Participating, as we are, in the orgy of coincidences that characterises our age (seeing it is the revolution issue), Daniel Malone and I thought it highly appropriate to interview the tagger (known by those in the know as writers) RPM, executrix of the recent tagging of the Auckland Domains cricket pitches with "33 REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE", "45 RPM" and "78 RPM". It was written, or tagged, in yellowy-orange spray paint in the standard default spindly unjoined style usually employed to stretch top-to-bottom over fences or sprout from the ground up along walls and in long lines. By far the most interesting field painting we have seen to date. Graff is the most populous of painting movements ever, and classically involves the marking of surfaces others thought were finished. Where to begin?
GP: (Feel free to jump in wherever, D.) This is for the Revolution issue of Log. I am of the opinion, RPM, and I think DM. is too, that there are a lot of things wrong with the world and with people. I mean Fanta comes in three unwelcome extra colours now. This, among other things, is why we might need revolutionary change. Do you see what you do as a revolutionary act?
RPM: What do you mean by revolutionary? Like political?
DM: Yeah. Like against the system, or about bringing about a change in the system.
RPM: No. What I do is graffiti. Thats vandalism basically.
DM: Yeah, but there is a system that systematically removes your graffiti and resists it. I mean I often find it funny to think of it as both groups doing the same thing, both out there busily painting over one another, perpetuating this kind of mutual activity. There is a clash going on there.
RPM: I guess.
GP: It must stand against something, vandalism that is.
DM: Well not necessarily. I mean you could think of it as existing on top of or over something rather than against it. I always think its a misleading to characterise it as something transgressive or for that matter aesthetic, like as art.
RPM: No its not art. Well what I do isnt art. Im not an artist. Im not trained or anything, I just do it.
DM: I look at vandalism as a mode of acting in the world, I mean on the same surface of the world as say signage and advertising. Only its not attached to any act outside of itself the way advertising is to consumption. I dont think theres any desire to transgress this surface. Its more like a distraction, an interruption, like noise. It cant really be translated into something coherent.
RPM: Pitch bent noise!
GP: Well I am not so sure. Disturbances are transgressive in my book. Maybe we can talk about this later. Sorry R. Back to you. Freud thought that the only way to fix people is, in a nutshell, work and love. Is what you do work?
RPM: Its hard work, yeah, but its a lot of fun. Its not a job, I love it, does that answer your question?
GP: Not really. Many view vandalism as a destructive act. What do you think of that?
RPM: Yeah Im down with that. Ive got no problem with that, what I do is definitely vandalism, I mean you dont go to a wall and expect the wall to come off looking the same, the way someone else wanted it to look.
DM: Sure, but you do consider what you do on the wall to be aesthetically pleasing, right? I mean you have an idea of what looks good to you, whether its a piece or a tag or...
RPM: Well, yeah, everyone has their own idea of what burns, what looks cool, but I dont think its about trying to make the wall look beautiful (...) You cant control what anyone else does on the wall anyway, its all up for grabs. The walls usually pretty ugly without it...
DM: ...and they think what youve done is ugly.
GP: Who is "they"?
DM: Those that think its ugly!
RPM: I dont get a lot out of endless corporate advertisements, so its like, its like something else up there to look at, something else... without permission. Like no one asked you if you wanted to see 100 Telecom signs or Coke or Auckland Blues ads a day. I mean whose space is that?
GP: That makes it sound political, or, if you prefer, revolutionary, again. The reason I asked whether tagging is political is that there are things that you wont tag on right? Places of worship, headstones, houses, cars... If this is the case, then tagging must surely be disrespectful at least?
RPM: Yeah, you dont do churches, its not about that. Cars and houses you dont do them either, but thats different, some toys do.
GP: Whats a toy?
RPM: A toy is just someone whos new to it, you know, or a diss for someone who just doesnt get it. Some people just never get it. But being a toy is not necessarily a bad thing, I mean everyones a toy once so you should enjoy it. Toys sometimes do the best shit, like a big sloppy throw-up (fat letters just outlined, with maybe one fill colour) in some out of the way place no one else would bother going. But its round the corner from where they live, so they wait and wait, and finally get the chance and then there it is. I like that kinda unexpected shit!
DM: About the unwritten rules thing, I always liked to think there had to be a kind of purity to writing, for it to have maximum immanence, cars and houses are too personal, like its something personal and churches are too political
RPM: Yeah, like its an attack on the church, or like a personal grudge.
DM: Writings not so pointed as political graffiti - that latches on to something particular for its activation. It just sits on surfaces, spreads right across them without getting cornered. Of course it has its own particularities but because of repetition and that aim of ubiquity, its politic is more of an effect like we were saying earlier, than, say, direct.
RPM: People usually dont tag nature either, thats kind of wack, but sometimes its a laugh, you know like you see hedges, silver on shiny green hedges is beautiful, and theyre like fences anyway.
DM: Or leaves in the banana palm grove in Albert Park, folks making themselves at home... Fences, theyre mediated nature. You know kind of man-made...
RPM: Yeah true, the cricket pitches are like that too I think, fake turf.
GP: Are they?
GP: OK. I understand there is a style called Wickets. What are the different styles? Can you describe any of them to me?
RPM: Ah, yeah, Wickets is that tall spindly style from Philadelphia, made famous by Kadism. Everyone makes up their own names for their own style. The kind on the cricket pitches isnt really Wickets, thats just a kinda coincidence, it doesnt have that flared bit at the top, you know like the groove that the bails sit in.
GP: No Bail! And DM, you said you are interested in Zen painting styles, and that there is one called something about grass...
DM: Wild Grass yeah, funny, the most extreme form developed in graff to date is called Wild Style. I also love thinking about graff and Zen Buddhism in terms of the moment, being in that moment, the fact that you write yourself (instead of your name) in that moment, but theres also a kind of erasure, a kind of anonymity. I think that strengthens the case for the activity vs. the result, or the aesthetics.
GP: Do you think tagging is a form of addiction? A method of detaching from reality in that it is so involving, and charged with criminal adventure? Do you like the sound of breaking glass? Does the full moon bring on more work for you?
RPM: Its pretty addictive. Some people definitely dip out. Some people get poisoned and have to give up - honest, too much spray. Most come and go.
GP: Is the illegality of writing important to you? If it wasnt illegal would you still do it? If so, what would it look like?
RPM: Nah, I wouldnt do it. Would you?
DM: Have you seen the flier from the police for parents to help them know if their kid is tagging?
RPM: Zero Tolerance? Yeah, it was supposed to be like a quarterly newsletter, its what theyve called their whole $100,000 campaign! [See appendix 1: Profile of a tagger] I thought it would make a great name for a graff fanzine.
GP: R, last time we met, you sent me home to read The art of getting over by Stephen Powers, which I did not mind as it seems a good intro to writing. But it makes me wonder, what do "getting over/up" mean? Getting over what? Yourself?
RPM: Getting up on the wall, getting all over town...
GP: According to the manifesto bit in the back by Mark Surface (hahaha), writing certainly seems a movement, as it is stated to be very important to know the history of the form. Are you steeped in the traditions of tagging?
RPM: Yeah, you got to know whats happened before, at least where youre doing it, I mean if youre into it you want to know that stuff anyway, thats what makes being a toy fun, being part of all that, like the Smooth Crew and Wrong Writers and all that good shit, but its not like just for the sake of it.
GP: What is it for the sake of then?
RPM: You two are so analytical!
GP: Sorry, cant help the way I was brought up. What do you say to people who say they bomb like Otis Frizzell, but say tagging is not good?
RPM: WACK. Thats what I say. I mean theres a classic case of someone ignoring the history just for the sake of their own rep.
DM: Which is about as out of touch as what he puts in galleries is with contemporary art.
RPM: Hes probably never even heard of RPM!
GP: Was this writing project easily achieved, or not? Can you tell us how it came together? You are interested in, or at least sensitive to coincidences right?
GP: You started telling the story of doing the cricket pitches and I heard you say the word "coincidence". You also said that on the way out to "work" that night a streetlight went off as you went under it and then came on again as you passed beneath it on the way back.
RPM: Yeah, and I stashed my stuff right next to the old grave on the hill opposite Pukekawa, cos its tapu and it felt right. And when I came back there was someone there, like some mystery observer in the dark. I didnt feel unsafe at all, but if it was just some freak I didnt need the attention so I went off down the other side. Then police came by though so I felt all safe and secure!
DM: They have a certain way with people dont they?
GP: What does RPM stand for?
RPM: None of your business.
DM: That would be NOYB.
RPM: Very funny. Nah, heaps of things. People think its my initials, but its only two of them actually, so I cant say more.
DM: Yeah, that would be silly!!
RPM: Anyway its a crew. So it might be Real Phat Markerz or Riters Perpetrating Meaning.
GP: Radioactive People Mutate.
DM: Real People Matter.
GP: Righteous Prime Meat.
GP and DM: We thank you for your time. We have to go now.
Appendix 1: PROFILE OF A TAGGER (according to the NZ Police warning-to-parents brochure)
RPM is... well, RPM.
Daniel Malone is an artist living in Auckland. Gwynneth Porter is a writer-writer living in Auckland. She does not tag (although felt-penning scratch marks on walls appeals this week) and is the editor of Log Illustrated. Both Porter and Malone are involved in the transient contemporary art project Cuckoo.