Slowly but surely, I’m making my way around the world, scouring the streets for graffiti and street art and every now and then I’m able to connect with a city’s biggies. Basically, my relationship began with Phat 2 when he jokingly, or at least I hope he was joking, called me “a stalker.” Stalking is basically when two people have a deep, artistic connection, and one chases the other’s tag all over the city, but only one of them knows about it. So, I don’t know what he’s talking about. There’s no stalking here. But there is respect. Allow me: Mad Respect.
I got to Beirut in mid-July and very quickly I started seeing a plethora of “Phat 2” tags emerging…Gemmayzeh, Achrafieh, Sin el Fil, and tons of other places that I don’t know the ‘little’ names for; I just knew I was in Beirut. Who is this guy? Is he Vietnamese? The name “Phat” triggered that theory. If he’s Phat 2, who is Phat 1?
All that I can tell is that he’s a classic artiste. He is open, willing to answer my questions, and he is passionate about what he does. Street artists/Graffiti writers want to share. Street artists/Graffiti writers KNOW THEIR SHIT like no other community around, too. You better believe that.
So, here I give you “10 FOR PHAT 2,” with my latest “stalker” images interspersed:
TOKIDOKI: Where were you born?
PHAT 2: “Beirut.”
TD: When did you start doing graffiti?
TD: What countries, if any, besides Lebanon, have you done your graffiti in?
PH2: “France and Denmark.”
TD: I see your signature tags everywhere in Beirut, but do you have any other form up anywhere? For example, paste-ups, stencils, murals, stickers…
TOKIDOKI: What does graffiti mean to you?
PHAT 2: “To me, graffiti is a passion, it’s something I do out of pure love for the game, and not for money. I do it to get up, and because it’s exciting as an adventure. Not everyone gets the chance to be an anonymous supervillain or a superhero these days. The secret identity was and still is one of my favorite things about graffiti. Other than that, and on an impersonal note, Graffiti, by definition is a category of typography, which makes it a science more than an art, we’re talking geometry even sometimes here. On the other hand, you have street art which deals with everything stencil and poster, and brush related…”
TD: Do you believe there’s a difference between street art and graffiti? If so, what is it?
PH2: “Additionally to what I said in the previous answer, to me, street artists usually have certain concepts or ideas behind thei works. They try to shed light on a certain topic, to either raise awareness or emphasize their opinion about it in a concrete, visible manner. Whereas, most graffiti writers are just -in the words of krs1- writing their name, in graffiti on a wall.”
TOKIDOKI: What is YOUR message you are trying to send to the world?
PHAT 2: “I sometimes have hidden or subliminal messages behind my pieces. Those usually have a certain quote next to them. so look for that. The messages or the concepts vary from one piece to the other though. It’s not one universal theme at all… One obvious example is the I LOVE YOU roller I did in Furn el Chebbak.”
TD: Who are your three favorite international street artists, and why?
PH2: “My favorites are Cap1, Korn, and Setup. Cap1 because he’s practically the first big vandal that fucked shit up for everyone in the 70s, Korn because his throwup is just orgasmic and has influenced my throwup style from the get go. And Setup because he’s a very well respected and big old school NY king from crew KCW, what few know though is that he’s Lebanese, and I hope to follow in his footsteps and make it to becoming a NY king myself. The guy is a pure inspiration to me, the throwups he dropped in Beirut in the early 2000’s were a big source of motivation to a few writers here in Beirut, and I’m one of them.”
Tokidoki’s Note: The pic directly above almost got me arrested or my camera confiscated, I don’t know to what extent the soldier would’ve pushed it…I didn’t even tell Phat 2 this story. But I got out of the taxi on (sp) Carrantina Sukleen and started walking across the highway, prepared to walk along the wall and take shots. I asked one soldier (sp) “Feeni Sawir?” (Is it ok for me to take pictures of the art?” He said yes, so I proceeded. Then, shortly after, he came up to me and said no. So, I ran back across the highway and took a zoom shot of the big Phat 2 and then started trying to hail a cab. Which is strange because usually cabs are everywhere. So, I ended up walking quite a bit and I ran into a military vehicle and another soldier. He asked what I was doing, why I was taking pictures, who I worked for…I was like, “I love art! Graffiti! I travel around the world taking pictures…” And I pointed to the Phat 2 tag and was like “That’s Phat 2! He’s famous!” (Come on!) And he let me go. Haha…
TOKIDOKI: Is graffiti legal in Lebanon? If not, what are the penalties?
PHAT 2: “To make this short, graffiti is 90% legal here. The remaining 10% depends on which area and which wall you’re painting on. in a nutshell, the authorities have more important things to take care of, and so far, graffiti still doesn’t pose a threat to society. Until then, all a cop does is a quick interrogation on the spot to check if what you’re painting is political and/or religious. And from your answers, after having proved to him that it’s neither, you will be let go peacefully and left to carry on painting whatever you were painting. That’s why it’s the “street artists” that have more trouble here…as opposed to graffiti writers doing big colorful monikers…”
TD: What do you intend to accomplish in the future with your art?
PH2: “I don’t have any intentions for the future, I don’t really plan that much ahead with Graff since it’s not my main job. I have a day job that earns me money. Graff is a hobby to me, so I have aspirations rather than expectations. I would love to make it a point to travel more and paint abroad, priority goes to the UK in 2014, Germany in 2015, Belgium in 2016, and Switzerland in 2017. Maybe open my own graff shop here in Beirut. I really don’t know what the future holds for me. Live everyday like it’s the last.”
TOKIDOKI: Where did you get your name?
PHAT 2: “It’s obviously a play on the word ‘fat’ and I’m chubby. Plus, there’s already a Phat 1.”
TD: Do you like Banksy?
PH2: Yes, I like Banksy. Specifically for his creativity and his courage.”
Major thanks to Phat 2 for his time, his strong opinions (some things have been left off the record and we’ll continue our chat privately for a variety of reasons…) Peace!
AUG13. Beirut, Lebanon.