Moses and Taps: Confrontational Motives
In a new interview with The Grifters, well known German duo Moses and Taps give a full run down of ‘their’ craft at this moment in time and it makes for intriguing reading. Progressing from simple european style letter based Trainpainting they’re now making work that has parallels with wider modern painters and beyond that, creating pieces which explore what Vandalism itself can do for the creative urge.
I take a look at the interview and dissect what it could mean for their practice, and graffiti, in general.
“The public opinion is absolutely irrelevant when you are expressing yourself.”
In the same way that Lush’s work doesn’t quite fit Askew Ones definition of Post-Graffiti as “the work being made both inside and outside by artists that came from a traditional graffiti background into making art outside of that paradigm” neither do Moses and Taps. The ‘paradigm’ for their work still relies on the explorative subversion of the legal system as a conceptual starting point, whereas Post Graffiti practitioners at this moment in time are still concentrating of non-illegal work that is accessible for the general public (this is not a criticism, simply an observation).
To Moses and Taps the traditional model of post-Style Wars graffiti has stagnated, relaxing into a state of circular letterism that hasn’t made any major movements forwards in around 40 years. Graffiti writers reference graffiti writers and graffiti to produce graffiti, when in fact the original progenitors of the art form built these foundational styles on anything but graffiti, as there wasn’t any stylistic predispositions to inherit.
To Moses & Taps the purity of graffiti is a complete freedom from social conventions that leads to a wider ontological/existential freedom wherein the human beings full potential is allowed to come forth through personal expression (this ties in with my previous interview with London based writer Ludvig where he spoke candidly of the somewhat ridiculously hypocritical nature of graffiti culture – a supposedly subversive culture that has actually reinforced traditional power structures)
Elucidating this attitude, Moses and Taps they comment
“You should not paint like this, you should not paint there, it should look like this“. We realized that we have exchanged our bourgeois life, not with a free one, but with the life of an enchained outlaw.
It is here where the similarities of movements within modern painting begin to appear, with immediate echoes of the inherent physicality of Abstract Expressionism; where the ‘action painting’ of Pollock and Franz Kline saw movement and automatism as primary into unlocking the honest truth behind a painting as it was intimately connected with a state of mind. According to http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/abex/hd_abex.htm
Breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, the artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches—and in doing so, attempted to tap into universal inner sources. These artists valued spontaneity and improvisation, and they accorded the highest importance to process. Their work resists stylistic categorization, but it can be clustered around two basic inclinations: an emphasis on dynamic, energetic gesture, in contrast to a reflective, cerebral focus on more open fields of color. In either case, the imagery was primarily abstract. Even when depicting images based on visual realities, the Abstract Expressionists favored a highly abstracted mode.
The work Taps and Moses are speaking about is their celebrated SPLASH! pieces, where cans were burst and the finished piece resulted as a consequence of the matching of colours:
With SPLASH, we skip this tiresome aspect of painting; the accurate piece. Rather, we concentrate on the act of painting and the documentation. The message is pithier.
And it is in this breakaway from convention that means we can roughly break Moses and Taps work into 3 categories:
1. Creative transgression of traditional legal matters (illegal stylised mark marking, trainpainting)
2. Creative subversion of cultural ‘rules’ and expectations.
3. An interest in the pure physical and mental expression that creativity allows, whatever medium.
Abstract Expressionism was born from a reaction against the favorable artistic movements of the time in social realism, which the Abstract Expressionists simply did not think was suitable given the climate of the Post-War and Great Depression. They did away with the figurative, the representational. Given this movement was reactionary, could we say the same of Taps and Moses? Are letters our Social Realism? Simply not contingent with the needs of many of todays graffiti artists?
This would make sense given the distinctly Parisian style of application that PAL crew and it affiliates (most distinctly Tomek and Saeio) have been producing for a while now, with Saeios in particular looking incredibly close to the work of William De Kooning.
Saeio / William De Kooning
I’ll let you work out which one is which.
(But where Saeio and Tomek et al deal largely in the brushwork side of abstract expressionism Taps and Moses are far closer to Pollock, whose action painting pieces derived from standing over a large canvas on the floor and dripping paint directly onto it from above)
It must be a performance! Once you have pierced the spraycan there is no turning back, no second chance. You need to use your whole body to paint and you need to move fast which gives the splash it’s vitality. The result is almost uncontrollable however the techniques to achieve it are. So of course, the technical differences between a SPLASH and a traditional graffiti piece are huge.
Taps and Moses.
SPLASH! to Moses and Taps is the ‘very end of graffiti’ – the reduction to pure physicality and freedom is complete. We have nowhere else to go. But looking at wider elements of Abstract Expressionism, we still see some similarities with Moses and Taps work. By way of another example – the Automatism directing ‘Subway Drawings’ by William Anastasi
Sitting with a pencil in each hand and a drawing board on his lap, his elbows at an angle of 90 degrees, his shoulders away from the backrest, Anastasi surrenders to a random process. His body operates likes a seismograph, allowing the rhythm of the moving train – its starts, stops and turns, accelerations and decelerations – to be transmitted onto the sheet of paper.
Furthermore, we only need look at their recent interventional artwork ‘The Wall’ to see how Moses and Taps have elaborated their practice beyond traditional means into a wider interest in Vandalism itself in both its expressive and transgressive natures. By literally building a wall between the passenger and their transport Moses and Taps have started to question what it really means to make confrontational artwork and in so have expanded on graffiti through its primary intentions – forceful space taking through uninhibited self expression. They have transgressed letters as a means to confront, they’ll now just literally get in your way.
The question is: is it real to act the martyr and go down in tunnel to paint a Metro that no one will ever see, except the person who will clean it?
What we have now is a really interesting period in graffiti, where many celebrated artists are evolving their practice into the Post-Graffiti spheres by keeping with the illustrative nature of the art form and others (such as these two) are completely pushing beyond this illustrative boundary and exploring what actually means ‘graffiti’.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below
You can find the full interview over on The Grifters website
If you would like to read more about Moses and Taps, check out my review of their recent (and I would argue groundbreaking) video ‘The Wall’ here