Alain “Ket” Mariduena first gained international notoriety after a 1990 profile in the Videograf series. A bookish young man, bespectacled face obscured by a black Mets cap and blue bandana, peers intensely at the camera. “Graffiti’s about bombing—trains. Not streets, not fucking trucks, not highways. It’s about trains.” A break beat triggers, and the film cuts to an empty underground station. The kid with the bandana—Ket—and his crew wave their hands quickly and silently as words materialize on doors and windows. One paints crouching with a furry orange monster mask on. When the train workers finally show up, the gang slides away on the darkened tracks. To the uninitiated, it is like watching a forbidden magic show. But to writers in Chicago, LA, Paris—and even NYC itself—these provocative scenes meant something else: New York subway bombing culture, first captured in Harry Chalfant’s1983 documentary Style Wars, and battered by harsh anti-graffiti laws, had survived.
Seventeen years later, in 2007, Ket returned home from a morning walk to find police waiting for him with a warrant. He was arrested. Eight photo albums and his laptop were taken, and he was later charged with 14 criminal counts including trespass and vandalism. As an inactive writer in his thirties, this was surprising to him; Ket no longer frequented the subway tunnels. He had started his own magazine and now worked in publishing. But with his friend, designer, and graffiti enthusiast Marc Ecko, he, in 2005, had helped launch Getting Up, a graffiti video game for Atari. When the Bloomberg administration revoked a permit for the Getting Up block party (where replica trains would be painted)Ecko sued the city, and won. The arrest made more sense as a message. With his continued advocacy of graffiti and his new, corporate relationships, Ket had become more of a threat than he ever had been writing on trains.
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