Some kind of strange mutation must have happened to Frenchman Mehdi Hercberg when after having lived in Japan for a year, he returned to Paris as Shoboshobo! For the last ten years, the otherwise timid 37-year old Mehdi has under the pseudonym of Shoboshobo, organised concerts of experimental Japanese music in Paris with selected avant-garde artists, has toured Japan in a bus together with more artists and musicians and has performed his own music while constantly drawing colourful monsters, violently distorted humanoid figures that somehow manage to appear a bit cute. His monsters are now free in the streets printed onto cool T-shirts and jumpers while Shoboshobo, with a punk attitude, enters the world of cloths. His complex artistic universe has unraveled in alternative spaces, museums and international festivals around Europe, Japan, Argentina and the US while till 2011 his gigantic installations will be filling up the doors and windows of number 72 in Salaminos Street, during ‘ZZZzzzZZZz in ATOPOS Contemporary Visual Culture: Awaken the beast in you’. An exhibition which also launches the new space of ATOPOS cvc.

-It looks like you discovered the shobo -one of the ninjas’ lethal weapons- at some point during your tour around Japan and you -started chopping off a bunch of Japanese-like monsters! What kind of effect did the experience in Japan have on you?

Shoboshobo has several meanings in Japanese and I’m not using this word for the weapon meaning-sorry. I guess you’ll have to research a bit deeper to find out. I lived for a year in Japan in 2000 and when I returned to France shoboshobo was born. I went back to Japan in 2005 during the first bus tour.

-Giants that sleep with their eyes open, beloved friends that cut each other’s throat, violent images in fluorescent, happy colours…Contrast can be seen everywhere in your works. Are you messing with our brains?

Most of the drawings I do are some sort of automatic drawings, mind stream drawing so Ι don’t really aim to mess or to please, it’s just coming out this way, but yes I’m not pleased when the things I do are too gentle or kind.

-Doesn’t your two year old son get spooked by the creepy creatures that daddy’s drawing all the time?

Every time he sees a painting or a drawing he says ‘daddy made it’ …

-How come did you incorporate your graphic work into fashion items? How do you feel about people making a fashion statement by wearing your printed t-shirts and jumpers?

I don’t care that much about fashion, I don’t know it that much, I found out the wearable drawings was an interesting option and also as a former punk teenager drawing on clothes has always been something rather normal lets say. I started to make jumpers with more specific technic and sophisticated design when Maroussia from Andrea crew asked me to design some models couple years ago.

-As an experimental electronic music gigs organiser in Paris, which is your most surprising and promising discovery in the scene?

When it comes to discoveries unfortunately I haven’t been setting up any gigs in Paris for the past three years and also I am not able to go to as many gigs as I would like as I’m pretty busy those last three years … But still I can recommend you those two fine bands : Moishe Moishe Moishele, jewish acid hasidic house music and Michelles Fusain, a trio combining drawing and music together.

-You, yourself, create and perform music. How can you describe it in a few words and how do you receive people’s reaction to it?

The music I make is more like concept bands and performance. It’s not a musical neither a pop research that is leading me in this way, it is more the energy it demands and creates that I find interesting. I don’t usually edit any records or recordings from those musical projects so people’s reactions are the ones during the live performance.

-Most of the time you work in cooperation with other artists. Can you imagine yourself working separately on your own or you see art as a collective creation?

I very much like working with others that’s true, it’s something I’d be very much missing if I couldn’t do it anymore so I’d rather not think about it! Also working with others is sometimes a way to promote other artist’s work. I’m lucky that I can show my works in different places and sometimes under very interesting conditions, so I can use this to make interesting collaborations.

-Zines, clothes, gigs, monsters, music, teaching applied arts in Ecole Estienne…What’s next?

Feeling up ATOPOS cvc with giants! This project Ι’m having now with ATOPOS cvc gallery is for sure the biggest art project Ι’ve ever had and Ι’m very happy with the result, Greece has the power!

Text: Vania Micha | Photo: Marios Kalamaris | Links: SHOBOSHOBO, ATOPOS cvc