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ANIMAL London: Mobstr’s “Scribble Board” Turns Average People Into Vandals, Artists


06.10.13 Bucky Turco

When it comes to precision hits on public spaces, Mobstr deploys several tactics: spray paint, stenciled phrases and mixed-media sculptures. Over the past few years, Mobstr has made a name for himself, literally, while remaining anonymous — a near impossible feat in any city, let alone London, a place notorious for its network of CCTV cameras and prying journalists.

Naturally, Mobstr refused to do an in-person interview, but agreed to answer questions over email.

Mobstr’s latest project consisted of a pristine white “billboard” near a busy intersection in Bethnal Green, London, emblazoned with the words “The Scribble Board,” along with call-to-action instructions and four markers, hanging invitingly on chains. It quickly became the “Dribble Board.”

“It was an experiment,” Mobstr tells to ANIMAL. “I was curious to see how people would react given the chance to take a billboard into their own hands. Essentially I turned a billboard into a giant doodle pad for the public and what I found was that the public love to doodle.”

The experiment started to bear results almost immediately. “Within 45 minutes, the board was substantially covered,” Mobstr explains. “If I am honest, I didn’t expect the public to take to it like they did.” But with success comes a price. “It ended up costing me a lot of money having to replace the run-out markers all the time.”

Like all his hits on public spaces, it was carefully planned and rather strategic in choice. “The billboard was low to the ground. It was under a bridge so rain wouldn’t cause any problems.” Targeting the right demographic was important as well: “It was next to a pub. Pissed people are more likely to be loose to the concept.” It wasn’t just drunks who took to the board though, as people of all types left their mark, proving that deep inside, everyone wants to be a vandal.

As for time it took to install, like his identity, that has to remain a secret. “I do not like to tell details of the dynamics of my work. All I will say is I slept one hour that night.”

Read our Q&A with Mobster.

When did you first start doing illegal art?

My first ever work to go up was 17 years ago but I only started to focus on it about 10 years ago. Mobstr was born about 5 years ago and that marked the rise of my obsession with it.

How you would describe the work you do? (Intervention, street art or graffiti?)

I think its a combination of all three. If the term street art hadn’t been manifested then you would call it graffiti but nowadays I think most people would call it street art. Graffiti focuses on vandalism and that is where it divides from street art. Its an attitude thing. I think I boarder more on the graffiti side than most other street artists and some of my work leans more that way than street art but essentially i imagine it is defined as street art. As much as I dislike the term street artist I would probably be in denial if I didn’t consider myself one of those. That said, I don’t think what I do is necessarily art so it is hard to define in my mind.

Is it hard to stay anonymous and out of the sight of the police with all the CCTV cameras? Any tips or advice for the youth?

As I said before I don’t like to talk about the logistics of what I do but a lot of effort goes this side of things. Advice: Think about every single detail. Map out exactly what you are going to do in order to be as swift as possible. It is insightful to get on the wrong side of the Police. I have done so for various reasons and it has helped my process massively.

There’s a lot of street art in Shoreditch that’s done with permission, does that bother you?

No. There should be no rules to art. However, I always find the illegal shit more captivating. Not only can you appreciate the art or message but also the cunning for getting away with it.

What’s the best city you ever did your art in?

I am not sure. I recently painted a big “UP” in Belgium. I did it with a large extension pole and it took a few hours. I really enjoyed that. I was advised against doing it by a local as he thought it was too hot. The headlights from cars on a main road shone directly on the spot. The feeling of getting away with it was very satisfying.

Out of all the projects you’ve done, is there one that you’re particularly fond of?

I am always fondest of the one I am currently working on or planning next. Once I have completed it I lose the affection. I am in the middle of two projects which probably won’t be ready for a few months yet but I cannot give away any other details.

Tell us about your pet lobster.

Technically he wasn’t a lobster but a blue freshwater crayfish. “Mobster the lobster” has a better ring to it than “mobster the blue freshwater crayfish.” I sold him a few years back. We didn’t leave on bad terms, but I don’t keep in contact with him.

Anything you’d like to say?

Thank you.

(Images: Mobstr, ANIMALNewYork, Advers Media, Stefani Bartlog, Surrey Blond)