MTO – Graffitishop.beta: SAVE THE BEE

In his recent mural, self-sponsored and performed in an abandoned “FLY” warehouse, at Fegersheim industrial area, in Strasbourg, France, MTO (featured) builds a story around one of the graffiti interventions found in this space – more precisely, a piece depicting a bee by graffiti artist Stom500.

MTO’s action “save the bee” playfully uses the idea of bees as endangered species to actually bring into discussion a certain sociology and sense of territoriality defining the graffiti subculture and highlight his choice to protect a piece he liked instead of just covering the whole wall with a different creation, as the graffiti rules would allow: “I couldn’t resign myself to kill the bee, so I jumped over to protect it… we all know that bees are an endangered species”.

In order to understand the piece, several aspects about graffiti must be outlined. Although it may seem to have a random dynamics and structure from the outside, graffiti has its own coding and hierarchy, accepted within the global community of artists who are part of it, and rules are important to gain status and be respected by others (to some extent, it is rather an egocentric phenomenon, focused on personal branding – it’s all about the artistic self, shaping and promoting my identity as a writer; anonymity is, of course, crucial, but it is not about a nobody, but about the somebody I create aiming to reach the top of the hierarchy). In this regard, the exclusiveness and visibility of the space chosen for the intervention are essential to stand out. Public spaces, rooftops, subways, areas where graffiti interventions already exist, also the abandoned ones where greater pieces can be created, are preferred to private buildings, monuments or religious objects, which are usually considered unsuitable and less attractive.

In this case, MTO skillfully manages to get round one rule, not going over someone else’s work, as the artist explains when describing his intervention: “Only a throw-up covers a tag, only a piece covers a throw-up, only a bigger piece covers a piece.” Yet there is no offense intended here, no vicious or ego-driven alteration, but a peaceful co-existence between two different pieces and a spontaneous cooperation, not competition, between the artists – it does not matter who is better, but what we can create together. And MTO somehow co-creates by integrating the smaller piece as the key element in a bigger story, humorously changing and cleverly broadening the meaning of the initial intervention. He, therefore, transforms the space in a way that derives naturally from the graffiti history embedded on the walls.

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Images © MTO

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Learn more about the language and rules of graffiti artists and the spatial behavior of graffiti writers.