We know him as Mosa PAL, but he also calls himself Alexandre Bavard, defining himself as a “graffiti actor”. His disquieting work, based mainly on two directions that are as distinct as performance and sculpture, deals with a series of interesting and deeply reflective ideas. It’s for this reason, and because of his recent release of the sculpture NEO-K. 19 in collaboration with Justkids, that we wanted to enter his universe through his very own words.
How did you go from doing tags to the art world?
I started to get interested in Art though graffiti. The tags I saw in my neighborhood caught my attention. What does it mean, why, how? This curiosity carried me to another thing, finally pushing me to study Art. First Boulle School in Paris (design), then the School of Fine Arts in Lyon. I have always practiced these worlds in parallel and, by consequence, both influence each other.
“The risk of the prohibition allows you to develop the art and calligraphy with a true sense of power and real pleasure.”
Graffiti’s legal side?
I want to clarify that my vision of graffiti is illegal, it is only in a prohibited practice that graffiti makes sense. The risk of the prohibition allows you to develop the art and calligraphy with a true sense of power and real pleasure. The rest interests me very little. Besides, I consider myself a writer, not a graffiti artist or a street artist.
But you are an artist…
The act of graffiti is marginal to our relationship to the image, in a world saturated with information. By its uniqueness and illegal appearance, it is a spearhead of popular ideas, between political message and claims.
What do these writings tell about the walls of our time? What are their stories and how can we give them lasting value when, in essence, they are ephemeral?
I try to maintain this philosophy in my artistic practice, keeping my spontaneity and perspective close to the urban. What is interesting, in my opinion, is the conceptual aspects that can be brought back into contemporary art. Graffiti is a pure, noble aesthetic pursuit; a tag on a wall is self-sufficient.
“We can not repeat the same things, shapes, styles. It is necessary to advance, to propose new things.“
A search that aims to be seen…
This is why graffiti must remain on the street, it is in this context that it comes to life. To conjure the thought behind a work is more than important in our time, especially when it comes to graffiti, which has a strong history of over 50 years. We can not repeat the same things, shapes, styles. It is necessary to advance, to propose new things as with dance for example, bringing back the fictional aspect that feeds the mythologies of graffiti artists, like on the work of identity.
There is so much to explore in Art, which makes it rather unfortunate to see graffiti closing in on itself, wanting to be a free art, open and uninhibited, the medium became codified and moralistic.
My performances are not practiced on stage generally. I like it this way, its free and versatile to all spaces: clubs, galleries, streets, museums and more. I choose the performance because I find the same sensations as in the graffiti. The feelings are very similar, both are a way to regain your emotions and bring back a deeper thought. When the performance is realized in the street, you can experience all the strength of a throw up made in the street, it is for me even more intense.
“The ephemeral nature of performative moments are comparable to the experience of graffiti. The place, illegality (or non-compliance), style (dance), speed, the intrigued people, the police.“
Can you give us an example?
For example, in the popular district 18 of Paris, I realized my Bulky performance with Manue Soum, my choreographer. People were surprised to see these ghostly characters with mystical aspects, arousing interrogations and fascinations in a context of post terrorist attacks. The music was loud during the dance with the speakers placed on the floor as if for the setting of an improvised wild street party. At the end of the performance, the people who had gathered around were stunned. The police arrived a few minutes later, late as always. They had been called by the disturbed neighbors. The ephemeral nature of performative moments are comparable to the experience of graffiti. The place, illegality (or non-compliance), style (dance), speed, the intrigued people, the police.
Sculptor or performer?
It’s hard putting myself in a category. I consider myself an artist in the sense that I express my sensitivity and I work on it to bring it to life.
I have always been fascinated by total art. To create your own cosmogony, to enter a universe. That’s why I’m a fan of sci-fi and fantasy where you can. There is nothing more stimulating than simulating an entire world. That’s why I like to venture into different mediums: video, sculptures, performance and more, as the link between all these things is not plastic or formal. It is the idea that connects them. We must look at the motives that link these works. For example, at the Palais de Tokyo in 2017, I presented the Neo-Archeologia sculptures (which Justkids series is part) ,and the performers during the opening came in to “activate” them, having the environment and lights transform so as to have the spectators experience a short performative dance. All in a 45 minute format divided into 3 acts; a real-life Opera. The sculptures were the “activation” switch of the performative experience.
“I ask the question, how can I show an anticipatory vision of urban archeology in relation to graffiti?“
Explain to us about how came your collaboration with Justkids.
Charlotte Dutoit from Justkids invited me to participate in their artist in residence program in San Juan. While there, we worked together on a new performance and series of works for Meca International Art Fair. Then we decide to work on a limited sculpture series. I see this project as a “comma” of our overall. ”NEO-K19″ is the most recent project that revolves around the latest themes of my work where, through investigation, I ask the question, how can I show an anticipatory vision of urban archeology in relation to graffiti? The answer is on the traces of the Parisian vestiges, by means of research of studies and testimonies. As a Parisian, I see a clear link between these notions. They are visible day to day in the streets of Paris where archaeological relics, architectural change and gentrification confront each other and crossover. The vacant lots are the perfect illustration of this confrontation, and, for this series, I focused on what is most emblematic for a graffiti artist: the train. This project is deeply rooted in reality and I hope to release enough material to give it an anticipatory force.
In my opinion, this subject is fascinating and rich because it addresses scientific, environmental and aesthetic issues while confronting our relationship to history and heritage. Europe is historically charged, its past is visible at every corner.
“Graffiti gave me a freedom, that I strive to find contemporary art.“
Also, the train universe is charged with other significances.
It’s a beautiful metaphor yes.
Did you trade the streets for the galleries?
I did not change. I still continue to do the graffiti I like. It is true that I am dedicated to other projects that take time and a different process of construction.
I tag, which gives me this legitimacy to talk about graffiti. Many artists talk about it in terms of the past and think it’s enough to talk about the street or graffiti. Perhaps… but, I know that if I loose this link, my work will change strongly. When that happens I will certainly take an artistic turn.
Graffiti gave me a freedom, that I strive to find contemporary art.