For THE SOAK UP episode 13 we snagged ourselves a few words from absolute legend and pure favourite of VATC, MOBSTR/HUH?
Who is MOBSTR/HUH?
MOBSTR/HUH? is a British street, stencil and graff artist, subvertiser and art humourist.
What is MOBSTR/HUH known for?
MOBSTR/HUH? is well known for his interactions with 'scrubbers' and 'buffers', the council staff employed to remove graffiti, often turning their attempts to remove his work into long running series of fun engagements. MOBSTR/HUH? is also well known for his subvertising, turning inanimate street objects into interactive works of street art.
Where can I buy artwork by MOBSTR/HUH?
You can find available work by MOBSTR/HUH? at his website here
The MOBSTR/HUH? interview: THE SOAK UP #13:
VATC: How did this all begin?
MOBSTR/HUH?: My first exploration of street art started when I was 11. I remember writing quotes, phrases and doodles on postage stickers and putting them up around the place. It wasn't until my teenage years, when a friend of mine showed me the effectiveness of using a stencil, that I got proper into it. Over time an obsession built.
VATC: What advice would you go back and give to a 15-year old you?
MOBSTR/HUH?: Buy bitcoin in 2009.
VATC: You have a unique and wicked sense of humour. Where does it come from?
MOBSTR/HUH?: If you aren't having fun what is the point?
VATC: What makes you belly laugh?
MOBSTR/HUH?: Hanging out with my close friends along with some of my best selected Tampanensis. Big up rye grain.
VATC: You don’t consider yourself a street artist. But it’s not really pure graffiti either. Did you invent a genre? If so, what could we call it?
MOBSTR/HUH?: I've been on a MOBSTR hiatus for quite some time now to work under a new alias I formed with a friend. It's been going extremely well, thanks for asking. I miss the work of MOBSTR and it will come back in force, but I needed the time away to reflect. I've been incredibly busy with the other project but also my head has been divorced from MOBSTR. That might sound dramatic, but MOBSTR has been an obsession of mine for a good part of my life and perhaps I needed a break. It feels very good to be back. Again, I have the excitement of picking up my notebook and formulating ideas.
Did that answer your question? Absolutely not.
VATC: When you create something are you in the mindset of it being a 1-1 dialogue with another artist or the scrubber etc. or are you planning for it to be a public show?
MOBSTR/HUH?: Some people capture parts of the dialogue but I have not seen anyone do it to completion. I’m also not certain if there is one person I am engaging with or multiple individuals. With that in mind, perhaps the full piece is only ever realised through the full set of photographs.
VATC: What happens if no one interacts with, or notices a piece of your work? Is it still doing its ‘job’?
MOBSTR/HUH?: Not reacting at all is the only way the buffers can win.
VATC: Do critics take you too seriously?
MOBSTR/HUH?: What critics?
VATC: Is there any element to your work that you feel people sometimes miss?
MOBSTR/HUH?: I think it's straight-forward, blunt, in your face, no bullshit, so I'd imagine not. Perhaps, due to its simplicity people may not realise the obsessive level of work that goes into it.
VATC: Do you have any ridiculous bust stories? Moments you got, or nearly got caught?
MOBSTR/HUH?: I've only been arrested twice, and it's not much fun, so I try to avoid it. A friend and myself were putting this piece over an illuminated billboard which stood along the ring road. To the left of us a police car reverses down the ring road with its lights flashing, and pulls up right next to us. I turn to my mate and say "Game over." Turns out a bunch of people had decided to get out of their taxi and walk along the A-road due to a traffic jam and the police had come to bollock them. The police explained what they were doing was dangerous and disrupting people at work (referencing me and my mate). They cleared them from the ring road and let us get back to it.
VATC: I read that your “artworks are used as a tool in the critique of consumerism, advertising, and society as a whole”. Aren’t they also an advert for you?
MOBSTR/HUH?: I once said that I don't promote my work except putting it up in places you can't avoid seeing it.
If you took away the product from the advert you would be left with nothing. My work doesn't need a product behind it for it to have purpose. My ideal situation would be that I would not need to rely on income and create for the sake of creating. That idea of liberation is exciting.
When you interact with your urban surroundings, it is hard to avoid advertisements; they’re a dominant visual force. Therefore, I occasionally fuck around with them.
VATC: Can being a writer be lonely?
MOBSTR/HUH?: It is wonderful exploring the city in the early hours of the morning when the majority of the people are asleep. There is a tranquillity which is only found at that time. Painting has taken me to odd places, given me unique perspectives and can be invigorating.
VATC: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
MOBSTR/HUH?: When I was a teenager a bunch of my friends were gonna take magic mushrooms for the first time. Alcohol was the only recreational drug I had consumed up until that point. I was nervous, and oddly called my mother for advice. She said "Go for it".
VATC: Who would play you in a movie about your life? And what would it be called?
MOBSTR/HUH?: The thing I like the most is leaving it in the fridge overnight.
I saw an interview with Basquiat in which he is asked what is the meaning behind his Samo graffiti. He admits that the work is nonsense and by writing cryptic slogans people would read into it and think they were in fact profound. Perhaps from now on I'll start painting gibberish, but the sort of gibberish where it can't be mistaken for something profound.
Did that answer your question? Absolutely not.
VATC: If we created a MOBSTR Playlist, what would be the top ten songs/bands in it?
MOBSTR/HUH?: I am a huge fan of Aphex Twin. What I admire about Aphex is he is more than a musician. This one gig, he was using instruments at a table, and after some time he disappears under the table, where he was hidden from view. For a considerable period the audience are just watching a table on a stage. Occasionally he would pop back up, adjust something on table and duck underneath again, away from sight. I love the way he thinks.
VATC: Is there a cause close to your heart you’d like to mention, and/or an exhibition or work you’re involved in that you’d like to talk about?
MOBSTR/HUH?: As mentioned before, I formed a new collective alias with a friend. However, we decided to keep it separate from our own work so I can't mention anything else about it. To summarise: I have nothing to tell you about what I am telling you about. Great story, right?
MOBSTR/HUH?: I'm thinking of changing my alias to HUH? There is a direct translation for the word "huh" in almost every language. Therefore, it can be argued that "huh" is the most universally understood term in the world. That.Is.Awesome. I wouldn't announce it, just redirect the website to a huh url and start signing work with HUH? Been thinking about this for about 6 months now…
You can find MOBSTR/HUH? on Insta here