Trying to tag Mohinder

Property crime is no laughing matter unless Mohinder spray-paints a building, and then it’s kind of hilarious. I first saw this oddly endearing tag—his name crudely drawn in all caps—pop up back in April. Since then, it’s been impossible not to notice these audaciously placed chicken scratches on overpasses, awnings, walls, and the odd cube van. The scourge of East Vancouver has delighted Instagram users, accumulated an impressive pile of press clippings, and inspired a series of bootleg T-shirts. What hath this vandal wrought?

“Mohinder is the king right now,” proclaims Rhek, a graphic designer, a reformed tagger, and somewhat of a local graffiti historian. “I like people who run around and mix things up and make the world more interesting. It confuses people, gets people talking, and gets the discussions going about ‘What is art?’ and ‘What is public space versus private space?’ It’s one kid getting his name up and making himself famous. It’s a DIY, self-made, ego-driven occupation that’s pointless, and I really enjoy that sort of thing.”

Part of the charm of Mohinder tags is their, well, shittiness. “It’s basically outsider art within an outsider art,” Rhek explains. “Whether or not he knows this, Mohinder is in a legacy of Vancouver writers whose prolificness is more important than their aesthetic.”

This noble order of janky property defilers includes Oaph, with his crummy anthropomorphized snakes; Alex G, whose tag looked like it was written by someone with Tourette’s; and Mr. 8, whose goofy name can still be seen scrawled around town.

Despite the sometimes dubious talent showcased in our alleyways, Rhek believes that “tagging is definitely an art form. The thing about it is there are all these knucklehead idiots who get into graffiti who have now grown up and become successful, creative individuals. I don’t think they would have found that route if it wasn’t for actually spending time drawing like a bunch of dorks.”

Notable dorks include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Kaws, Barry McGee, and Dash Snow, who all got their start tagging walls before their lionization in the art world. Hell, Tony Shafrazi, a gallerist who did shows with Basquiat and Haring in the ’80s, first made a name for himself by tagging Pablo Picasso’s Guernica with “Kill Lies All” when it was on display at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in 1974.

Though obviously not as revered as the aforementioned, a hometown example is The Dark, who has been decorating walls in Vancouver for the past 12 years and has shown work in galleries locally and abroad.

A Mohinder cynic, The Dark believes the tags are probably hipster bullshit. “Any jackass with a spray can can be a graffiti writer these days. Anyone can get drunk, wander home from work, and hit every wall they see till they run out of paint,” he says petulantly, but concedes: “I’ve done it, so I guess I can’t be super-critical.”

For The Dark’s approval, placement is key. “Context with the environment is important. Are you just randomly hitting walls or are you hitting cool spots?”

As ridiculous as it may seem, there are graffiti rules. Basically, you’re not supposed to hit churches, heritage buildings, or independent businesses. While The Dark believes that graffiti ethics are “full of shit”, they exist, and Mohinder is bombing spots that others wouldn’t.

So who is this rule breaker amongst rule breakers? Well, I tracked him down and it wasn’t difficult. Despite repeated interview requests, I got stonewalled. However, I was able to glean a fair bit of information by creeping him online. Especially amusing is his blog, where he’s documented a lot of his tags—East Van businesses aren’t up against a Professor Moriarty–type supervillain here. (Judging from the blog’s content, he’s likely responsible for those ubiquitous drawings of the whiskery man in the Panama hat, too.)

I’ll stop short of naming him, because that’s ethically dicey territory. Oh, screw it. If Mohinder’s tags teach us anything, it’s that there are no rules. Mohinder’s real name is Zachary, which, if tagged on a wall, probably wouldn’t yield many likes on Instagram.

Comments (40) Add New Comment
That's not cool.
Rating: +54
Alan Layton
How wonderful. I really appreciated paying for graffiti removal from my building last year, and I'll have to repeat it again this year. But if it's going to create income for an artist in the future then it's all worth it, isn't it? Man would I love to catch this guy, or any of them, in the act. I few sprays in their eyes and up their nostrils will give them some material for their macaroni art later in life.
Rating: +11
Yeah it is. You fucked everyone's shit up by painting where people don't want and have to cover it, legally. As well as entering the public domain by freakin trying to tag half the city. Are you seriously surprised?
Rating: +20
taggers are the idiots of the art world. find him, sue him, sue his family. jail.
Rating: +6
Article is pointless.
That graffiti is shit.
Rating: +19
Tag billboards, not businesses. DUH!
Rating: +27
Alex G
Alex G
Rating: +6
stop snitching
stop snitching
Rating: -23
Rocker Guy
Whomever this is, he/she is not an artist; just another vandal. The notariety is I'm sure uplifting, but a charge of mischief, a few nights in jail, and a permanent criminal record won't be "fun".
Rating: +22
Rating: -11
Worst article ever. Only in a place as void of culture and city as small as Vancouver could something like this garner any kind of attention. I bet this did alot for your hipster cred amongst your lame friends. Douche.
Rating: +4
People from all the scense, even graff hate what he's doing. I've only met a couple of people from everyone I know who doesn't.
Rating: -11
Not Impressed
Vandalism is not art, it's . . . VANDALISM!
Rating: -7
Kind of impressed anyone manages to find it amusing. One of the first things that struck me on moving to Vancouver was how little graffiti there is, and how much of what there is counts as environment-enhancing art. So the Mohinder scrawl (and another that seems to have popped up near me, roughly looking like ANOY) is just... kind of mindless and depressing by contrast. Or depressingly mindless. Or, as others more succinctly put it, crap.
Rating: +13
This just gives me ideas
Rating: -8
Sam the man
@Alan Layton. Do you post cantankerously out of touch comments all day everywhere? You sure love the sound of your own confused voice.
Rating: -9
you guise...
I don`t think any of the previous commentors get the mohinder thing. It`s a silly troll thing that you see everywhere around the city to provoke some sentiment(perhaps curiosity, anger, etc.) The taggers are probably relishing people getting angry at them on a public forum
Rating: +2
RED Northamerican Indian HOM? MOHINDER!
Rating: -7
Mohinder is a white grimy hip-hopster girl. Hot as hell. I fucking nailed her last night with a giant marker in an alley near tenth and main. I said nice work. She threw a handful of jelly beans in my face and told me to fuck off into the night. She told me that the person who wrote this article is a piece of shit lying loser who is intellectualising letters on a wall because for they suck at everything, especially writing. That's why they work for the straight. Biatch!!!!
Rating: -5
Art comes in so many forms these days. I myself am working on a brutal post-modern performance piece called "A trip to the Dentist" and it involves a random graffiti artist, my baseball bat and a confrontation in my back lane. Long live Art!
Rating: +9


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