Sunday, August 17, 2008

Urban Archaeology

An accidental visitor might not realize they had stumbled into a cathedral under Manhattan. But then again, its hard to accidentally find your way into a place like this. If you know it exists and have discovered how to get in, you've come for one of two reasons: shelter or graffiti.

In a city known for world class museums, one of the finest has managed to remain quite literally underground. Freedom Tunnel is known for being the former home of an underground community of homeless people and the haunt of its namesake, the legendary graffiti writer Freedom. His earliest surviving works in the tunnel are from the mid 80's and have been untouched by other writers for over 20 years, a sign of immense respect. Despite Amtrak evicting the subterranean residents when they began to run trains again through the long-abandoned tunnel, graffiti artists continue to make the pilgrimage and surround Freedom's murals with works by modern masters.

Light coming through evenly-spaced grates above creates a dramatic museum style effect, highlighting work all the way down the otherwise dark corridor.


Giant recreation of Goya's The Third of May (stitched, no lens wide enough).


The shantys once inhabited by tunnel residents were bulldozed when they were evicted. Remnants of a past civilization are still strewn everywhere.

The conclusion of Freedom's huge mural depicting the contentious relationship between the tunnel's residents, the city, and the police. Known as the "Coca Cola Mural," it forms the centerpiece of Freedom Tunnel.

Freedom Tunnel, NYC.