pic by @badyear85
Does the symbol “9!” ring a bell? It’s a throw-up with a typographic twist that has been all over the streets of Paris in recent years. He is 9.10DO, an enigmatic Parisian writer who has been active since 2005. On his Instagram account we can see that his work is a slight departure from the usual aesthetic of street graffiti in “Paname.” So, we wanted to ask him a few questions about and learn a little more about what’s behind that number.
-How did you start painting graffiti?
I started in 2005 because I wanted to impress a girl at my school. I put stencils of her face everywhere so that she might possibly see them. She didn’t give a fuck about it, but I was instantly hooked by the feeling of sneaking outside at night to go paint illegally in the city. I quickly learned about the history of graffiti and fell in love with this sophisticated culture/way of life.
“I liked the fact that people wouldn’t get it on the first try, but the day they get it, it would be stuck in their mind.”
-Where does the name 9.10DO come from and why?
When I was young I was a video game fanatic. Before the internet, video game magazines would put cheat codes at the back of each magazine. I would then copy them in a notebook and sell it to other kids in the schoolyard. They started calling me by the nickname “Nintendo.” It was natural to choose this name as a writer. I just translated it with numbers like Nine-Ten-Do. I liked the fact that people wouldn’t get it on the first try, but the day they get it, it would be stuck in their mind.
-Your style is much more typographic than what we are used to seeing in Parisian graffiti. Where do your influences come from?
As I have a complex nickname I was looking for a simple style to be read by others. I self-taught myself the art of hand-painting & lettering and it gave me a solid base for typographic letters, which then I would then play with in different ways. Also when you practice hand-lettering you understand the importance of the tool. With a single brush you can paint various sizes of stroke to build your letter. I adapted this to graffiti by making my own tools. For example, by sticking cans together you can paint your fill AND your outlines at the same time. This allows you to paint a big block letter in less than 3 minutes, saving you precious time to avoid getting caught.
After all, experimentation is the funnest part, I always enjoy setting up a simple base, then adding weird compositions or ideas and seeing how I can manage to make it work.
Also I find it fascinating that if I use a big fat cap with a classic handstyle, regular people would mostly hate it because they don’t have the key to understand it. Then, if I write the same thing on the same wall, but in a calibrated font, like an Old English for example, people would enjoy it more easily, because it’s something they can understand.
“with my main crew 4TH when we paint or party, graffiti is more a way to trigger new adventures & exciting situations”
-What’s your place in the Parisian graffiti scene? (Crews, people you paint with, writers you hate XD)
Haha, I have no idea what my place is in the scene! But I would say I feel a little bit off the grid. The people I paint with are more brothers to me than graffiti partners.
I would say each crew I’m in have different motivations. For example with my main crew 4TH when we paint or party, graffiti is more a way to trigger new adventures & exciting situations. Finding ways to explore the forgotten parts of the city, then planting a flag there for the next ones passing by. Like mountaineers on top of a mountain or sailors exploring islands off the map.
-What feeling do you try to project on people who see your graffiti?
To me catching a tag in the street is like throwing a bottle into the ocean, you don’t know what kind of person will get it. But I would love their curiosity to be piqued. When I see a tag in the street, I see the character behind it, all the adventures, atmospheres, a whole universe behind a name. If one day, mine can have the same effect, then my mission is accomplished!
“Catacombs, abandoned tunnel systems, underground bunkers, rooftops, I always enjoy taking a few friends and making our way off the grid of society.”
-We see that lately you’ve also been putting 84… do you have a fixation with numbers?
Haha, no it’s my other crew 1984 (@groupuscule1984) — inspired by George Orwell’s book. Mostly composed by writers older than me with various backgrounds and creative skills, which make a really rich aesthetic.
-Your graffiti is basically street (in your Instagram we don’t really see murals or trains). What is your relationship with the street outside of graffiti?
Being a natural born Parisian, I have always been fascinated with this city. As it’s a very old city, it is full of hidden spots, forgotten spaces and historical curiosities. It makes for an incredible playground to explore, to find spaces of freedom, for setting up free parties, for example. Catacombs, abandoned tunnel systems, underground bunkers, rooftops, I always enjoy taking a few friends and making our way off the grid of society. When I’m traveling abroad I try to find the same unconventional type of spaces and try to understand different street cultures and collect urban legends. It helps me capture the soul of a city.
-We’ve seen that, despite being totally dedicated to a form of graffiti and to the underground, you’ve participated in art exhibitions. Can you explain the artistic side of 9.10DO?
I get bored really easily by routine, that’s why I’m always down to learn new techniques and take creative directions I’m not confident in. With my friends of the 4TH we have the same production process. When we want to produce an object, we want to learn how to build it from A to Z, trying to master production techniques like illustration, silk print, molding, carving, sculpting, woodworking, etc. I’m also part of a publishing house called Croatan Edition, so I publish books filled with illustrations, pictures and stories that are all reports of our adventures.
Oh, and I’m a tattooist too.
-Tell us about the exhibition you’re preparing with your group.
We have a group called Road Dogs dedicated to hopping freight trains in Europe & traveling freely. This time we will set up installations in Le Palais de Tokyo in Paris about the most recent travels we did from Paris to Turin in Italy, by freight trains. It was supposed to be in June, but it’s gonna be delayed because of the pandemic…
-We’ve also heard about the launch of a book…
In fact three books! Each time we hop freights train, we set up different objectives. Once they’re done, we make a book published by Croatan Edition, as a report of our operation. These three books will be the report of our 3 last operations.
“I spent the last few days before quarantine, painting in the streets with this insanely weird atmosphere, then I just escaped the city a few hours before the lockdown”
-We’ve also seen your “9” around Barcelona lately. What’s your relationship with the city?
Barcelona is special to me, as it was my first graffiti trip back in 2008, it was epic and it set up my love for traveling. Now I have close friends who live there. I love to see the city evolve each time I come. And I really enjoy the people, the atmosphere, and the relaxed attitude! (Did you know you also have an abandoned tunnel system in Barcelona ?)
-How are you doing these last few days with the whole issue of isolation and the coronavirus?
I find it pretty exciting to be honest haha. I spent the last few days before quarantine, painting in the streets with this insanely weird atmosphere, then I just escaped the city a few hours before the lockdown to regroup with some friends by the sea.