Summer in Athens: parties, graffiti and underground culture

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One of the article on Urban Lives of which I am particularly fond of is the one about my trip in Athens, Volos and Thessaloniki with other friends, new contacts, many discoveries and kilometres travelled. In that article I expressed all my happiness for having being experienced so many exciting places and for being living in close contact with a community of people and friends to which in January I felt I started to belong to.

Well, the long-awaited return to Greece was in May, for a 20 days-stay that would have been just a preview of my new life.

I knew it from the very first time I was here. {My favourite corner in Exarchia area, Athens} #urbanlivesontheroad

Un post condiviso da Ivana De Innocentis (@kiyose80) in data:

Restart in Athens: summertime full of graffiti, fun, new friends

To all the people who often ask me the reason why I moved to Athens, the first instinctive answer is “people and graffiti”. Obviously, there is much and much more. Only thanks to a long lasting stay I could start understanding better the city, its dynamics and features and to discover local habits, attitudes, needs, problems and peculiarities (including some bizarre and interesting cultural differences). Of course what accelerated the process was the precious help of friends, the time I spent together with them, their tips and their will to make me feel like I was a local. To begin my new life in Athens was simply amazing and it’s hard to summarize all the things I did during the summer and all the overwhelming feelings.

“My Athens” has been music and food festival and free concerts and events, punk nights at The Handlebar and beers with friends at the Boiler club (must-visit places for nightlife), pizza at Mystic Pizza in Exarchia or at Crust in Psyrri (best pizzas in the city), hidden clubs with rooftops with an amazing view over the Acropolys, independent projects and self-productions (music, tattoos, fanzines, prints), meetings and events in occupied places and squats, the mediterranean scent and the tastes of the taverna, tsipouro and bouzouki (*white grappa and Greek traditional music), is the fascinated decay of abandoned places, is fire, molotov and riots in the streets of Exarchia, is sharing dreams and fighting for one’s beliefs, is a stunning sunset on Strefi Hill (my favourite place), is swimming in unexpected places surrounded my nature and silence, but most of all Athens is freedom of expression, creativity, thousands of connections and deep relationships. You can love it or hate it, for sure you can’t really say you know it if you don’t have enough time and the will to discover the vitality and the buzz of the underground culture.

Stefri hill in Exarchia, Athens

Three months of graffiti, abandoned places and nightlife bombing

summerathens3Of course, apart from fun, I’ve spent long time studying and observing the local scene of graffiti, starting once again my exploration from the area where I’ve decided to live, Exarchia (anarchist neighborhood). I have not only been walking for hours with my camera chasing graffiti, this time I’ve also started to watch videos, read books, and in general to get precious information, tips and help from people around me and good friends. I’ve also personally searched and contacted many local graffiti writers, and as always, I’ve tried to meet as many persons as possible, collecting stories and experiencing actions.

Thanks to a big effort, a bit of luckiness, the right connections and, let me say, also to my positive attitude, I have succeeded knowing many oldschool writers (for example some from Fix, Frogs, Pigs, Ofk, 381 crews) and other younger, sometimes chatting online, sometimes talking personally, in the best cases having the chance to see them painting. For example, was great to know Tefra from Tita crew, meet him in Berlin and inviting him to a graffiti jam that I have organized, or to meet Fluor (Bigs crew) in Exarchia and talk for a couple of hours. I was also very happy to speak with Death Vallee about the book-project “365 Athens”, “the new book self-published from Tarta & Death Vallée relating their dailies in Athens, in stories and pictures, for 365 days” (highly recommended). I also want to say thanks to the Danish writer Splid and Pea from Cake crew for long and interesting chats in Exarchia.
Needless to say that during the summer, I have also spent a lot of time with old friends graffiti writers and artists. In general I am grateful to everybody for fun and good time, and was great to join so many actions, in the street, in abandoned factories, tunnels in suburbs of Athens, in parkings or crumbling places.

Painting night in Exarchia with Exit and Mota

athens 4Exarchia, as you have probably already understood reading my previous articles, is almost completely full of tags, graffiti, posters, political slogans and stencils and is really hard to find some empty space on walls or shutters. As soon as I arrived in Athens in May my friend Exit was really excited because he had a sketch with a new style and a good spot in Exarchia, and he couldn’t wait to go painting. So, together with our friend Zie, we arranged to go there around midnight, armed with ladder, spray cains and paintings. Unlike in January, this time we didn’t have any problems with police and everything went smooth. Same cool situation when together with Exit we joined his friend Mota for a painting night in Psyrri district. I’d already heard of him and noticed his pieces around the city and it was great to finally meet him. I couldn’t imagine that not long after that night he would have became one of my best friend in the city.
Was great to talk about his long period as a graffiti writer and to see him painting with a 7 metres stick and roller (by the way, that was one of his first big pieces).
As I explained to him, his style and attitude reminded me the ones of my Italian friends and fellow travelers Collettivo FX.
It was a long night and everybody was really happy, also for the final result. But, most importantly, was the beginning of a friendship between me and Mota, that’s the best part of my life as a graffiti blogger.

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Night bombing with Decay, Mota, Splid and other writers

When I arrived in Athens I was running out of Urban Lives stickers. Maybe because of my full-immersion in the graffiti world, my natural reaction was to replace the stickers with tags. I have to admit that has been great to tag around during the summer with spray cans and markers, not only in Athens but also Thessaloniki and Berlin. For night bombings in Athens, mainly in Exarchia, Psyrri and Monatiraki areas, always of course on walls already full of tags or painted, my “partners” have been my graffiti writers friends or acquaintances, such as Mota, the danish Splid, and Decay from Adicts crew.

Graffiti night with 157 crew + Lko crew

As soon as I returned to Athens in June, after being some time in Vienna, Berlin and Rome, I had a chance to meet a guy from 157 crew (from Cyprus). After a long chat and a beer in Exarchia he agreed to meet the following day with some friends of him, two guys from Lko crew. The plan was to go to paint in a tunnel in a faraway district, almost outside the city. It was a long way to arrive there but we really enjoyed the journey and the time we spent together. Moreover I was excited to see the port by night for the first time. When we arrived at the tunnel they started to paint one next to the other one, while I was a bit on their side of the tunnel to speak with them and a bit on the sidewalk to take photos.

It was a nice evening and what really impressed me was the massive amount of people who slowed down or stopped with the car to watch, say hi, and to compliment them; it was not only young guys, most of them were mums with children and families.

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New “abandoned installation” by Iakovos Volkov

In June I was also back with my friend Iakovos Volkov to “his abandoned factory”. He asked me to join him because he was about to start a new installation, the latest in a long series (he was also in Rome for a two weeks project curated by me/Urban Lives). He was going on with his plan to realize an installation in every space, corner and room of the factory, in order to end up one day with a kind of personal exhibition. Can’t wait to see this project completed.
I feel a strong connection with this place, both artistically and emotionally. In fact not only the factory reminds me my first visit to Athens one year ago and the beginning of my friendship with Iakovos, but is also impressive the way that his art interacts and enhances the place and its architectural elements.
During the afternoon Iakovos started to work on a big writing realized with materials found in situ, and as the previous time I took some time to go around, to help him finding other objects and to take photos.

Graffiti and calligraphy with Decay e C0in

In the end of June I started to chat on Instagram with the writer Decay (Adicts crew). It was friendship at first freddo espresso, drunk in the park of Exarchia, in front of the big mural that Blu painted in April. It was the first one of thousands of coffees together and endless conversations about graffiti and any other topic. First time that we arranged to meet for painting graffiti was in an abandoned factory with his friend C0in from Patra, a writer and calligrapher.

It’s been a great day and it was really interesting both to see them painting together on the same wall and separately. Also, they had enough time to paint not only single pieces but literally everywhere, cover from floor to ceiling the abandoned factory with tags, writing and even pages of fanzine. By the way, during the time together I spoke with Decay about his fanzine “Trashed out”, from which he took inspiration for some graffiti, and with C0in about japanese calligraphy and in general calligraphy in Greece and about his story. Thanks to Decay, who persuaded and helped me and most of all trusted me, I joined him to paint a part of his piece and I really enjoyed it. The day flew away while painting, talking, laughing and listening to music and ended with an amazing sunset and a beautiful view of the city from a hill.

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Night in Metaxourgio and Gazi with Lol (Fix crew)

summerathens1One of the first and more active train-bomber crew in Athens is the Fix. In July I had the know to meet Lol, one of the members. After seeing each other at an opening of an exhibition in Psyrri, we decided to meet again for a night in Metaxourgio. We were supposed to be with other writers but some of them were on holiday and some others busy. Never mind, we had a good time. Before chasing a “free wall” we stopped for a beer and a long chat. He told me many things about the first years of graffiti in Athens and how things have deeply changed and recently got a bit worse in the local scene (less and less graffiti jams, and occasion for meeting and painting), about his graffiti travels around the world and his countless connections with people he met everywhere or hosted in Athens (included a friend of mine, from Turin).
I really enjoyed talking with him, not only about graffiti; while talking we were looking in vain for a wall in Metaxourgio, so we decided at the end to go to Gazi area, where I was quite sure to have seen some free space. Finally there we found the perfect spot, a well-lit corner with the Gazi gasholder in the back.
Great place, great pieces and, as always, many photos.

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Weekend with Decay and Mota in a parking in Exarchia

During these three months I took advantage of my long walks providing a useful service to artists, taking notes and photos of any possible kind of spot around the city. The best one I’ve found was a big parking in Exarchia, and I decided to “give it away” to my good friends Mota and Decay. We’ve spent there one of the last weekends of summer. After asking the old caretaker the permission to paint, we moved there all the materials that we had in the car, including a huge amount of spray cans, a 7 meters stick, many buckets of painting and even a chair.

One next to the other one they started to paint. Mota decided to realize a colourful and detailed portrait of a common friend, while Decay painted letters, mixing a lot of different colours; they had completely different styles although I noticed immediately a chromatic similarity and appreciated so much their similar attitude and their affinity as writers and friends. We spent a perfect time together, laughed a lot, drank beers, we’ve been visited by friends, among which a photographer and the guy of the portrait, with all his family. The only moment with some tension was at saturday night, when the owner of the building arrived and started complaining, shouting and even threaten my friends to call the police.
During the argument friends and people from the street stood up for Mota and Decay, while the only thing I could do since I couldn’t understand almost anything was to take a look around to check if the police was coming. Luckily not only they didn’t but this story had an unexpected happy ending. In fact, the following day, the angry owner was back, this time smiling and calm and he apologized for his behaviour. He even complimented and invited Mota to his house for a chat. We couldn’t believe it!
So, at the end, I can say that the weekend was simply like a perfect “graffiti adventure”, with twists and turns along the way and lot of fun.

Ph @ion_sp

Ph @ion_sp

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Throw up in Exarchia with Biz

I already wrote about Biz (crew TS90, 360 e S2K), I first met in Rome while I was there with my friends Skirl and Ruin, and I met him again in Volos, spending with him three amazing days, painting, talking about graffiti, walking around and exploring abandoned factories. I was really happy to see him again in Athens in September. Actually I had the chance to meet not only him but also his friends and some members of one of his crew, 360. We end up one of the night together in Exarchia, where he painted two throw up on shutters. As always we’ve been chatting for long time about his graffiti trips around the world and I was amazed by his incredible anecdotes and stories, such as the one about getting lost all alone in a jungle in Malaysia after painting a train!
I hope I will meet him again soon somewhere and in the meantime I’ll go hunting for the pieces he painted together with his crew around Athens.

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A new beginning

Was not easy for me to decide to take a 3 months break from the blog and to go on sharing my graffiti experiences and travels only through social networks, above all Instagram, and to stay away from my country, my city, my Italian friends. I had to say no to invitations, street art festivals, possible appointments with artists and last but not least to presentations of my book “Urban Lives”.
But this is how it goes in any transitional period. To change means to sacrifice something sometimes but also to get better and reborn, stronger and with a clearer mind. I can’t wait to share all my new adventures, more and more complex and far away, with my readers and community. This summer in Athens is only the beginning of a new Greek-Italian life; wherever it will lead me I am now finally sure that I will be always surrounded by graffiti and by very special people, my “new Greek family”.

(Italian version)
Soundtracks: 1000mods
Θύτης – Θα Έχεις Κηδεία ft. Κανών
Ph. Ivana De Innocentis, Ioanna Spentzou, Decay

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