Graffiti from Antiquity to the present

ACUH Conference 2016 - Fleeting Testimonies of Urban Life: Graffiti and Other Transient Writings from Antiquity to the Present

14Jan2016 15Jan2016


A diachronic conference on graffiti and other urban ephemeral writings, organised by ACUH members Lucinda Dirven and Maartje van Gelder.

We associate tattoos and graffiti automatically with contemporary urban life and its inhabitants. But both practices date back much further than is generally thought, even by scholars. In cities all over the world and through the ages, we find temporary signs in a wide array of public places and on objects, such as outer and inner walls of buildings, monuments, ceramics, rocks and trees. Human bodies and clothing have also often been the carrier of such ephemeral but public messages.

ACUH Conference 2016

This international conference - organised by the Amsterdam Centre for Urban History - sets out to explore the potential of graffiti and other transient writings for the reconstruction of urban history through the ages. Who were the authors and who the viewers? How do these writings interact with their support (walls, human bodies)? What new perspectives do they offer to examine the agency of, and communication between, different groups of the urban population? What happens to our understanding of premodern history and writing when we expand our modern assumptions of what constitutes written expression? And when we move beyond seeing graffiti on paintings, statues and monumental buildings as acts of vandalism, what happens to the way we practice history, art history and architectural history?


The conference is supported by the Amsterdam School of Historical Studies and the Amsterdam Centre for Heritage and Identity. Sanne Klaver assists in the organisation.


Hogarth Rijksmuseum detail graffiti


Day 1: PC Hoofthuis 1.05

Day 2: Belle van Zuylenzaal

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