In 2007 MOSES met TAPS™ and shortly after they formed the artist collective TOP SPRAYER™. Their first project was an ambitious one: painting 1000 trains all over the world in 1000 days, using each other’s names. Thusly getting rid of both the constricting rules of graffiti and the authorities, who would have needed these rules to prosecute them. The results of this venture led not only to MOSES & TAPS™ first book INTERNATIONAL TOPSPRAYER™, the most commercially successful graffiti book to date, but also to a change in the established law practice in favour of graffiti writers. The world renowned MOSES & TAPS™ are celebrated for their balancing act between the consistent advancement of graffiti and their conceptual strength. While most other urban artists please the crowd with coherent and beautiful however harmless paintings, MOSES & TAPS™ are still not afraid to scandalize. The medium is the message and their messages are multifaceted. Because of this, MOSES & TAPS™ haven’t limited themselves only to canvases, galleries or spraypaint and to this day they incorporate both public space and public transport in a great number of their works. MOSES and TAPS are famous for their unique writing styles and its further development into almost abstract artworks. Nevertheless, working on different serials and mix them is another characteristic of TM™. While their well- known CORPORATE IDENTITY™ challenges commerce and advertisement, the serial SPLASH™ ridicules the aesthetic rules of graffiti: the artists puncture pressurized spraycans to create abstract and uncontrollable action paintings.

Currently they are concentrating on their project MOSES ALIAS TAPS, in which they give rise to a third artistic personality: ALIAS™.

Take a look what the prolific duo decided to share with the readers of The Grifters Journal in this exclusive interview.


Take a look what the prolific duo decided to share with the readers of The Grifters Journal in this exclusive interview.


Why did you choose the name  “SPLASH ­ – Rules of Vandalism” for your last exhibition?​

SPLASH is a project we have been working on since 2010. The paradoxical caption ​“Rules of Vandalism”​ describes the origin of the splashes that we have been using as a visual statement against any “rules” in graffiti. The splashes are the visualization of our harsh criticism regarding graffiti’s stagnation. Therefore, in our eyes, the splashes are the logical end of graffiti.



Splash on German S-train.


What do you mean by “the end of graffiti“?

What remains of graffiti if you take away all the rules, if you don’t do letters, if you don’t do outlines, if you don’t try to represent anything? If you can’t and don’t want to control what you do…?


Color Splash on train wagon by Moses and Taps Topsprayer The Grifters Journal



How did the Splash concept start?

When we got into graffiti in the early 199o’s, it was exciting because we felt like we had found a way to express ourselves in total freedom. But the more we left the restricting rules of society behind us, the more we automatically accepted the rules of vandalism: “You should not paint like this, you should not paint there, it should look like this“. We realised that we have exchanged our bourgeois life, not with a free one, but with the life of an enchained outlaw.


So when you discovered that what you were doing was enchaining you – you discovered the SPLASH?

Not that easy. It was, and is, a progress of almost 20 years. Every step we made was a tiny one. But it all started when we looked from a distance and saw that we were doing nothing other than what people were doing 40 years ago, only because we followed “the rules”.


What makes it the same as the people 40 years ago?

You paint a name and you try to give it a certain look; it has to look good. That’s the worst thing! This is where all the bad and unfree parts of graffiti come from ­ it has to look good, and therefore you must have control over it. But of course there are plenty of reasons to do the splashes.


Graffiti Avant Garde MOSES TAPS swiss commuter train The Grifters Journal



What are those reasons?

One of the main goals of graffiti these days is to paint a piece and take a photo showing the piece in the urban context. We have shown a billion times that we can paint proper, traditional graffiti pieces. Repeating yourselves again and again for the sake of a 0.00001% better piece than the previous one is not only boring, but unsatisfying. With SPLASH, we skip this tiresome aspect of painting; the accurate piece. Rather, we concentrate on the act of painting and the documentation. The message is pithier.


Paint splash on railway tracks by MOSES TAPS TOPSPRAYER The Grifter Journal

Splash on railway tracks. Photo © Nils Muller


Is it just the act of painting or because it is easier? Did the INTERNATIONAL TOPSPRAYER™ project (painting 1000 trains in 1000 days) tire you out from traditional graffiti?

No, we were already tired of the traditional way of graffiti before we started the INTERNATIONAL TOPSPRAYER™ project. Otherwise we would never have taken the step of exchanging our names with each other for a thousand pieces, which was the goal of the project. But it was actually the first rule we broke, the most important rule of graffiti ­ you have to write your name. While the INTERNATIONAL TOPSPRAYER™ project was about breaking the rule that every writer can only write his name, the SPLASH series is about breaking the rule that graffiti even has to portray a name.


Is “SPLASH” graffiti?

With our meaning, the SPLASH is the ultimate graffiti! Only on another level.
Doing a blue and yellow throw up next to each other actually has the same meaning as doing a blue and yellow style piece next to each other, or doing a blue and yellow splash. So the visual approach is different but the meaning is the same, only without the bells and whistles. This reduction, then again, provides some critics with a simple target: “It’s easy, everybody can do it” ­ but why then during the past 45 years of graffiti has nobody else done it? Why does 99% of the graffiti that people do still look the same? A good idea is an easy idea. Any more is just decoration.


MOSES TAPS This View Is Blocked Due To Vandalism/ unauthorized advertising. To identify current position please use smartphone or opposite window

This view is blocked due to vandalism/unauthorized advertising. To identify current position please use smartphone or opposite window, please.


We can see in the video of the show that creating the SPLASH is a performance too.

Yes, it must be a performance! Once you have pierced the spraycan there is no turning back, no second chance. You need to use your whole body to paint and you need to move fast which gives the splash it’s vitality. The result is almost uncontrollable however the techniques to achieve it are. So of course, the technical differences between a SPLASH and a traditional graffiti piece are huge. When you see most people painting a style piece or a canvas, they look concentrated but bored at the same time. They work hard on every detail and everything has to be perfect, but what they miss is their own interpretation of what makes a piece perfect. They “walk” around in their head with scissors! Most people only look to what other people have already done to be successful. If you really want to do something good or to be free, or to be successful ­ you have to look what other people haven’t done yet! And you also need to find out why they haven’t done it.


Does graffiti have to be beautiful to be in a gallery?

It should not be beautiful as an end in itself. But it should be relevant! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Anyway, our graffiti has no place in a gallery.



Installation “LABEL” by MOSES & TAPS in The Münchner Stadtmuseum. City Museum of Munich.


Why does your graffiti have no place in the galleries?

Because we simply don’t call what we do in galleries and museums graffiti, but only what we do outside of these spaces. The most interesting part of graffiti is in its perishability, which gives graffiti all of its freedom. Freedom is the opponent of possession. Nobody can possess “our” graffiti because it can only exist in the public space.



“Splash – Rules Of Vandalism” exhibition installation, Paris.


Why then are you exposing the SPLASH in a gallery?

The extension of the playground is the logical progression. Not every story can be told on the platform, and for some, the gallery is a good punchline.


How come MOSES & TAPS™, two artists that are notorious for their work on trains, have started to exhibit their work in a gallery? What drove you to start to exhibit in a gallery space?

The question is: is it real to act the martyr and go down in tunnel to paint a Metro that no one will ever see, except the person who will clean it? Or is it real to have a canvas in a gallery where interested people go to see it? Sometimes we choose to reach the people that want to listen rather than scream at the deaf.



MOSES & TAPS installation in Colab Galery

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Is SPLASH the last concept you have found in graffiti?

No doubt, SPLASH is the very end of graffiti. Nothing can come after the SPLASH, but tomorrow it will be the very beginning of graffiti. It is the minimum and the maximum at the same time.


Can you explain this statement further?

The story about SPLASH has been told. We will continue to develop the SPLASH but with another objective and maybe in another direction. And so maybe the development of SPLASH reaches an impasse, maybe it leads to a merge with other serials we are working on or maybe to some completely new serial. It is an evolution without shortcuts.


Collage by MOSES & TAPS™

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How do you categorize your work: art, graffiti or vandalism? Are you artists?

Call it expression. We don’t do people any favors by saying we are artists or vandals just to make their lives easier. They should have to think about it! It won’t change anything anyway, apart from just the word. But in saying this, we don ́t work to be accepted by the public. The public opinion is absolutely irrelevant when you are expressing yourself.


Does graffiti has to be illegal?

Graffiti doesn’t need to be illegal but not having permission to paint doesn’t scare us. We developed our own moral values and they work great, we don’t need the ones imposed on us.



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How do you unify your work inside and outside the atelier?

Of course it is not the same to paint a canvas than to paint a wholecar. But you lose your authenticity when you say “I am one certain character, but I’m two independent artists “. We don’t paint different stuff in the atelier and outside on purpose. Even though sometimes the appearance is different, in our work there is a connection between everything. The message appears throughout the entirety.


How came the idea for the Corporate Identity?

It is a logical step. If you want to establish a brand ­ you need a corporate identity that includes ethical aspects. For our corporate design, we minimalized ourselves as much as possible, which led to yellow and cyan, with black as a contrasting colour standing for the darker side of our work. Even though we have never really determined who has which colour, we use each colour as a replacement of our names. This work paid off, as now we don’t even need to write our names, insofar as our design is as famous as adepts will immediately understand; Recognizability, a rule of vandalism and exceptionally not the worst. That’s why we gave the Article 1 canvas from the SPLASH exhibition this name.


Braille alphabet graffiti by MOSES & TAPS™

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Cyan Yellow Black


So, how did you chose the names of the artworks for “​Splash – ­ Rules Of Vandalism”?

For the picture content and their names we asked the public through social media about the 10 most important rules of vandalism and their interpretations. Amazingly enough, but not surprisingly, the most repeated answer was “there are no rules“. The concept of the show was to give each canvas the meaning of one rule. One article for instance is “Art. 2 ­ Improvement” ­ You can only go over a graffiti piece with a better one; you can only cross a silver with a full colour piece. This canvas consists of dozens of different layers. Each day a new picture.


How you feel about giving your name to somebody else?

At first it was a very big step. It’s like you are giving up everything you have done previously. If you paint 15 years worth of graffiti with “your“ name, you feel like you have created something valuable. But if you look from a distance and you ask yourself honestly: “What is the value?” you will find out that there is nothing but something that constrains your freedom. With our project we had a greater goal than only OUR freedom. We couldn’t accept the former unfair legal interpretation against graffiti in Germany. We had to work against it! Previously the authorities had an easy life: they just pointed at the “unwritten“ rules of vandalism and prosecuted you for all graffiti done with a certain name. From here to Timbuktu. Today, they don’t even try it anymore.

All the lawyers now present the INTERNATIONAL TOPSPRAYER™ book in court. “Here is the book, it’s 2 kilos, 1000 pieces done by an untold amount of people. First MOSES and TAPS exchanged their names with each other, then they exchanged these names with friends from all over the world and finally they say that everybody can use “their“ names ­ how could they even prevent it anyway?!“. Today, the judges laugh when the prosecution explain their narrow­minded story of a unique name as the most important thing in graffiti, and that nobody would ever copy it. A name is no longer proof.



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So the TOPSPRAYER™ has contributed to the juristic evolution in Germany?

We are not sure if we have contributed to the juristic evolution but we have changed the jurisdiction. If it’s good or bad ­ it depends on your position. For the transport companies and the investigators it’s bad ­ because without rules their work is harder. No graffiti rule was ever written but now there are rules written against the unwritten rules.


MOSES & TAPS™ revealed some of their upcoming projects for the readers of The Grifters Journal. The duo is preparing a new book called A.L.I.A.S. and working on solo exhibitions for galleries in  USA, Germany and Switzerland.


About The Author

Boris is a Parisian based director, visual artist & curator. He is mostly known for founding the internet graffiti phenomenon The Grifters Journal and later with his alter ego Good Guy Boris, which shot him to popularity thanks to the success of a series of web video travelogues entitled Grifters Code. Instagram @goodguyboris