Sunday, 21 August 2011

The writing on the wall (...and the fence..and the postbox)

One of the first things I noticed about Copenhagen was the graffiti. My first impression of the city was that there appeared to be no 'nice' neighbourhoods as nowhere seemed immune from the mark of a can of spraypaint.
This weekend I took my children to one of our local playgrounds (I should add that we do live in a very nice part of town!) but maybe the light was different or I was being particularly observant as I again noticed the graffiti and was reminded of those first impressions. I think that over the time we've been here I have become 'de-sensitised' to its prevalence. 
I returned to the questions that first seeing this 'street art' had raised: why is there more graffiti here than in London? Is it legal or is there at least a greater tolerance? Is this a sign of a more liberal approach to the freedom of expression? Are there less funds set aside for graffiti removal? Or are there more people with spray paint, spare time and something to say?
I'm afraid I am no closer to finding the answers. When I ask around, no-one seems to know. I've always understood graffiti to be either a form of art lacking a socially acceptable medium of expression, an act of social rebellion, a mark of territory or a combination of all three. The Danes seem to be a nation who take seriously all things aesthetic - for the most part, they dress well, have beautiful homes and are renowned for their contribution to the world of design. I cannot therefore imagine that taking a can of spray paint to property (public or private) is socially acceptable. However, I stand to be corrected and if anyone reading this knows otherwise, please let me know...
I notice, in the above picture for example, the white letters appear to have been sprayed over darker marks that are perhaps the evidence of an attempt to remove or cover earlier graffiti. Of course, in London Banksy has made graffiti a satirical art form and here in Copenhagen too there are examples of street painting that catch the eye for the right reasons; they are striking and artistic. I saw this on a fence in Christiania (a free state within Copenhagen).
Not only do I fail to understand the motivation behind graffiti or why it might be tolerated, being in a country where I don't yet speak the language, means that any message in the street art completely passes me by. I must add that I cannot yet swear in Danish either and so if any of the pictures I have posted contain offensive language, I apologise, I had no idea! Maybe this one was done for the likes of me:
And so I'm left none the wiser but occasionally struck by the obvious talent being wasted.


3 comments:

  1. It is surprising isn't it? I can only think that they have more around the train stations because there are no electric rails, but it does seem a lot more prevalent here anyway... odd!

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  2. The most impressive piece of artwork I've seen is atrue work of art called Evolution down by the South harbour. Seriously, you should cycle down to take a look some time ( taster here: http://www.very.dk/2011/05/02/watch-secret-art-in-copenhagen/ )- apparently the whole area (which looks really dodgy - but isn't really that bad - our kayaks are stored nearby so I go frequently) is known as the secret gallery and I can well believe it because the artwork on the other walls nearby does seem to change from time to time. There's some formidable talent on display either way and apparently evolution has been around for about 10 years - which must make it absolutely ancient in grafitti terms...

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  3. Sternaparadisaea - I had a quick look at the Evolution link and it looks like quite an 'installation'! One day I'll cycle down and take a proper look. Thanks!

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