Around 1970, the center of graffiti culture in the US shifted from Philadelphia to New York. Graffiti artists desired to see their names seen in all of the city. A subculture was born.
For the next minutes, make sure not to be interrupted. Put on your headphones and go to full screen mode. Welcome to the disturbing times of Graffiti.
(Voice off) How many people can walk through a city and prove they were there?
It’s the power you have. You feel like Superman. It’s an artistic adventure. Having a voice is having power, and this is more fulfilling for them than anything else. There’s no much to do in New York, the kids have to figure out what to do with themselves. They are adventurers, explorers, Picassos to a certain extend… And what do bored big city kids do when they’re looking for adventure? They paint trains.
When you approach the character.
I´m a New Yorker, I´ve been riding these trains even before graffiti was on them and I will continue riding them… I´ve been around longer than any of this taggers… this is my city.
Taki 183 was the first guy that started painting his name many years ago. There’s also Julio 294, Papo 184, Junior 161, Cay 161, they already stopped … I´ve seen the kids meeting at the bench at 149 Street, every day is a different train line, during day or night… but it’s easier to hide in the dark.
The Mayor declared the war many years ago, but they didn’t have the resources. No, they didn’t. And the New York City Transit Authority wants to eradicate them now… I don’t know. There’s no maintenance on the trains, they never clean. Trains break routinely… I remember being stuck on a powerless A train near Howard Beach in the dead of summer for 3 hours. The system is dying and nobody really cares… of course the graffiti movement is gonna grow.
It’s like their own world and now is even a symbol of New York. Rap, breakdancing and graffiti Trinity made sense because all three come from the same place.
Sounds from the back. Someone approaching.
This is it! Here we go!
Look there… You’re painting and you hear these sounds — the compressors going on and off. A train would go by in the express lane and blow garbage around. You’re painting in this solitary environment and it felt real cinematic.
“They can write their names in every part of that train. They can loom over us any damn day they wish and sing little songs that remind us of them everywhere we go. They can do all these things, but the voice of the individual is just footsteps away.
These footsteps will take you as far as your heart, into more desolate and dangerous places than you ever thought you'd step, just to write your name and let the gods know that you cared. The haves will send armed men after you and the will strike and you must be prepared. But the numbers are on our side. From the highest rooftops to the dank tunnel passageways, we will be heard. And we will scream as loud as we can, because we want you to remember this.
Like reading poetry once written in another language, graffiti loses something in the translation when it tries to win the affection of the haves. It is not to be taken more lightly than weaponry, because that is what it is. Graffiti is our war. Graffiti is not supposed to be there. that's why it works.”
Ha… Look at that one… He must be 14 now and if he keeps like this, at my age he could be another Picasso.