Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Defend KET :: The Walls Belong To Us

Defend Ket!

If anyone has any doubt that the idea of President Michael Bloomberg would be bad for America, just look at the way the man has treated hip-hop graf historian, activist, and graf writer Alain KET Mariduena. The co-founder of the legendary Stress Magazine, the publisher of three classic books on hip-hop (Martha Cooper’s Hip Hop Files and Street Play, and The Nasty Terrible T-kid 170) and a champion of real street art is defending himself from trumped-up charges brought against him by Bloomberg’s attack dogs. In this era of globalized corporate hip-hop, KET’s case reminds us all of what the real stakes are for those who want to practice and support transgressive art.

In October 2006, NYPD’s Special Investigations Unit burst down the doors to his home, looted his vast archive of NYC and global graffiti history (one of the most thorough in the world), and threw him in jail, charging him with felony criminal mischief and possession of graffiti tools. He has since spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending himself against the trumped-up charges.

Apparently, this was payback.

In 2005, KET had curated Marc Ecko’s block party, an event that paid tribute to graffiti pioneers and introduced the company’s graf-styled video game. Mayor Bloomberg–who came into office talking tough about graffiti and street art–tried to revoke the event’s permit, but after a heavily publicized court battle, the City was forced to reinstate the permit and the event was a huge success.

Since then, New York graf and street art have enjoyed a kind of a third (or maybe, fourth) renaissance period. Some college grads now consider street art the route to becoming global stars, and the art world is paying top dollar for previously ephemeral wall work. In this context, KET’s central role as an unapologetic spokesperson, scholar, historian, and activist has made him a target of Bloomberg and NYPD.

(Really and truly, all this stuff makes this whole Splasher controversy look like the psuedo-political, privileged little kid’s stuff it really is. But that’s another beef for another time.)

Beginning tomorrow, “THE WALLS BELONG TO US” will be an online art auction for KET’s defense fund. At that website you can check out the incredible art and the long list of artists who support KET and you can also bid on the pieces. There will also be a panel discussion and exhibition on July 28th featuring T-KID, YES2, PART, KEL 1ST, WANE, KAVES, CHAIN3, DR. REVOLT & others at Tuff City Styles in the Bronx, and a silent auction and a benefit jam on August 1st at the Powerhouse Arena. All info–as well as the online auction–will be here.

KET, his family, and his friends are spending lots of their own money and working hard to defend him, exactly what the Bloombergites wanted–to wage a war of attrition on the hip-hop and street-art movement by attacking one of its underground heroes.

So whether or not you can bid on the art, you can spread the word about KET’s cause (here’s a summary of the facts of the case) and help out the cause by donating here.

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