ly 4, 1991. The city sleeps. It is just dawn.
The handheld video footage opens on the “Ghost Yard,” the large train maintenance hub that overlooks the Harlem River in the upper reaches of Manhattan. Deriving its name from unexplainable noises that are said to haunt the space, defunct subway cars slumber here next to live trains, each awaiting repair. Members of the RIS graffiti crew have been painting for hours. Ket, Zeno, Ghost and Bruz’s faces are obscured as they talk to the camera. They are unapologetically boastful, drunk with bravado and the sublime high of “getting over”—supplanting the flag of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
with their own, if only momentarily.
“How long we going to be in here for?” the cameraman asks.
“Til’ we finished,” comes the response. “Til’ we run out of paint.”
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Decades before street artists like Banksy could ignite an Internet firestorm and fetch millions, three guys with a video camera and a stack of VHS tapes set out to share the gritty story of NYC graffiti.