100 flexible magnets attached to the 4,5,6 & 7 trains in NYC.
A fictitious race staged to promote citywide humility and to serve as a social lubricant (i.e. an external agent to relieve friction).
Background: Under the Guiliani administration the city was tense. The police had free reign to crack down on what was termed “quality of life crimes” (i.e. being poor, homeless, or non-white). To combat this policy and to balance the bad vibes with an encouragement of HUMILITY and LUBRICATION, I staged the KY500, a fictitious auto race that took place on the exterior panels of the remaining metal subway trains (4,5,6,7).
Process: I adhered my paper images to industrial size sheets of 4mm sticky-back magnet material and cut out the shapes with household scissors. The characters in the race were primarily characters from various projects I was working on at the time: pregnant teens (Friggin Mags), menstruation (VTC), the NY Knicks (Knicks Watercolor Project), and my mother. For a lube oriented race, I felt obligated to include a Matthew Barney car, sponsored by RECTASOL, of course.
Depicting elements of lubrication (KY Jelly, sticks of butter, bomb pop- ice) is a motif I’ve used in my artwork for years. Initially, I put tubes of KY Jelly and sticks of butter in my paintings so the viewer could ease herself into the work with greater alacrity. The lube is my way of reaching out to the viewer in hopes they might be patient and work through the less obvious elements.
Application: Even though I wore a ski-mask for one photo shoot (bravado I think I’d skip post 911), I usually just threw up a few magnets whenever I took the metal trains. I’d bring a few in my bag for the trip out and the trip back. My applying the magnets to the sides of the train was never performative. Even though I prefer’d rush-hour crowds (larger audience, better cover), the busy train platforms are monitored by camera- so I knew to not linger too long admiring my work. The best way to gauge reaction was to apply the magnet near the train’s doors and get on. When the train would pull up at the next station the people waiting to board the train would get the best view of the KY500 in action.
Most riders thought the magnets were stickers and/or images sanctioned by the MTA. Some young bucks would investigate and take the mag off as a souviner. I ended the race once I had put up 100 magnets. Everybody wins in the KY500!
Cops: I was never stopped, although a French film crew documenting my race was nabbed. After I had put a few magnets on two trains I said it was time to move on, but they wanted to film me putting mags on one more train from a different angle. As soon as I put the mag on the next train undercover MTA cops brushed past me and grabbed the French film crew. Luckily, as we walked to the train earlier I asked them to agree that if they were nabbed vandalizing the trains with me or for filming in the subway (illegal w/out a permit) that they were to pretend they didn’t know who I was and I would do the same. I walked briskly towards the nearest exit as the MTA cops pulled the French guys away and shook them down. The film crew showed up at my place an hr later relieved at having only been given a stern warning. They were giddy to have had a direct interaction with NYC authorities.
For years after the STEER CLEAR OF SLICKNESS magnet (right) was on the fridge door of the popular dance bar, BOb on Eldridge Street in NYC.
Prologue: The metal trains have all been weeded out of the NYC subways system at this point. The new trains are aluminum.
I keep waiting for the acid etching graf movement to move to the next level. The spider tags scratched into the plexi windows are so ugly and unoriginal. When is the next generation of acid etchers gonna take this to a proper art form. The world is waiting.