Strange Geographies: Venetian Graffiti

Ransom Riggs

One thing that surprised me about Venice was that graffiti was everywhere. There's almost as much art on the streets as there was in churches and museums, which might be because Venice is a city of blind alleys and dark corridors, a warren of hiding places that are perfect spots for taggers and street artists to do their thing. Initially it was a little shocking to see so much spray-paint applied to the exterior of twelfth-century cathedrals and otherwise beautiful crumbling walls and even on people's front doors -- but once I stopped being offended I started being fascinated. While the oil-and-canvas masterworks hanging in the city's galleries may reflect of Venice the Renaissance era, it's what's painted on the outside of the museum wall that reflects what Venetians -- at least the ones wielding cans of spray-paint -- are thinking now.

The tag below is what got me started taking pictures of graffiti in Venice. I had walked halfway down this alley just to see that it dead-ended at a canal, and turned back, speed-walking to get somewhere more photogenic, when I spotted this and stopped. I stood there for a bit, looked at it, caught my breath. Then went back to the end of the alley where it hit the canal, and found a beautiful shot of boats reflected in emerald water. Which is to say: these are words for a photographer to live by.

A lot of what might be considered graffiti in Venice are actually directional signs, spray-painted on walls by locals sick of giving tourists directions.

The shot above manages to combine two of Venice's major genres of graffiti: directions and political statements. Here's some more local politics:

The obligatory American gangsta-slang tag:

And the obligatory anti-American tag:

And thank goodness:

There were a fair number of hearts, love notes, and generalized hopes for peace and love:

The paranoid crazies are out and wielding sharpies:

The gondola drivers must be crazy.

"Venice is a fish."

Sorry, Daniele. You've been outed:

I'm not sure what this means, but I kind of like it.

And speaking of children, I came across some young graffiti artists making their mark. (Sure, it's only chalk now ... )

I thought this was cool.

Whoa! I found this in the park Napoleon had built for himself when he invaded and took over in the late 18th century. (I doubt it's original.)

Another bonus if you like graffiti: the paintings in the museums stay the same, but the graffiti changes every few months.

What do you think? Is it sacrilege or is it interesting?

You can check out more Strange Geographies here.