mobstr proves that street art + phone number = been done (but that’s okay)

Check out the above video. It’s the first part of mobstr’s new series, The Number. Earlier this month, I wrote about how Geoff Hargadon has decided to share voicemails that he has acquired as part of his Cash For Your Warhol project. Fauxreel has also put up a phony ad with a phone number. Banksy used phone numbers for Better Out Than In last October. Swampy has a voicemail now too. And of course COST and REVS put a working phone number on their wheatpastes in the 90’s. I think it’s a fun idea. Now, mobstr has joined in.

He painted his phone number at a prominent spot in London, right on top of Old Street station at the Old Street roundabout. To give some sense of this location, it’s a stone’s throw from a few Banksy pieces covered in plexiglass and even more that have been destroyed. It’s where I used to start my street art walking tours. The roundabout is just blocks from the thick of London street art. Actually, the exact spot mobstr painted was host to this domino piece for years. Apparently, it’s now gotten to the point that people are so used to street art around Old Street that it’s entirely expected.

It used to be that a phone number would surprise or confuse people. Even as recently as last week, I’ve heard people say, “I saw those COST and REVS wheatpastes back in the day, but I had no idea what they were.” The voicemails that have been shared from the Cash For Your Warhol project are mostly from callers who are confused or angry about the signs. I haven’t heard of many people calling Swampy’s number (although I definitely encourage you to give it a try). Banksy had to explain the concept on his website.

With The Number, we seem to have hit a critical mass. Phones have been used in street art so much now that people are calling the number ready to perform for whoever is on the other end. They seem to know what’s up. Maybe that’s just because the piece is at Old Street, I’m not sure. But mobstr’s callers definitely become part of the piece in a knowing way that the Cash For Your Warhol callers are not (and voicemails for the other projects that used them haven’t been released).I’m a fan of street art that is innovative, work that pushes boundaries. At least that’s what I like to think. mostr’s piece doesn’t do that, but that turns out to be okay. Now, only because the concept is a somewhat familiar one, a phone number associated with a piece of street art provides an opportunity for a new kind of honest interaction where the caller/viewer is at least partially in on the joke and can participate with the street artist in the completion of the piece.My hat is off to mobstr for once again creating street art that thrives on away from keyboard audience interaction while still having a finished product that looks great online. That’s not easy.