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Hell on Wheels: New York City’s subway system as seen in the 70s and 80s
05.11.2017
12:53 pm
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It’s difficult to reconstruct for a typical member of the NYU’s Class of 2019 just how fucked up the NYC subways were in the 1970s and 1980s—indeed, much of Manhattan was an undisguised war zone. Sure, many have “heard” about this on some level, but when you’re perambulating through today’s clean and spacious Union Square station, you’re not likely to be reminded of Bernie Goetz, are you?

Bernhard Goetz made national headlines when (almost certainly as an entirely calculated act) he blew away four would-be muggers on the downtown 2 line in December of 1984. The white Goetz was held up as a national hero because he “fearlessly” entered the dangerous NYC subway system and seriously wounded a quartet of black guys with malice aforethought. The word vigilante was suddenly on everyone’s lips; Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels were a related icon of the time. The Clash even sang about them.

All of this is to explain why, when he decided to commence a project of documenting the city’s subway, photographer Bruce Davidson felt the need to outfit himself as if he were about to go into battle, complete with brass knuckles, a jackknife, pepper spray, combat boots, and an army jacket. That’s just what you did then! Davidson’s pictures eventually became the landmark book Subway

Late last year saw the publication of a book that can honorably be placed alongside Davidson’s—I refer to Willy Spiller’s Hell on Wheels, which includes the Swiss photographer’s subway-related output from the 1977-1984 period. Sturm & Drang Press brought out the book last year in a limited edition; they promptly sold out, which means that prices for the volume have become rather inflated.

These photos are a reminder of an era when two art forms were finding their footing in the city—that is to say, graffiti and hip-hop. The relative lack of a bourgeois and “safe” culture on the subways meant that the outlaw accoutrements of aerosol cans and boom boxes were permitted free rein.

And yet, these pictures do not actually document violence or really anything dangerous. Many of the photos seem like they were taken during the sultry summer, and (as is always the case in New York) you have dissimilar people seated side by side and (in many instances) enjoying the environment for the opportunities it provided to lounge and chat and people-watch.

As Tobia Bezzola has written of Spiller’s subway photographs,
 

His charming chutzpah is the root of the extraordinary quality of these photographs. It seems only logical that this wildly colourful underground performance appeared highly exotic, fantastic and often bizarre to the eyes of this young greenhorn just arrived from the innocent city of Zürich, Switzerland.

 
Anyone who finds our sanitized world dispiriting will surely find succor in these vivid and interesting pictures.
 

 

 
Much more after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.11.2017
12:53 pm
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Police break up full-on rave on a random London Underground train car
04.11.2017
02:49 pm
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Last night police were summoned in order to break up a “fully-fledged rave” that started on a subway car on the Bakerloo line of London’s Underground network, known as “the Tube.”

The event was organized by “award-winning MC Harry Shotta” and included flashing lights, a sound system, and (of course) an MC.

Judging from the video, some of the passengers enjoyed it. A passenger named Iain Souttar registered his bafflement on Twitter:
 

 
However, not everyone was so amused. A woman named Elise Myette wanted to know why this distraction was preventing her from achieving some alone time at home:
 

 
Call me when they do a Burning Man on a pedicab.
 

 
via Das Kraftfuttermischwerk
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Chemical Generation: Boy George investigates how Ecstasy changed the world

Posted by Martin Schneider
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04.11.2017
02:49 pm
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NYC busker jumps on subway tracks, risking his life for a measly five dollars
02.11.2015
11:22 am
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This video prompts two immediate suppositions. The first is that five dollars isn’t enough money for most people to risk their lives (although if it’s late at night and the G train clearly won’t be here for another 20 minutes, maybe it is) and second, if you shout “I’ll give you a hundred dollars” to strangers in a YouTube video documenting street life, people on reddit are going to call you an asshole.

In this video uploaded to YouTube yesterday shot at the Metropolitan Avenue station (which serves the G line, the only line in all of NYC that never enters Manhattan), this one guy concocted an ill-advised plan to get his friend on the other platform a five-dollar bill, which plan consisted of balling up the bill and hurling it across two sets of tracks (one in each direction). Predictably, this didn’t work—the bill didn’t even make it across one set of tracks completely. Immediately a busker on the other platform sprang into action, lowering himself down onto the tracks and walking gingerly over presumed mounds of rodenticide and as well as two “third rails.” As viewers of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (no, not the John Travolta version) are aware, all New York City subways are powered by a “third rail,” which carries 660 volts of electricity, more than enough for a lethal dose.

In any case, the first guy immediately bellows at the busker not to do that—indeed, he’ll give him a hundred bucks not to do that—but the busker ignores him. The busker quickly finds the money and then scampers back over to his musical instrument, to the cheers of everyone present. Surely feeling a little guilty about having inadvertently created the conditions for a grisly accidental death, the first guy continues to offer a hundred dollars to the busker.

It looks like the video was shot late at night (around midnight, perhaps), when the subway trains are appallingly infrequent (as all New Yorkers know), and the busker wouldn’t be at risk so much because of the potential for a collision. The real issue is the third rail, but if you’re careful and know where they are (they are the raised rails closer to the center, away from the platforms, they are covered by a protective canopy and are thus less shiny than regular rails), then it’s a matter of your own dexterity and care—clearly this busker was willing to give it a shot. It’s five dollars, after all.
 

 
via ANIMAL

Posted by Martin Schneider
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02.11.2015
11:22 am
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Graffiti artists reclaim the commons and obscure subway ads
10.06.2014
08:58 am
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For what New Yorkers pay to ride “public transportation,” you’d think the MTA wouldn’t feel compelled to sell every square inch of subway car to bloodsucking corporate pirates—much less that aesthetic villain, Dr. Jonathan Zizmor. M.D.. But where there is a square inch to monetize, “public” space will never really be public. Two anonymous artists, going by SKI and 2ESAE, have decided to take the commons with some slick guerrilla tactics.

Now defacing ads is nothing new, and their messaging might be a little platitudinous (“be who you are don’t be sheep”), but the project itself is a kind of a cool ad campaign against ads. While the duo’s traditional idiom is graffiti, the plastering of polished “ad copy” is a subtler, more formal approach to anti-advertising protest—you have to look twice, something straphangers almost never do for a scrawl of Sharpie or an artless tag in spray paint. While very few people probably saw the installation itself (I’ve been on the J train at 3AM—it’s pretty dead), the folks at ANIMAL videotaped it for posterity—YouTube is the last town square, I suppose.

I’d hope actions like this might take off, but the MTA has already announced plans to put cameras in cars... you know… for safety.
 

 
Via ANIMAL

Posted by Amber Frost
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10.06.2014
08:58 am
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Awesome old school NYC subway photos

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Photograph by Bruce Davidson
 
Photos of old school New York before they switched over to the subway trains that couldn’t be graffitied on. New York has sadly lost a lot of its character since then (as well as many of its characters, too!)
 
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Photograph by John F. Conn
 
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Photograph by Bruce Davidson
 
See more photos after the jump…
 

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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08.18.2010
11:16 pm
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Japanese subway poster: The Seat Monopolizer (July 1976)
08.10.2010
12:47 pm
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Pink Tentacle has a wonderful collection of vintage Tokyo subway manner posters from 1976 - 1982. The one pictured above, The Seat Monopolizer, was inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.

Do yourself a favor and go check out more awesome subway manner posters over at Pink Tentacle.

Posted by Tara McGinley
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08.10.2010
12:47 pm
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