Graffiti vs. The City (Again)

Ecko at the courthouse
photo: Bucky Turco from Animal Magazine

Score one yesterday for the waning street art of graffiti, as urbanwear designer and self-described "navigator of youth culture" Marc Ecko was granted a city permit to throw his graffiti-art street demonstration, scheduled for Wednesday. Ecko had filed suit on August 19 to reinstate his permit for the block-long party, which was revoked by the city on July 18. The problem: Ten 48-foot-long replicas of the city's old blue-bird subway cars, which would serve as personal canvases for 20 well-known graffiti artists. "Look, there is a fine line here between freedom of expression and going out and encouraging people to hurt this city," Mayor Michael Bloomberg had said. "Defacing subway cars is hardly a joke; encouraging people, kids in particular, to do that after all the money we've spent, all the time we've spent removing graffiti."

Said the 32-year-old Ecko about his win, "Today is further affirmation that graffiti is without question the most powerful art movement in recent history. This event was conceived as a tribute to the roots of graffiti culture, a time in New York City's history that I chose to believe was worth fighting to preserve." Ecko was left with no other choice but to go to court, he said, "when the City asked us to change our chosen art canvas and, as such, tried to censor my First Amendment rights and those of these great artists by attempting to dictate how we express ourselves."

We fall on the graffiti-is-good side of this argument anyway, so we're happy Ecko got his permit and look forward to checking out the demonstration, which will include Bronx bomber and destroyer COPE2, T-KID, TATS CREW, DAZE, and many more working on the trains all day.


Marc Ecko's Getting Up Block Party is open to the public and will happen on Wednesday at 22nd Street between 10th and 11th avenues, from noon to 8pm. In addition to the live graffiti demonstration on 10 subway cars, there will be a host of DJs and surprise music performances hearkening back to hip-hop's early years.

Of course, the press the lawsuit has received is also a nice promotional boost for the release of Ecko's brand new video game, Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, which is the reason for the party in the first place. On the shelves this fall, Ecko's game—get this—follows a beginner graffiti artist named Trane as he navigates the City of New Radius, "a world where graffiti has been banned and freedom of expression has been suppressed by a tyrannical city government" and an "oppressive Mayor."

Hmm . . . funny how those video games mirror real life more every day—or should we say, vice-versa.

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