Julia Tulke’s longitudinal Aesthetics of Crisis (AOC) project documents and analyses shifting currents on the walls of Athens. Julia follows Lyman Chaffee’s notion of political street art as a ‘barometer’ by tracing, in real time, newly emerging discourses and events: the austerity referendum and so-called refugee crisis of 2015; the growing visibility of feminist and queer protest and expression since the mid-2010s; dissent with documenta 14; anti-Airbnb and anti-gentrification sentiments; the response to COVID; and, most recently, graffiti removal as the aspirational performance of the end of crisis. Her work demonstrates the value of street art and graffiti as a methodological approach – rather than an object of analysis – able to render visible and sensible gradual changes in a particular urban social, political, and cultural landscape over time.
Julia is committed to digitally enabled public scholarship: her website is a central repository for her work and research outputs and her photo archive of 6500+ images is available via Flickr, complete with metadata and geotags and under CC licensing. Her extensive and openly accessible visual archive has supported the work of a range of scholars, educators, and organizers.
Julia’s AOC project provides a model for longitudinal visual engagement with a city in crisis, weaving together ethnographic and documentary sensibilities. Julia’s work enriches our understanding of culture and social life and models creative and effective applications of visual imagery to critical inquiry. This offers a polyphonic/polysemic counterpoint to the narrow and often fetishizing representation of ‘crisis cities’ which are often cast as objects of cultural fascination, for example through so-called ruin porn or celebrations of ‘crisis creativity’— e.g., via the ‘Athens-is-the-new-Berlin’ narrative. Julia moves beyond these tropes to provide a perspective grounded in the complex, and at times contradictory, material realities of everyday life, and the ways that artists and urban dwellers engage with these realities through the walls of the city in ways both earnest and playful. As such, Julia’s work significantly enhances the theory and practice of visual methodologies.