Many people assume that graffiti and street art in Jerusalem are non existent or scarce. Actually, Tel Aviv is regarded as sort of a street art and graffiti “capital” here in Israel. Well, I beg to differ. There are hundreds of spots all around down-town Jerusalem bursting with various works, from artistic to political and more. This tour is about letting as many people as possible discover this hidden treasure.
What is graffiti?
Sentences, scribbles and drawings are scattered in public spaces in cities all around the world, and form an aesthetic statement that is sometimes hard to ignore. Unlike sculptures, fountains and installations approved by the authorities, graffiti and street art are usually displayed illegally and without the permission from the owner of the property on which they are created.
Because of its (still) debatable artistic dimension graffiti and street art are often contested by the authorities and property owners alike thus becoming, in my view, an intriguing part of the urban experience and pose a few interesting questions: Who really has the authority to design or intervene in public spaces? Are graffiti and street artist entitled to do what they do as long as they do not offend or hurt anyone? What are the limits of the medium? Is it vandalism? What are the real meanings of these works? Why is John Doe motivated to paint on walls?
So how did it all start?
The seeds of modern graffiti were planted in the streets of New York during 1930s and 1940s when gangs began marking their turf by painting sings on street corners, cars and trains. The boom came a bit later during 1970s when kids from poor families began painting more and more without any respect for the rule of law and out of mere social frustration. Slowly graffiti writing became an urban cultural movement by finding itself a part of or connecting to new artistic forms at the time, such as rap music, skateboarding, brake-dancing and the similar. During this tour we shall explore this historical aspect too…
What is the difference between graffiti and street art?
Street art is designed to connect with a crowd of passers-by, somewhat of a mass media outlet, delivering a certain message. It usually appears in the form of murals, sculptures or installations.
Graffiti, however, is not really designed to connect with the public, but rather with a specific group of people. Graffiti has an intricate internal language, and to a passer-by it mostly doesn’t communicate anything coherent. Of course there is a gray area, works that are in between the two. This tour will reveal many of the codes hidden in Jerusalem graffiti.
What is special about graffiti and street art in Jerusalem?
Perhaps nothing or perhaps everything. On one hand tags and scribbles in Jerusalem are pretty similar to ones you may encounter anywhere else in the world from Berlin to Tokyo or New York. On the other hand, every city has a unique structure to its undercurrents, a different atmosphere, mentality, politics and of course slang. Graffiti and street artists reflect all that in their works and as you will see in Jerusalem graffiti and street art do the same.
So, what are we going to see during the graffiti and street art tour of Jerusalem?
We’ll stroll through down-town Jerusalem and identify various graffiti and street art pieces, discover the forms and the language they use. From simple tags to big murals, from political messages to mainstream street art that was actually endorsed by the authorities. We will try to answer the questions posted above, and especially, differentiate between the mythological and modern Jerusalem through what we see on its walls today.
This is one of the many tours I offer here in Jerusalem. Enjoy!