<body> Public Ad Campaign: Interview With Mobstr from Newcastle England
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview With Mobstr from Newcastle England

Once in a while we find an artist working in public space over advertising and want to know more about why they target these spaces. I recently became aware of Mobstr's work in the UK after seeing a "collaboration" between him and the Newcastel city council. His works over advertising as well as on the street speak to the viewer and question our relationship to our public environment and the city as canvas. Below Mobstr answers a few questions about his process, his relationship to his city, and his motivations for working without authorization.

1-Can you define what public space means to you.

I guess I think of public space in a city as the areas in which everyone is allowed physically access to. I am not sure if public space entails anything more than this.

2-With that definition in mind, why do you work in the public?

We’re indoctrinated with the belief that graffiti (or now known as street art) is a blight on our space yet the majority of us happily walk around the visual bombardment of advertising without a moment of questioning its justification. We’ll happily put a six metre wide billboard up on the side of a shop or house convincing you the latest innovative toothbrush will enrich your life yet when someone paints a picture on some brick we suddenly become offended. What is the difference between putting your image on the street via the means of a billboard or taking it into your own hands and spraying it on a wall? The billboard is legal and the spray paint image is not. Why? One is endorsed by money and the other by a creative spirit. I know which one wins out for me and ultimately which one creates the image I would rather walk around my city and look at.

3-Why do you feel you have the right to use public space and in particular public advertising space?

Our visual surroundings are very important to us. They dictate our mood, well being and satisfaction with where we live. The people who decide how we visually use our space have got it wrong. They want pictures of the latest fruit juice dripping with alluring condensation so I run to the shop and quench my thirst. I want something quirky and different. Something which makes you smile, which makes you question, which makes you think.... even if it is “why the fuck is that there?” I don’t have the money to pay to use billboards so I just go and do it anyway. Billboards are ugly and dominating. For these reasons I like to subvert billboards.

4-Is there a difference between your work over advertising and your other work on the street?

It is all about context. A lot of my work is site specific and this strongly applies to the use of billboards. When it comes to painting on a billboard I like to use anti-advertising. I try to make them counterproductive, to work against their own purpose. I think “What is the last thing a billboard would say?” and then I put that on it. I recently heard through a friend someone had taken a photo of one of my billboards thinking it was legitimate. With this is mind I might start doing the opposite and make “adverts” which are so blunt and to the point that hopefully people will question their authenticity.

5-How do you feel about the city you live in?

I tend to think of cities nowadays in terms of painting opportunities and Newcastle is difficult in these terms. It is crawling with police and cameras. Here illegal art is faces a very strict zero tolerance stance. I recently did this piece on the side of a burnt out building. It was situated in a cove in the wall which had become an improvised public litter zone. Discarded beer cans, empty wrappers and all kinds of shit were strewn around there. Within two weeks my piece had been buffed yet all the rubbish still remained. This would suggest people are happy to put up with garbage but not a painting on a wall. I hope this isn’t true but it demonstrates the absurd mindset that governs what is acceptable in my city.

6-tell us about one of your favourite experiences in public involving a person you didn't know.

I am not sure if it is one of my favourite experiences but it is interesting. I had just been doing a piece on a billboard and I had botched it. So I had to start all over again. While I am painting this guy rides up and asks me, “Are you meant to be doing that?” I make some council censoring excuse but he knows my game which is when he tells me he’s a writer. He offers to help out but we agree it’s better to come back with more appropriate equipment as I was making do with what I had. So we decided to go a bit down the road to have a chat. Quite instantly his mood changed and the chat evolves to the guy telling me that what I do is bullshit. It turns out this guy is one of those fundamentalist graffiti writers who believes you are only allowed to use spray paint for free hand use etc... I tried to explain that just because I use spray paint doesn’t mean that what he and I do is necessarily comparable. You don’t critically compare Picasso and Rothko because they both used a paint brush. He ended up getting really angry with me. When it got to the point he was saying he was going to knock me flat I decided to back off.

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Blogger harrisona said...

very interesting interview. Mobsters' work is superb and well worth documenting which I've been doing for a year now.
When I post his work on my site or Flickr it always receives very positive comments from people who would normally disown graffiti. Thousands of people walk past his work every day and never even know it's there.
It's a strange world.


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