for supporting a sports team. 7 The demographic data of the 15 interviewees is as follows: they were all male, 29 years of age on average, a large majority were Slovenian (80 percent), a majority had finished high school (11 in total; of the rest, one had finished primary school while three had a university degree), and the majority were employed (11; 3 were unemployed, 1 was a student). Their age, level of education, and employment status are much higher than average in supporters’ groups, which is due to the fact that I was mainly talking to (ex-)leaders or main organisers who had ten or more years of experience in the field. 8 The talk between them went almost invariably like this: – Hey, there’s a guy who wants to interview you, can I give him your number? – Who is it, a journalist, a snitch, does he work for the cops? – Nah, he’s a kind of a professor doing a study on football fan graffiti . . . – What? OK, sure, give him my number. But I noticed that they did more research before the actual meeting just to be on the safe side – they must have done a Google search on me. 9 While some were against the idea and after a few tries, I withdrew. 10 Pyrotechnics. 11 Likewise, they are against groundhopping, a kind of football tourism or visiting local football matches wherever one finds oneself. 12 Sometimes also the years of establishing the respective football clubs although historically this is a controversial topic.
13 Martin Scorsese, 1976. 14 Or congratulate each other on births of their children, as one of the observers casually mentioned. 15 On many occasions, predominantly before elections, some of them were approached by representatives of right-wing parties (the Slovenian National Party, Slovenian People’s Party; presidential candidate Lojze Peterle, Maribor mayor Andrej Fištravec, and others were seen parading in their club’s/fan group’s scarves). One of the observers noted that the scope of this activity is, nevertheless, smaller than in some other countries. 16 In the Maribor protests of fall 2012 – winter 2013, however, Viole took a stand with the demonstrators against the then mayor and against police violence but were later excluded from the activities organized by the uprising groups (that is an assessment made by two observers). 17 Many graffiti actually carry clear political messages Delije support the Greater Serbia and connections with Russia, they demand Kosovo; Grobari make similar claims; Torcida leans toward Nazis and Ustasha; such iconography can also be seen with the Bad Blue Boys; Lešinari hate Bosnia; etc. 18 Observers confirmed that a majority of young, newly recruited fans see the Celtic cross only as a common fan symbol. They do not know that it is a hidden neo-Nazi sign. 19 Using the image of Hitler, Nazi army-unit insignia, the SS logo, swastikas, etc., but also the Blood & Honour symbolism. In the case of the Green Dragons, which, as remarked one of the observers, neo-Nazis infiltrated after the dire period of their football club that fell into the Slovenian Fifth Football League, there were no comments regarding it being connected to the white supremacy fan subgroup of Capital Riot Crew (from the early 2010s). And in the case of the Viole, nobody evoked their former leader who was also the leader of Hervardi, an extreme nationalist group. 20 I remember a manslaughter case in Nova Gorica in August 2014 when the media first pointed their fingers – without any proof – at visiting fan-group members who were there only for the match. Their accusations were later disproved. 21 I witnessed an interesting event during one of the interviews. I was sitting with a fan in “their” bar when a local police officer dropped by for a cup of coffee. My fan jokingly called him Stink, stinker!, which was greeted with laughter. 22 One of them complained about a catch 22 unsolvable condition: the media use negative stereotypes to describe fans, evoking brutality from the police force, which is again used by the media to target fans. 23 In Russia, Poland, England, the Netherlands, Greece, and Italy. 24 Styrian stands for Viole fans, and Frog is directed at Green Dragons: people from Ljubljana are ridiculed as frogs because of the nearby marshes. 25 The most infamous being the long anti-refugee Viole banner during the peak of the migrant crisis in November 2015. 26 The imprisoned Delije fan Uroš Mišić who severely injured a police officer in 2007 by trying to push a burning torch in his mouth. The Ljubljana Dragons similarly supported the persecution of the Animals, the Sofia-based notoriously extreme right-wing fan group of CSKA (featuring a large swastika on their stickers). 27 Using teleological discourse if necessary: in 2015, the Green Dragons wrote that Even God is rooting for you, we will rule the world. 28 Laibach, Styria, Lindau, etc. 29 On the one hand, this is a sign of the club’s/group’s everlasting glory. On the other, it is a logo of a popular casual wear brand Fred Perry. 30 Worth mentioning are the stickers by the Viole and their subgroup Klateži (Tramps): the former features a stylized refined fellow in a bowler hat and an inscription Gentleman’s choice, while the latter sports an image of a hobo in front of a dumpster, and the words Healing depression with football euphoria. Likewise, the Green Dragons
One club, one honour!
32 33 34 35
37 38 39 40
proudly present themselves as the Crazy team or post images of a madman in a straitjacket with the words Ultras madhouse GDLJ-1988. Such were, for example, the Management resign! graffiti by the Terror Boys in Nova Gorica, but it was the Green Dragons who caused a real flood of graffiti against club president Izet Rastoder, saying Fuck off Izet! a few years ago until the man in question finally resigned, which was greeted with Izet fucked off. On the infiltration of the extreme right into fan groups, see also Kuhn (2011: 67). In their press release, the club management wrote that (ahem!) these were motorcycle helmets available for sale anywhere online and worn by drivers of classic bikes. The informal Dragons leader is also called by a nickname that is the Serbo-Croatian version of his proper name. Which is a very convenient abbreviation, I was told by the graffiti writers. If you get caught while spray-painting ACAB, you can – at least in theory – claim to be saying All cats are beautiful, or All cops are brothers, or All colours are beautiful, or even All colours are black. Or, more elaborately, “between two forms of antagonism, antagonism proper – which takes place between enemies, that is, persons who have no common symbolic space – and what I call ‘agonism’, which is a different mode of manifestation of antagonism because it involves a relation not between enemies but between ‘adversaries’” (i: 13; see also 2005: 76). Domžale, Maribor, Celje, Gorica, Izola, Zavrč, Krško, Radomlje, etc. Krka, Mura, Triglav, etc. Olimpija, Rudar. Luka Koper, Kalcer Radomlje, Nafta Lendava, Primorje Ajdovščina, Aluminij Kidričevo, etc. In this year’s football season (2017/18), the ratio between Slovenian First League clubs bearing local and the ones bearing other names is seven to three.
Conclusion Power of the street (art), powerlessness of (street) art
This machine kills fascists Written on Woody Guthrie’s guitar, 1941
Graffiti and street art kill nobody, neither does Guthrie’s guitar, neither do fan chants calling for the massacre of opposing fans, neither does inciting political speech by itself. They can, however, make one commit murder – and therein lies their political power. The terminological clarifications, theoretical reflections, and methodological approaches from the first part of the book, as well as the graffiti studies of the post-socialist condition in the Balkans and Central Europe show how graffitology constantly meets the quintessential dilemmas of the relationships between society, politics and art. What is the actual social power of graffiti, what influence – if there is any to begin with – do they have on the happening around them? Each of the examples cited – as well as countless others that still await proper analysis – answers these questions in its own manner. The understanding of graffiti and street art oscillates between cynical rejection on the one side (it is a “permitted rebellion,” an “aesthetisation of the status quo,” a “new hegemonic speech,” etc.) and the acknowledgement of their emancipatory potentials on the other. At the end of this book, my answer to this dilemma is differentiated and varies from one concrete political situation to another. Hadjinicolaou draws an analytically useful distinction between the “positive” or “affirmative visual ideology” – i.e., the one that agrees with the ruling order of things – that perceives it in a positive way from every possible aesthetic angle, that adapts to it and the “critical visual ideology,” and that questions this order and tries to demolish it. The positive visual or pictorial ideology “is expressed in individual works whose approach ranges from the decoration of reality, or a simple affirmation of the existence of a reality, to its glorification” (1978: 147). In short, those works affirm the existing. While, on the contrary, “critical visual ideology implies that a work’s visual ideology exerts a critical function in regard to other non-visual kinds of ideologies, some elements of which are to be found in the work”; it is “more or less openly opposed to particular class praxes or class ideologies (usually ruling-class ideologies)” (ibid.: 148 and 12). These are non-conformist, blasphemous, immoral works – in this case graffiti – that the
dominant institutions quickly recognise, condemn, and treat accordingly. I believe this division to be extremely useful in the final findings as it allows to understand both extremes of graffitiing and street art: the power of the street (art) and the powerlessness of (street) art.
Powerlessness of (street) art If graffiti changed anything – it would be illegal Banksy (and his copycats), various locations around the world since the late ’90s
The defenders of the affirmative or positive visual ideology use every means possible to rob such creativity of its street component and reduce it to art. In the introduction, I pointed out two facts: first, that after the graffiti revolution in the ’60s and ’70s, its descendant in the ’80s christened itself street art, so a kind of street version of the art as an institution. The art status is inscribed in the name itself. Its creation is simultaneous with the commodification of graffitiing. Graffiti – and now also street art – are forcibly pulled from the outer side of the walls onto the inside: in galleries, museums, stores, designer bars, or trendy community places. And, second, a significant fact of the matter is that there is no comprehensive study or compendium on graffiti and street art – while there are dozens of them on even more complex and long-lasting phenomena! Like any other dominant ideology, so the positive visual ideology functions from the division of the totality of a creative and social experience, and this is why instead of searching for the common denominator, we always find innumerable monographies of individual graffiti and street artists or graffiti production from various cities or regions. The authors of such partial overviews extrude individual itineraries from a social phenomenon, hand-pick global stars from a mass of anonymous transgressive people, single out a distinct aesthetic sphere from spontaneous creativity, and reduce fundamental social divisions that could represent the basis for a unification of those who are exploited, marginalised, and overlooked into a lifestyle conglomerate of small narcissisms grounded on the liberalistic maxim that everyone is different. The alternative, however, falls into this machinery as well since it declines class differences but accepts the division of identity politics. This domestication of graffitiing in the world of established art and the fragmentation of its totality are targets of well-grounded criticism. This fundamentally subcultural or ex-street culture provokes mostly cynical critical reactions, along the lines of here we go again. Firstly, it is another example of the degeneration of the alternative. Graffitiing is repeating the fate of avantgardes, neo-avantgardes, and youth subcultures, which rejected and destroyed the existing art only to end or self-destruct in the very same. Another never in the series of the never-said nevers: in 1986, the futuristic revolution ended with the Futurism and Futurisms retrospective in Palazzo Grassi in that same Venice that Marinetti along with his aesthetic revolutionaries in their 1910 manifesto threatened to destroy. Authentic
punk attire is sold in Zara and H&M, while rad skateboards with three-digit price tags can be bought in skateboard boutiques next door. In their Have a Nice Day video (2005), Bon Jovi teach how to do and disseminate street art; Liberation, the new Christina Aguilera album, available June 15, was advertised through New York by (deliberately) negligent stencils in 2018; as one of the street art icons, Obey created an acclaimed Barrack Obama Hope poster, in actual fact, a stylised stencil, for the American presidential election in 2008. Fee, not free is a street phrase I picked up during my fieldwork that succinctly sums up this situation. An aestheticised rebellion against what has been established fails exactly because it is reduced to aesthetics only. In the end, aesthetics replaces rebellion, or, to paraphrase, a mere aesthetisation is the first step towards the commodification of the former criticism. What is left is an empty aesthetic form: in this case, graffitiing destroys art only as far as it does not enter it. Capitalism as a dynamic formation – not only an economic, social, and political one but also as a cultural one and as a state of mind – draws from its contradictions by domesticating, paternalising, or commodifying them. In this way, institutionalised art and mass culture as its constitutive parts grow stronger from their most severe criticism.1 Graffitiing repeats this fatal lesson: from negating and destroying the established, “high” art, it becomes its affirmative reproduction; instead of can-brandishing revolutionaries, we hear about the masters of their trade. The mainstream allows and even accepts graffiti, but only if they become art and not criticism, aesthetics and not ethics, affirmation and not transgression, and poetics and not politics. “Every work of art is an uncommitted crime,” concludes Adorno pessimistically (2005: 111). Secondly, in the eyes of radical critics, graffitiing, even political graffitiing, is nothing more than street compensation for graffiti writers’ social inertia. Graffiti are the target of that same criticism that condemns social media: to click something on a Facebook page – so couch politics – is not enough! And it goes a step further: critics perceive artists and intellectuals in the same way. They reproach them with too much empty texts/drawings/paintings and not enough actions: it is easier to talk/write/draw about how the authorities should fall than actually make them fall. Graffiti do not offer an alternative so much as a false catharsis: escaping social boredom, aesthetic void, and political assimilation. A cynic would say that graffiti are there only to hide an empty wall; there is no real change behind them, n.o.t.h.i.n.g. In such a view, they are playing a contra-revolutionary and not a revolutionary role: they are a compensation for the actual inactivity of their authors. They are sooner an expression of powerlessness than of power, of cowardice and escapism sooner than of bravery, of delusion sooner than of illusion, and an insignificant toying around that gives a false image of resistance. A toothless tiger. Graffiti writers believe in the omnipotence of the word or image – as if it represents enough of an intervention in itself. This is also why they are not overzealously persecuted by the authorities; let the marginals have their wall on which they can express their frustrations all they want while the world keeps on spinning the way we want it! Let them have the outer side of the walls – what is on the inside – i.e., what is important is still ours. Graffiti are, therefore, a tolerated
subversion, a soft provocation, a clearly delimited island of street creativity that, all things considered, not only keeps the existing relationships of power intact but also aestheticises them, spreads them, and makes them more acceptable. Their incorporation and commodification, namely, offer a chance to make money in a so far non-capitalised field. Thirdly, graffiti are criticised as depoliticised. A part of the blame for why they are not treated seriously is also shared by the dominant academic (and consequently the wider public) reception of such street production and in its aesthetic ideology which is, much like any other ideology, “determined by the ideology of the ruling class” (Hadjinicolaou 1978: 13). The basic mistake, the original sin of the larger part of graffiti studies so far has been their depoliticisation: graffiti are considered nothing more than pictograms or urban ornaments. Books on graffiti, those lavish and expensive ones published in large formats, never even mention political graffiti as a concept or include them in the selection! We would browse them in vain if we wanted to find spray-painted ridicules or praise of politicians, pacifistic and emancipatory appeals, nationalistic maxims, or fan chants – i.e., all that I have deliberately analysed on these pages. An academic depoliticisation of graffitiing chooses various strategies. Firstly, they are explained as nothing more than a youth game, tomfoolery, showing off, and recklessness of young people with cans of paint. Some go as far as calling their authors as “kids,” not even “youngsters” or “adolescents”: “kids write graffiti because it’s fun,” claim Chalfant and Prigoff (1987: 7); “thousands of kids are writing their names on every available surface in New York,” state Cooper and Chalfant (1984: 6). Quite literally, graffiti are understood as “just kidding.” Secondly, they are perceived as a sporting test, if we read Daichendt (2017: 7): “Distinctly different from the traditional art world, where technical skill seems not to apply, street art has always seemed more akin to sport.” However, the most efficient decomposition of graffiti politicality through academic reception is reducing them to mere aesthetics or design, placing them exclusively into the art world.2 In this sense, the scientific discourse on graffitiing presents a graver danger for graffiti than the unappreciated authorities out there that keeps sending anti-graffiti squads, snitches, painters, and cleaners to them: it translates criticism into aesthetics, transgression into trend, political messages into cultural praxes, social outsider with spray cans into romantic rebels without a cause. It literally does what Hadjinicolaou (1978: 4–6) had always been reproaching the existing art history – namely, that it is “one of the last outposts of reactionary thought” and that its social function “allows the values of the ruling classes to be transmitted uncritically by playing upon people’s harmless love of art.” The dominant perception of art will only accept graffiti if it radically depoliticizes them beforehand, if it “cleans” them of ideologies, turns them into just another form of artism, proclaims them exclusively as the new established and institutionalized art safely stored in galleries and publications. The two conditions for this are the “liberation” of graffiti from the walls out there and the segregation of their creators from their social position and experience. In short, their artification.
Power of street (art) Make politics, not art Graffiti, Ljubljana, 2013
I completely agree with all of the criticisms of graffitiing and street art mentioned: the degeneration of the original idea, compensation, depoliticisation, and reduction to mere aesthetics. However, as these cases from the Balkans and Central Europe prove, there are many more aspects they fail to consider. Do not get me wrong: I would hate to force reality by searching for direct politicality in the graffiti subculture as a whole. Graffiti are, of course, also adolescent showing off, an adrenalin rush, and, however hard it is to accept it, pure aesthetic artwork. This, however, fails to explain the entirety of the graffiti and street art production, far from it. As suggested by the graffiti mentioned earlier, city walls carry politics and not art as the conventional and institutionalised form of creativity. While dominant ideologies create false dilemmas as to whether graffiti pertains to art or to politics, to aesthetics or to ideology, is it something beautiful or is it vandalism, and strive to separate the one from the others, I take this symptomatic or and change it into and. Graffiti and street art are politics and art, ideology and aesthetics, visual intervention and political praxis, beauty and vandalism. Graffiti pertains to art, as long as I understand that “art is the negative knowledge of the actual world” (Adorno 2002: 160). Its value lies not (only) in itself but in the position it adopts and in the consequences that result from it: it is valuable if it encourages people to think and inspires them to act.3 The defenders of a critical visual ideology try their best to limit such creativity to street and never proclaim it as art. They regard graffitiing in its totality: they do not separate art from non-art, politics from non-politicality, beautiful from ugly. They do not fragment into styles, types, trends, or discriminate bad graffiti writers from the good ones. Graffiti is credible and authentic in its natural environment if it is an individual or collective illegal visual expression of an integral experience of an individual or a collective: the new raw urban folk art of anonymous people, their pensée sauvage, radical amateurism, and not an elaborate urban fresco by sponsored graffiti craftsmen. A visual image of non-institutionalised power and simultaneously a tool for taking action. If Jackson Pollock stated that “a canvas is an arena in which to act,” then graffiti writers could claim that “the street is an arena in which to act.” Only by taking this position of understanding can one take brazen throw-ups, clumsy love statements on school benches, ever new visual inventions by ever new generations of street artists, witty interventions on posters – as well as the discussed transitional graffiti by right- and left-wingers, nativists, and cosmopolites, fans of different political options and football clubs, those who adore former and current heroes/countries, local vigilante groups, and alterglobalists and study them on the same level. I explain the dilemma on the politicality of graffiti through a prism of Rancière’s classification of what he calls “regimes of the arts.” Explicitly political graffiti agree with the ethical regime of the arts that always pragmatically relates
to someone or something: “‘art’ is not identified as such but is subsumed under the question of images.” These images “are the object of a twofold question: the question of their origin (and consequently their truth content) and the question of their end or purpose, the uses they are put to and the effects they result in” (2004: 20). In short, they have no autonomy but instead serve specific (political) goals. “Beautiful is what’s useful,” Brecht would add (2016: 152). Graffiti caught in galleries and artfully designed publications follow the poetic or representative regime of the arts which “identifies the substance of art – or rather of the arts – in the couple poiēsis/mimesis” (Rancière 2004b: 21). They imitate the reality of graffiti “out there” and represent them in an isolated “art environment,” which means that they are divided, classified, evaluated, and hierarchized based on the rules of such a regime. Street creativity becomes fine art, belle arti. The aesthetic regime, however, deals with subcultural graffiti in street art in their “natural” environment: on the walls. This regime “strictly identifies art in the singular and frees it from any specific rule, from any hierarchy of the arts, subject matter, and genres” (ibid., 23). It is grounded on pure aesthetics: it “makes art into an autonomous form of life and thereby sets down, at one and the same time, the autonomy of art and its identification with a moment in life’s process of self-formation” (ibid., 26, see also 32 and 2010: 138, 139).4 It includes subcultural graffiti that represent nothing but themselves and serve nothing but their own aesthetic singularity and social autonomy – which is, if I follow Rancière, enough to understand them as a political gesture. The active-critical involvement of graffiti and street art, therefore, lies not only in their explicit political statement – i.e., in the fact that they clearly express a political message, as the one from Ljubljana, Photo 12.1 – but also in the mere pre-discursive gesture of their creation and autonomous existence. The single act of appearing on the street represents a radical aesthetic and political action: graffiti are by definition images of dissent. For the third, the aesthetic regime of the arts Rancière claims that if there exists a connection between art and politics, it should be cast in terms of dissensus, the very kernel of the aesthetic regime: artworks can produce effects of dissensus precisely because they neither give lessons nor have any destination. (2010: 140)5 Graffiti and street art are subversive in a direct political sense as a political address, as an agitation with a specific goal, as aestheticised politics (ethical regime), and in an indirect sense, as an act of aesthetical autonomy that ignores genres and rules and that represents nothing but itself (aesthetic regime). Their politicality lies in their autonomy – that is, in the “emancipation of aesthetic” and/or in their “usefulness,” that is in the “aesthetic of emancipation.” In both senses, a graffiti are revolutionary as they disrupt an overly clean wall with something that should not be there. It is a “disturbance,” an interruption of empty walls, buildings, and the city behind them: either as an implicit empathy
Photo 12.1 History of the capital is a crime, Ljubljana, 2013. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
(in the form of a subcultural graffiti with its subtle, enchanted poetics, which moves the viewers into a new aesthetics) or as an explicit reflection (in the form of a direct political graffiti, which screams to wake the viewer into a real situation). It irritates in a quite Bakhtinian way, carnivalesquely: by shocking, directly, with the images of an upside-down world, wittily and playfully, yet at the same time seriously and consistently. Graffitiing moves one step ahead of the autodestructive art concept by the neo-avant-garde artist Gustav Metzger: it is destruction in the moment of creation – and simultaneously creation in the moment of destruction (like announced in the graffiti from Nova Gorica, Photo 12.2). This entirely Brechtian intervention or “alienation-effect” states that art is constantly destroying aesthetic illusion and imagined social totality by critically reminding us of the “naked world” out there, by bringing the viewer back into reality, and by sobering the viewer with reality. It achieves this by “producing astonishment rather than empathy,” as Benjamin (2007: 150) describes Brecht’s epic theatre, by using irony to make pathos fall.6 Graffiti are a visible sign of dissensus with a social, cultural, aesthetic, political, or, indeed, any kind of consensus. The mere act of it – not just its content! – represents the first step in disagreeing with the existing as it attacks what is most sacred in the class society: private property and,
Photo 12.2 When I create I destroy, Nova Gorica, 2017. Graffiti Source: Photo by MV.
if possible, its most exposed guarantors (e.g., banks, police stations, churches, supermarkets, political party headquarters). With or without words it can communicate that it does not acknowledge aesthetic or social authorities. It does, however, acknowledge a variety of other things: creativity, participation, public engagement, democracy, alternative, materiality. The subversiveness of graffiti and street art lies in their participation and democracy: their public is
more active than with the traditional artistic forms. Anyone can make graffiti; if they want to, if they are brave enough to, if they have something to say (or not, but they spray-paint anyway). Affirming non-professionalism stands not only as praise to imperfection but also a confirmation of amateurism, non-alienation, unpretentiousness, unconventionality, engagement.7 Graffitiing and street art tear down the traditional divisions into creators and public, into art and innate human creativity, into the elite and the mass. Graffiti are made by the people, not only for the people. To continue with Benjamin (ibid., 152): “Every spectator is enabled to become a participant.” Graffitiing, therefore, emancipates the creators – from political activists, marginalised individuals, aspiring artists to youth hotheads – and makes them present in a public space.8 The subversiveness of graffiti also lies in their public nature, their street character: graffiti are not, to put it bluntly, walled-up art. Its authors transform the city into an urban gallery, streets into museum wings, underpasses into billboards, walls into canvases. Creativity and self-initiative are restored and returned home from where they were violently pushed into enclosed spaces at the beginning of the modern age. Creativity redeems itself with going back to the streets, back to the people in an avant-garde, or, to be more precise, constructivist manner of “bringing art into real life” by Vladimir Tatlin, Vladimir Mayakovsky, or El Lissitzky. Out of “sacred spaces,” away from trendy elitism! Furthermore, the subversiveness of this production lies in the “return of the repressed,” of the analogue and material into this extremely digitalised world that we know today. Graffiti scream that there are still walls out there: walls that need to be spray-painted and walls that need to be demolished. And last but not least, graffiti are subversive due to their (relative) newness: they are a fresh, unconventional aesthetic, and political medium which is not used either by “real artists” – i.e., the atelier-type ones – or by “real politicians” residing in parliaments and running the state apparatus. Graffiti writers and street artists are combating political and aesthetical conventionality with an (un)sophisticated novelty – as if they followed Brecht’s maxim of “don’t start from the good old things but the bad new ones” (Benjamin 1977: 121). Graffiti carry progressive and transformative potentials; they are a liberating new “low art” which – in the same way as Benjamin characterized film long ago – “changes the reaction of the masses toward art”: “the critical and the receptive attitudes of the public coincide” (2007: 234).9 Allow me to condense all of this into two emancipatory slogans: graffiti are the “power of the people” and the “power of the streets.” Be that as it may, the street character of graffitiing, its democracy and self-initiative are never automatic guarantees for its subversiveness: we have to be extremely careful not to be naïvely optimistic. The included studies show how graffiti construct and reflect contemporary Balkan and Central European political divisions and unities in their transition “from socialism to feudalism,” as Verdery sarcastically foresaw (1996: 204–228) or to an open, fair, and inclusive society. They are spray-painted as much by left-wingers as by right-wingers, by progressive as by conservative individuals, by those with “red hangover” (Ghodsee 2017) as by those with new ideas, by libertarians as much as by repressionists, by members of different subcultures
as by advocates of status quo, by the political opposition as much as by the ruling majority. It depends on each example whether they are the weapon of resistance or a weapon of power, of insurgency or of conformity – i.e., whether they are usurped by the powers of emancipation or the institutions of domination.
To be continued I always get caught when I write on the wallllll Graffiti, Ljubljana, 2014
In much the same way that this witty writer was supposedly caught in the act, I decided to stop writing this book on an inexhaustible topic at a certain point or else I risked writing it for years. Its central focal point is to show and explore how politics is being graffitied and pasted on the walls or how graffiti and street art are serious political mediums worth being taken as such and studied from a terminological, theoretical, methodological, and empirical perspective. Lefebvre writes that “the city is an oeuvre, closer to a work of art than to a simple material product” (2000: 101); my study affirms its citizens as street artists, as graffiti writers, who have active relationships with it. They reclaim the right to it.10 A graffiti writer is homo ludens and homo politicus at the same time – a person who is playing, learning, and creating and a political person all in one. She or he transform a city into a place for social encounters and aesthetic expressivity, a communication platform, an agora of opinions, and a political bulletin board. At the same time, my study is a document of time and space, a collection of evidence on what has been happening on the walls in the transitional period in my part of Europe for the past 30 years. This publication will have achieved its purpose if its findings as well as its imperfections make the larger public more sensible for such culture while encouraging the scientific public to look deeper into it, affirming graffitology as a new emerging interdisciplinary science. I am far from exploring every theoretical perspective or every methodological approach and even further from encompassing every substantive angle of this seductive topic. There are so many subjects still left on walls, bridges, and fences that deserve similar research: the gender aspect of graffiti subculture, new types of graffitiing and street art, local scene analyses, intercultural comparisons, local eruptions of specific graffiti types, etc. – and I wish this publication to be an encouraging push for them to be explored and explained. It might initiate an international comparative research study aiming to monitor graffiti and street art. It might encourage a “graffiti bank” or “graffititeque” storing and documenting graffiti and street art from all around the world or, if I dare to be yet more ambitious, a Graffiti Earth computer program modelled on Google Earth that would globally document graffiti sites. But most of all I wish for people to change their view on graffiti and start observing, reading, and understanding them in all their complexity and controversy. Graffiti and street art are out there with an exact purpose and speak to
all of us: they are too political to only be considered as art and too arty to only belong to politics.
Notes 1 Horkheimer in Adorno calls it “cultural industry,” and Herbert Marcuse calls it “affirmative culture.” J. Wolff (1994: 89) claims that affirmative culture “procures political acquiescence by presenting false resolutions of conflict and artificial harmonies in the aesthetic sphere.” 2 Reynolds, for example, writes that “as a designer and photographer [he] found special interest in the graphics and design of the graffiti” (1975: no page). 3 In Picasso’s words, “A work of art must make a man react . . . it must agitate him and shake him up.” 4 In other words, “In the aesthetic regime of art, art is art to the extent that it is something else than art. It is always ‘aestheticized,’ meaning that it is always posited as a ‘form of life’” (Rancière 2010: 118). 5 Charles Baudelaire claimed much the same: “I sincerely believe that the best criticism is the criticism that is entertaining and poetic; not a cold analytical type of criticism, which, claiming to explain everything, is devoid of hatred and love, and deliberately rids itself of any trace of feeling.” 6 In graffiti language Reality bites, as states a Budapest paste-up through the image of a stylized Dracula (2011). 7 The art historian Véronique Plesch is convinced that “as long as quality – defined by criteria of aesthetic and technical excellence and by innovation – continues to determine what we study, conservative, anonymous and ‘damaged’ works will be neglected” (2015: 55). 8 Or with a Banksy stencil based on the quote by the American social scientist and activist César A. Cruz: Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. 9 Or, more elaborately, “The progressive reaction is characterized by the direct, intimate fusion of visual and emotional enjoyment with the orientation of the expert. Such fusion is of great social significance” (ibid.). 10 Or, in the words of a New York sticker, The street is a place for art not ads (2018).
An illegible tag Where’s ur message 2 humanity? (first addition) Here u go . . . Wait for it . . . (second addition) A correspondence on an electrical box, Ljubljana, 2011
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Note: page numbers in italic indicate a figure, page numbers in bold indicate a table, and page numbers followed by an ‘n’ indicate a note on the corresponding page. Abram, Sandi xvi, xxiv, 13, 20 activism xviii, 14–15, 17–20, 22, 24n37, 24n42, 36, 38–39, 48, 52, 53, 56n34, 72, 84, 88n9, 92, 95, 102, 104, 106, 113n23, 120, 132, 139nn13–14, 142, 180, 182n8 ad busting 19, 28, 28, 32n11 Adorno, Theodor xix, 102, 103, 104, 106, 108, 110, 112n17, 113n24, 120, 136, 152, 174, 176, 182n1 advertisements 15, 28 aesthetic/subcultural graffiti xv, xix, 8–22, 24n36, 25, 30, 39, 43, 72, 156, 159, 164, 177–178 Albania 41, 84, 103, 105, 106, 112n7, 136, 154n5 Alps 91–92, 101n27 anarchist graffiti 24n41 antagonism 168, 171n36 Antifa 24n38, 56n34, 76, 117, 166 antipolitics 15 antisemitism 105–106, 112n6, 130, 136, 150, 153 anti-style 17, 29 arborglyphs 27 art xii–xix, xxi–xxii, xxiiin13, 2–22, 22n8, 23nn12–13, 23n19, 23nn25–26, 23n28, 24n43, 24n45, 25–31, 31n2, 33–53, 54–55n3, 55n22, 56n26, 58, 64, 67–70, 72, 74–76, 80, 83–84, 86–87, 91–92, 94, 99, 114, 119, 125, 128, 142–145, 147–149, 152, 158–159, 161, 164–165, 169, 172–182, 182nn3–4, 182nn7 Arte Povera xxii, 10, 23n13 audience 38, 42, 50–53 aura 9, 30 auratic 9, 30
auraticity 30 authoritarianism 60, 118 autoethnographies xix, 44–45, 56n33 avant-garde movements 10 Balkans xix, 20, 53, 60, 64, 102–110, 112n15, 117, 120–121, 127, 136, 137, 142, 146, 150, 154n10, 162, 164, 168, 169, 172, 176, 180 Banksy 20, 23n18, 23n25, 173, 182n8 barbed wire 8, 134, 134 Barthes, Roland xii, xix, xxv, 6, 12, 23n14, 49, 51, 67, 69, 88, 98, 128 Basquiat, Jean-Michel xxiin2, 23n25 Baudelaire, Charles 23n14, 182n5 Belgrade xxiin4, xxiin6, 14–15, 16, 43, 58, 70, 79, 83, 85–86, 88n12, 89n28, 90n35, 104, 107–108, 145–149, 167 Berlin Wall xiii, 109, 112n18, 123, 127 Blu xxiin2, 23n18 Boas, Franz 50, 52, 55n13, 56n32 bombing 18, 28, 48, 133, 143, 157 Bosnia-Herzegovina 61, 68, 72, 80, 82, 84, 89n25, 109, 112n8, 117, 126n2, 136, 150, 154, 165, 170n17 Bucharest 40, 40, 104, 146 Bulgaria 103–106, 105, 126n11 burners 26 cameras 22n3, 35–36; see also photography capitalism xx, 16, 24n41, 50, 60–63, 77, 84, 110, 118, 121, 124, 135–137, 141–142, 174 Carantanian Panther 81, 101n24, 104, 108, 112n4, 114, 116, 119, 125, 162
CasaPound 45, 121, 124 Celtic crosses 24n38, 24n41, 43, 97, 101n25, 107–108, 116–120, 125, 130, 146, 149, 153, 154n9, 159, 162, 165, 170n18 Chakhotin, Sergei 24n42 chalk art 28 characters xxii, 5, 20, 26, 36, 76, 83, 127, 136, 146, 153, 159–160, 164, 180 chauvinism 52, 56n34, 96, 110–111, 125, 153, 162, 166 classes, social 34, 38, 54n2, 55n3, 120 cleaning 45, 125, 162 cognitive dissonance 21, 132, 152 Čolović, Ivan 87, 89n23, 90n35, 110, 153 compositional interpretations xix, 48–49, 50 conflict graffiti 14 connotations 49, 51, 68–72, 99, 166 consumerism xiv, 13, 26, 87, 121 content analysis xix, 48–49, 50, 69 contextualisation 3, 6–7, 37, 41–44, 47, 108 creativity xv, xx, 4, 10–13, 28, 30, 46, 146, 151, 173, 175–177, 179–180 crews 7–8, 14, 24n36, 27, 35, 45–46, 165 critical visual ideology 172, 176 Croatia 9, 64, 68, 72, 73, 75, 77n3, 106, 109, 116, 120, 126nn6–7, 136, 146–147, 153, 165 crossing over 19, 24n35 cross-out wars 17, 19, 94, 167 cut-outs 28 Deleuze, Gilles xx, 144, 146, 151–152 democracy xx, 57, 60, 62, 65n9, 110–111, 120, 124, 138n3, 179–180 denotations 49–51, 68–72, 99 dictatorships 65n9 Eco, Umberto 49, 68, 75 end to end 26, 107 engaged research 53 epic theater 23n32 Erased, The 117, 120, 123, 126n4 European Union 60, 62, 84, 112n18, 127, 133, 135, 136, 138n3, 139n16 extremism 18, 46, 53, 77, 95, 109–111, 113n25, 114–121, 123–124, 126n2, 126n17, 129, 130, 132–133, 135, 137, 139n11, 150, 152–154, 154n13, 161–162, 169; decontamination of 125; and fascism 119–123; see also fascism; neo-Nazis Facebook xiv, 3, 39, 93, 114, 142, 158, 174 fans see football fan graffiti fascism xix, 24n42, 45, 50, 60, 68, 72, 76, 77n4, 84, 105, 108–111, 112n17, 113n24,
116, 119–125, 126n15, 132–133, 138n4, 149, 154n16, 166 Ferdinand, Franz 79–80, 83–84, 86, 87, 88n13, 89n24, 90n33, 90n36 flâneur 43 foodography 34 football fan graffiti xx–xxi, 36, 43, 141, 141–154, 147, 150, 157, 160, 161, 167–169, 169n8; and interviews 157–164, 169n7; and Slovenia 156–157; types of 164–167 football fans xx–xxi, xxiiin8, 24, 36, 43, 81, 83, 85–87, 89n23, 103, 112n4, 118, 126n5, 142–153, 155n18, 156–157, 160–161 Foucault, Michel 23n30, 75 gangs 43, 165 Generation Identity 39, 97, 108, 119, 122 geocoding xix, 43 graffitiscapes 43, 57–64 graffitography 34–38 graffitology xv, xxiv, 6–7, 33–34, 42, 44, 64, 172, 181 Guattari, Félix xx, 144, 146, 151–152 Hadjinicolaou, Nicos xx–xxi, 12, 23n12, 33, 38, 47, 49, 50, 55n3, 172, 175 Haider, Jörg 90n38 Hall, Stuart xix, 43, 49, 51, 55n13, 98 hate speech 53, 54, 57, 110, 114, 128, 137 high art 10, 15, 29, 174 Hitler, Adolf 21, 24n46, 83, 94, 118, 149, 150, 152, 162, 165, 170n19 hobo graffiti 28 Holocaust 139n22 Home Guards (Domobranci) 78n22 homophobia 24n37, 24n39, 53, 117, 122, 123, 153, 166 hooligans xxiiin8, 143–144, 149, 151, 154nn3–4, 156, 163 Horkheimer, Max 110, 182n1 humour 10 Hungary 62, 63, 65n8, 136, 149 ideological strategies 72–75, 98 ideologic forms 24n44 ideology xv, xx–xxi, 7, 12, 21, 24n37, 24n44, 28, 33–34, 40–41, 45, 49–51, 54n2, 55n22, 57–58, 62–64, 67, 69–70, 72, 75, 81, 86, 89n30, 92, 97–99, 101n29, 103–106, 109–111, 114, 116, 118, 120–122, 124, 129–130, 142, 153, 154n13, 157, 168–169, 172–173, 175–176 illegality xx, 10, 14, 17, 47, 115, 156
Index inequality 53; see also classes, social installations 14, 27–28, 30, 39, 70, 92, 100n3, 119 intentionality 7 interviews xviii, xix, 10, 23n14, 45–48, 51, 63, 139n16, 157–159, 164, 169n8, 170 Islam (Muslims) 19, 21, 94, 101n27, 106–107, 112n5, 116117, 122–123, 125, 129–132, 137 Islamophobia 117, 123, 125, 131 Israel xiii, xvi, 5, 23n16, 51, 153, 154n10 Italy 120, 126n11, 135, 142, 153, 160, 170n23 Jameson, Frederic 42, 77 Jesus 20, 40, 79 Jews 40, 105, 123, 127, 130, 136, 139n22, 146, 150, 152–153; see also antisemitism; Nazis Kosovo 41, 84, 87, 103–104, 109, 126n2, 170n17 Kyrgyzstan 27 latrinalia xxiiin8, 27, 29 League of Communists of Yugoslavia (see also Communist Party of Yugoslavia) 77n8 League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia 77n6 LGBT graffiti 24n37, 24n39; see also homophobia Liberation Front 18, 24n33, 77n1, 77n9, 94, 95, 99 Lipset, Seymour Martin xix, 123–124 Ljubljana xii, xvi, xvii, 4, 8, 21, 25, 28, 31n6, 33, 40, 41, 59, 67, 79–81, 88n10, 93, 100n5, 100n16, 101n18, 104, 106–108, 113n25, 114, 127, 139n9, 139n16, 156, 169nn4–5, 170n24, 170n26, 181; and fan graffiti 24n39, 167, 169, 170n24, 170n26; and feminist graffiti 32n11; and nationalism 118–119; photos of 26, 28, 59, 96, 97, 115, 117, 122, 131, 134, 138, 166, 178; and political graffiti xxv, 8, 21, 24n41, 57, 58, 65n3, 70–76, 101n18, 123–124, 177; and refugees 139n21, 139n23 lock ons 28 Lovata, Troy xiv–xv, 25, 31n4, 32n8 Macdonald, Nancy xiv, xv, 13, 14, 23n27, 30, 31n2, 31n5, 45, 47, 55n10, 156 Macherey, Pierre 23n14 Maister, Rudolf xix, 79–81, 84–88, 88n6, 89n31, 101n24
Marcuse, Herbert 182n1 Maribor 40, 70–72, 74, 79, 80–81, 88nn9–10, 169n3, 169n5, 170nn15–16, 171n37; and fan graffiti 24n39, 148, 155n18, 156, 161, 166–167; and Maister, Rudolf 88n2, 88n5 Matta-Clark, Gordon 23n24 Mead, Margaret 35, 55n7 Merkel, Angela 139n21 modernism 119–122, 144–145, 151, 154n16 metamodernism 144–145, 168 migrants 106, 118, 127, 130, 134, 136, 138n4, 139n11, 170n25; see also refugees moral panic 10, 126n18, 157 Mr. Brainwash 23n25 Mouffe, Chantal xix, 123–124, 126n16, 168 Mt. Triglav 72, 75, 91–100, 96, 100n1, 100n3, 100nn9–13, 100n16, 101n19, 101n27, 119 multiculturalism 75–77, 94, 116, 117, 120, 125, 126n3, 134 murals xii–xiii, 13–14, 19, 23n18, 27, 27, 72, 80–81, 84, 86, 103–104, 143, 145, 147, 150, 159, 164–165, 166, 167–168 museums xviii, 13, 173, 180 nationalism 60, 62–63, 70, 84–85, 91, 98–99, 101n18, 101n23, 119–122, 138n4, 142, 149, 152; and Balkans 102–112; and fascism 114–116; and football 169n1; and heroes 85–87; and poverty 113n22; and Romania 107, 112n3; and Slovenia 89n30; and Yugoslavia 76–77 nativism 59, 102, 104, 176 Nazis 18, 21, 24n42, 94, 102, 112n13, 117, 119–121, 123, 126n17, 170n17; and Croatia 77n2; and football fan graffiti 152–153, 162, 165–166; and Mt. Triglav 91; and nationalism 105–106; symbols of 116, 170n19; and Yugoslavia 68; see also swastikas neo-Nazis 21, 43, 48, 110, 112, 119, 125, 161, 165, 170nn18–19 New York xiv, xv, xxiin4, xxv, 23n22, 24n40, 25, 28, 31n6, 34, 40, 44, 174–175, 182n10 Obey, Shepard Fairey xxii, 23n25, 174 Olton, Elizabeth 25, 31n4 othering 128–130 participant observations xix, 35, 45–46, 47, 51, 157 partisans xii, xvi, 5, 24n34, 68, 69, 72, 74, 75, 80, 87, 93–94, 100n14
paste-ups 28, 182n6 patriotism 120–122 Pavelić, Ante 72, 126n2, 126n7 petroglyphs 27, 29, 32n9 photography xix, xxiv, 33, 35–36 Picasso, Pablo 182n3 piecers 27 pieces (masterpieces) 26 political graffiti xii, xv–xix, xxi–xxii, xxv, 5, 7–8, 11, 14–22, 23n16, 23n28, 23n31, 31n5, 33–34, 36–37, 39, 41–42, 72, 76, 98, 103, 105, 118, 134, 142–143, 158, 174–176, 178; and audience 50–54; and Bosnia-Herzegovina 61; and contextualisation 42–45; and football fans 149, 161, 165; and graffitography 34–38; and meaning 38–41; and socialism 57–64; and writers xxv, 45–48 populism 51, 60, 62–63, 101n18, 121, 135, 154n16 post-graffiti art xix, 27 post-socialism xviii, xix–xx, 53, 57–64, 67, 77, 109–110, 113n20, 137, 146, 172 poverty 58, 89n31, 137 power xx–xxi, 4, 8, 15, 20–21, 30, 39, 43, 49–50, 55n24, 60, 62, 75–76, 84, 87, 101n25, 108–110, 116, 119, 121, 134–136, 142, 144, 152–153, 172–176, 180–181 Princip, Gavrilo xix, 79–80, 81–88, 85, 86, 89nn15–16, 89n18, 89nn21–22, 89nn24–25, 89n31, 90n31, 90nn34–36, 147 proletarian internationalism 100n17 propaganda xiii, 13–14, 18, 21, 24n42, 118, 125n1, 139n12 public opinion polls xix, 51–52, 53 Putin, Vladimir 65n5, 104 pyramid of hate 109 Queens Shirt Kings 23n21 questionnaires 51–52, 56n28 racism 52–53, 108–109, 112n12, 116, 121–122, 125, 126n11, 130, 131, 133, 138n4, 149, 152–154, 154n13, 162, 164, 166, 168; see also antisemitism; Islamophobia; Nazis; neo-Nazis; Roma radical centre xix, 123–125 Rancière, Jacques xx, xxi, 7, 15, 127, 176–177, 182n4 red stars 48, 68–69, 72, 94, 99, 100n16, 122, 149, 154n1, 154n10 refugees xix, 8, 21, 60, 89n30, 96, 101n21, 105–106, 109, 112n18, 121–122, 127–138,
138, 138n4, 138n6, 139n7, 139nn10–11, 139n13, 139n21, 139nn23–24, 149; see also migrants religion 40, 58, 60, 106, 108, 124, 129 Republika Srpska (Bosnia-Herzegovina) 80, 82–83, 104, 108; see also BosniaHerzegovina resistance xvi, 5, 20, 52, 63–64, 75, 84, 87–88, 91, 93–94, 103, 108, 114, 135, 174, 181 Retna 23n25 rhizomes xx, 144, 151, 153 Ribar, Ivo Lola 77n12, 139n17, 164 Richard, Paul 28 Roma 117, 123, 126n11, 152, 163 Romania 63, 104–105, 107–108, 107, 126n11, 145, 147 rooftops 26 Rose, Gillian 35, 38, 48 Russia xii, 23n23, 24n42, 53, 65n5, 90n33, 104, 107–109, 135, 139n16, 148–150, 170n17, 170n23 Sarajevo 13, 38, 59, 61, 71, 72, 74, 74, 80, 83–84, 86, 87, 88n14, 106, 108, 147 Schengen Wall xiii, 127 scratchiti 27, 30 scribbles 7, 10, 25, 27, 29 Serbia 68, 80, 82–83, 89n23, 104, 106, 108–109, 116, 118, 126n2, 126n6, 136, 165, 170n17; see also Balkans; Princip, Gavrilo Slovenia 8, 18, 24n33, 41, 51–52, 55n6, 59, 83, 88n6, 89n31, 97, 100n14, 111, 112n4, 131; and decontamination 125–126; and fascism 119–123; and football fan graffiti 156–157; and hate speech 114–119; and nationalism 89n30, 92–93, 98–100; postsocialist 58; and radical centre 123–125; see also Maister, Rudolf; Mt. Triglav socialism xii, xix, xx, 21, 55n20, 57–64, 65n5, 67–68, 70, 73–77, 77n2, 79, 100–101n17, 101n19, 103, 118, 149, 154n1, 180 socialist revolution 100n17 social media 26, 34, 47, 174 social semiology xix, 49–50, 68 Stalin, Joseph xii, 69 stencils xii, xiii, xvi, xvii, xix, xx, 15–19, 16, 22n1, 22n4, 24n37, 27, 29–30, 31n6, 34, 36, 38–41, 40, 48–49, 58–59, 61, 69–70, 71, 74, 80–81, 82, 84, 86, 92, 97, 103–104, 107–108, 111, 111, 114, 116–119, 125, 137, 140n27, 143, 145–147, 149–150, 157–160, 164–165, 168, 174, 182n8
Index street artists xiv, 12, 23n18, 28, 31n6, 67, 75, 173, 176, 180–181; see also writers structured interviews 46, 158 subway art 25 swastikas 19, 24n38, 24n40, 24n42, 50, 68, 72, 101n25, 104, 106–108, 111, 116–120, 122, 125, 149, 152–153, 162, 165–166, 170n19, 170n26; see also fascism; Nazis taggers 27 tags 26, 31 throw-up 26 time xii, xvi, xx, xxi, 3–4, 6, 8, 10–11, 15, 17, 20, 25–27, 30, 31n1, 35–37, 39–45, 47, 51, 53, 55n17, 62, 64, 67–68, 70, 72, 75–76, 77n16, 79, 84, 86, 87–88, 89n25, 91, 93–94, 96, 99, 101n30, 109, 112n2, 118, 126n11, 126n18, 129, 132, 134, 136–137, 143, 145–146, 151–153, 159, 165–168, 177–178, 181 Tito, Josip Broz xii, 39, 68–69, 70–72, 70, 74–75, 78n21, 79, 87, 88n3, 95 toys 24n36, 27 Trubar, Primož 88n3 Trump, Donald 56n35, 104, 155n16 Turkey xvi, 90n33, 106, 107, 136 ultras 144–145, 147–148, 154n2, 154n4, 163, 164, 166, 171n30 United States 112n12, 114, 154n2 urban ethnographies xix, 45 values xxi, 12, 15, 20, 24n44, 29–31, 43, 49, 57, 91, 108, 112n17, 124, 126n14, 143, 145–147, 152, 156, 159–160, 162, 164, 167–168, 175
vandalism xxiii, 3, 7, 10, 31n6, 52, 176 visual ideologies xiv, xvi–xvii, xx–xxii, 7–8, 12, 21, 33–34, 40–41, 45, 50–51, 53, 54n2, 64, 92, 114, 142, 157, 169, 172–173, 176 visual interventions 27–28, 58, 72, 176 Wacławek, Anna xiv, xv, 4, 18, 31n2, 50 wall of fame 11, 26–27 Weber, Max 5 white supremacism 24n38, 43, 107–108, 112n12, 116, 125, 165, 170n19 Wilson, Ben 28 Wittgenstein, Ludwig 5–6 World Wars xii, 24n34, 70, 79–80, 84, 86, 93, 112n15, 118, 135, 149, 154n11, 165–166 writers xiv, xv, xxiiin8, xxv, 4, 7–8, 10–13, 15, 18–22, 22n1, 22n7, 23n15, 23n27, 24n36, 25–27, 29–31, 31nn5–6, 32n14, 35, 38–39, 42, 44–47, 50, 71–72, 75–76, 83, 88n3, 90n35, 92, 102, 105, 110, 134, 143, 156, 159, 171n35, 174, 176, 180–181 xenophobia 36, 81, 96, 98, 101n27, 119, 128–129, 134–135, 153, 168; see also refugees yarn bombing 28 Young Bosnia 79–80, 83, 86, 87, 89n29, 89n31, 90n34 Yugoslavia xii, xix, xx, 39, 58, 60, 67–77, 70, 74, 78n19, 82–83, 87, 88n11, 89n31, 99, 100n13, 101n19, 101n30, 106, 118–119, 126n4, 154n1; post-socialist 58–60 Zagreb xxiin4, 5, 9, 9, 72, 73, 107, 126n5, 143, 149, 154n10