Going through the streets of Florentin is like walking into the house of a friend of a friend. You walk in and it’s super cool and you feel vaguely comfortable. You feel like you’d like to come back, and maybe you want to get to know this person. But that’ll take time and maybe you’re only passing through. So you move on because you don’t really belong there. Or maybe you stay and get to know them after spending a lot of time with them.
There’s graffiti on all the walls, unique sights and cobbled together pieces of furniture sitting in the bars and on the street. Florentine is an amazing place. Inside the dim doorways to the countless workshops that crowd some of the streets, emanate the buzzes, whines, and crashes of construction. From some the rush of flames consuming air mingles with the crash of metal along with the pwsh ignited torches. There’s still a part of the neighborhood that feels like the industrial base that it came from. At night the shutters to the workshops slide shut. One by one in the blue grey light of the evening and the doors to a million different bars and pubs start to open. The lights start to come on, and voices start to chorus in hebrew and english. Talkin about this and that.
Walking through Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood, it’s like stepping into a world of color. Everywhere you go, paint is caked an inch thick in letters standing ten feet tall, in animals that look like they ran out of a Dr. Seuss book, and in strange geometric patterns that resemble the feeling of a hallucination in a flower garden. But for every piece that’s legit enough to be worth looking at, there are ten that look like a five year old’s scribbling. For every letter with a decent curved line, there are thirty wobbling wiggling pieces of garbage. People who think that just because they can hold a can of paint, they’re just as good to put up a stick letter name. It’s a cool place that of course people would be drawn to now. But the tourists swarm in like a bunch of photographic locusts.
People who want a quick instagram photo and then off on their way without giving what they saw a second thought. People have gotten so caught up in being seen in a “cool” place that they totally miss what makes the place cool in the first place. Like meeting someone for the first time they take what they see in an hour, maybe two, and fly away feeling proud that they’ve broken out of the routine. Seen something, mysterious and rebellious, that they oughtn’t. Then they scurry back to the regular humdrum that they were trying to escape from.
It’s sad because you know what the end result will be. You can see it written in the glass and steel of the apartment buildings that have begun to close in on the neighborhood. For right now though it’s an oasis away from the bombardment of advertisements, hemogeny, and dull throb of what constitutes most of what people consider their lives. Being there in the evening, in the light, in the color, feels like a chance to seize opportunity. A reminder of what lies on the other side. The reverse of a life I’m trying to steer away from.
(This won't be the last of my discussions of Florentin. Hopefully soon a bit of writing on the street art itself, looking at some of the amazing artists you can find there.)