In relating the taxing efforts of a do-all government in Germany I noted in an earlier post that graffiti had become more rampant. I considered that this might actually just a difference in my experience in Frankfurt, compared to my earlier experience in law-and-order strong Bavaria. Germans with whom I spoke seemed to confirm this, but I’ve just returned from a short trip to Regensburg and München, both in Bavaria, and I can confirm plenty of the horrible stuff.
I am not always opposed to graffiti. I’ve frequently smiled at the art of Banksy and others and enjoyed many a mural that has decorated an otherwise dreary urban wall. Tagging, on the other hand, the annoying, egotistical ‘Kilroy was here’ scrawl that appears the same from language to language, country to country is just plain vandalism. The youthful self-importance of “Xteam” or “daboyz” repeated dozens of times on the inside of a Frankfurt metro is bad enough, but to see these same silly tags in the medieval old town of Regensburg, the whole town center is a recognized Unesco World Heritage site, is just outrageous.
Graffiti isn’t a new experience of course, and it’s always come with mixed emotions from the viewers, but I simply have a hard time seeing tagging as anything beyond ugly vandalism. I’ve seen ancient graffiti at historical sites from England to Egypt. Age alone isn’t enough to impress me. A name and date scrawled on a monument, no matter how artfully represented, ought to be seen as an embarrassingly self-centered disfiguring of property, likely compensating for a masculine lack somewhere else. I no more care that a hip-hop gangsta wannabe or a noble from 18th century England had the indecency to leave his mark. Both are like a dog, peeing on every bush and fire hydrant-except the dog’s mark isn’t nearly so obtrusive.