On the Mala-Strana side of the Vltava River in Prague lies Lennon Wall.
Here, graffiti artists of varied experience-levels and nations may come together in the name of self-expression. The project began quite organically in 1988, just prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. During this time, Czechoslovakian youths directed their energy and art toward Lennonism and loving peace, rather than in the name of Leninism and bread lines.
In photos, it is apparent that English, Polish and German words and phrases appear more often their Czech equivalents. Perhaps this indicates that travellers and international workers are more likely to contribute to the Lennon Wall than locals. The images, words, and song lyrics shared also convey that artists would sooner mimic sentiment of worldly concerns – of love, rock music, and a utopian world peace – than local, socio-political issues as they had in the late 1980s.
The tone and message of Prague’s Lennon Wall aligns with my stated expectations for this research project: in nations that boast a relative socio-political stability and a free-and-fair media, graffiti is a less critical tool and street art will have a less political overall tone. However I wonder if the city’s graffiti will have a more pleasing overall aesthetic when it is no longer needed, but wanted.
Perhaps not… a co-worker of mine who just moved to Washington DC from Prague maintains that Czech-language graffiti does, of course, exist in Prague, but that it tends to appear in the forms of gang tags, racist claims, and painfully-unwitty jokes.
Nevertheless, the emotions and graffiti observed on the Lennon Wall bring nostalgic memories of the Tsoi Wall on the Stariye Arbat in Moscow. Pictured below, the free-graffiti space was organically established in 1990, when Viktor Tsoi of Kino died in a tragic car accident and his adoring fans needed a space to share their feelings of sorrow. The advent of rock music to the Soviet Union during Perestroika symbolizes the opening of Soviet society, especially for the youth of the 1980s. Tsoi Wall can still be visited today and, like Lennon Wall, is covered with quotes about love, peace, rock-and-roll, and hopes for the future.