La Vie en Rose: An interview with Tom Moore, as part of 48 Hours Neukölln

Tom Moore is a multidisciplinary British artist currently living in Berlin (Tom's pronouns are they/their.) Their art involves drawing, music, and fashion design. We caught up ahead of their exhibition at 48 Hours Neukölln to talk about alter-egos, authenticity, old Hollywood starlets and the color pink.

Tom Moore

A guest post for Omnified by Ariane Coulombe

Ariane Coulombe is a student, writer and art enthusiast living in Berlin. She has lived in Canada, Switzerland, and Germany, where she has conducted many research projects, namely on the factors behind political success and the rise of political extremism. She is a Master of International Affairs candidate at the Hertie School of Governance and holds a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and Modern Languages, focusing on German literature. Besides academia, her interests include classical music, philosophy of language and French cinema.

Tom Moore is a multidisciplinary British artist currently living in Berlin (Tom’s pronouns are they/their.) Their art involves drawing, music, and fashion design. We caught up ahead of their exhibition at 48 Hours Neukölln to talk about alter-egos, authenticity, old Hollywood starlets and the color pink.

Ariane Coulombe (AC): When I first got in touch with you Tom, the font of your email reply was pink. Your website is also mostly written in pink. On Friday you are giving a talk about the color pink. So why pink?

Tom Moore (TM): The talk I’m giving is actually based on a show for which I submitted work a while ago. The theme of the show was just that: pink. They only accepted pink work, that was the whole concept. I submitted a photograph of a t-shirt that I painted and got an email back from them saying “we don’t know if this is pink send another picture with better lighting.” Of course it was pink! I ended up meeting one of the curators at an event and got into an argument with her.

AC: What was the argument about?

TM: Pink. Red, blue and green are fully saturated and pure, you can have a reddest-red or a bluest-blue, but pink is ephemeral, it’s hard to tell and hard to define pink.

The talk was about the nature of color theory and the idea of cultural authenticity. All this ties back into the t-shirt I designed: It has a picture of Justin Bieber in black metal paint on it. It’s a funny story actually, I bought the t-shirt in Warsaw. We got kicked out of the bar because of homophobia, then got followed home. As some kind of psychic revenge I bought an extravagant amount of boy band merchandise, part of which was this Justin Bieber t-shirt which reads “Justin Forever.” He’s about fourteen in the picture, so the idea of “Justin Forever” is funny to me.

I re-designed the t-shirt and it became the cover for my album “Goth Face Forever”: The main theme deals with time shifting and our own perceptions and then…who knew? It turns out that Justin Bieber is a huge heavy metal fan.

AC: You have several artist names. Does having an alter-ego affect your art in any way?

TM: I guess so, my own name is more [for] business. The others are more constructed, but both are serious. It started out when I made the first record under the name “Ignatz Höch.” There was a bigger division between me and him, it was more aggressive (and) fiercely independent

AC: Because of the anonymity?

TM: In a way. I just didn’t want to be hostile all the time. When I woke up to have breakfast I wanted to be warm and cozy. That part of me could be soft. The others could be cold and gothic.

AC: What’s the thought process behind the different names?

TM: “Cyd Precious” is a name I use to DJ. A delicate version of Sid Vicious, if you will. Also Cyd after Cyd Charisse the Hollywood dancer. She danced with Fred Astaire in the 50’s.

Ignatz Höch is twofold: Ignatz is named after a cartoon mouse from the 1920’s comic strip Crazy Cat; it’s about a cat, a mouse, and a dog. The cat is in love with the mouse, the dog is in love with the cat.

AC: Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos meets Animal Farm?

TM: Everything (in the) strip is the same: the mouse throws bricks at the cat and the dog, who’s a cop, arrests the mouse. The cat sees the brick as a love letter from the mouse…

Oh, and Höch comes from the German Dada collagist Hannah Höch, who is truly the best.

AC: So, the different personalities, do they provide different outlets?

TM: The work had to happen the way it did, it is the way it is, it isn’t about there being a core identity, there is a multiplicity of identities and you can’t be everything all the time. It made sense for a particular work to (be) made in the way that is was and for the person who made it to be a different person than for another project, all at the same time, if that makes sense.

AC: Does this tie in at all to Berlin and the effect that an environment or a city can have on art? Lots of art seeks to provoke. Is provoking for the sake of provoking still authentic?

TM: There is a lot going on here…[those] aren’t full-time artists to express themselves. The work can be looser, more relaxed, more realistic in a way. You see a wider variety of work. That variety makes it more authentic.

I lived in London for a while and putting up a show there is very hard: It’s competitive and expensive. It’s not that there are more people invested in DIY culture in Berlin, it’s that the infrastructure is better made for it, the barriers are lower, which means wild things can happen all the time, which in turn allows for or leads to people making shocking art. A lot of artists I like make shocking work.

AC: As an artist, you’re obviously trying to convey your own message, but as a full-time artist there is often a financial aspect to consider or the desire to appeal to a certain crowd. Does art need to be a strictly personal endeavor for it to be genuine?

TM: Art is just people trying to communicate. If you’re making work for yourself without wanting people to see it, there is no communication. To enter a conversation, you need a language.

I personally really like the idea of tradition. The work I’m making for the festival I consider historical portraiture, the subjects are political. The subjects are all women who either married or protected queer men. Women like Penny Arcade, Else Lanchester, Betty White. I…pay tribute to these women who had very complicated lives. There is a lot of misogyny within the gay scene and historically gay men owe a lot to women who cared for them. The [pieces] are presented as jewels and will be pinned to a fabric backing, kind of like butterfly specimens. It’s the story of where history-meets-artifacts-meets-precious objects.

But I’ve made the work the way it is both for its message but also for its aesthetic value. Both play an important role. They are drawings, graphite on paper, but they are collaged through Photoshop. It’s a relationship between drawing and photo montage using print technique, all this mixed with photographs taken in the botanical gardens.

AC: Where did the idea come from?

TM: I love old Hollywood.

AC: You call yourself an artist, filmmaker, designer.

TM: And a teacher!

AC: Do you feel the need to differentiate yourself from your art?

TM: I can’t speak about myself, but when I think of other artists, like Roman Polanski, Karl André, etc., there are plenty of artists that have done despicable things, then we ask ourselves if we can still take their work seriously. Can we separate them from their art? To be honest…I can’t separate the person from the thing. I’m still the teen with the posters on the wall and I can’t have someone whom I love as an artist doing things that are morally bankrupt.

AC: Is meaning in art important? Or does it even matter?

TM: My work is project-based, what it is, is usually what it is. I value my art having a relationship with history. I want my work to be seen and understood with its backstory but I also want it to stand on its own, to be aesthetically interesting. Like, [my] portraits…are pretty, trippy and psychedelic, but…other of my works are much more stripped down, more minimal.

AC: Going back to your talk, is pink a feminine color?

TM: Pink is a feminine color because it gets used that way in the culture, of course, but also, there are also many pink things aren’t inherently feminine. But pink has more meaning than other colors.

There is a weird thing about pink and magenta: the light spectrum goes from infrared, which we can’t see, to ultraviolet, but when we think of colors in pictures and paintings, it’s in the form of a color wheel. Red goes into magenta, then purple then blue, but this is because of the receptors in our eyes: red, blue, and green. If blue and red fire together it creates magenta, but it’s only a color that exists in your perception of light.

It’s red and blue light, two receptors firing at the same time. Magenta is only the absence of green: It’s an imaginary color that our eyes invent to tie it all together.

The light spectrum is a straight line but our perception is a circle. Magenta or pink, is the color we use to tie it all together. When it gets to the point where we can’t recognize a certain color, our eye will invent a new color.

Tom Moore’s work will be exhibited as part of the 48 Hours Neukölln art festival (details here). Alongside their other projects, Tom gives art classes at reSource, a self-organized neighborhood event space in Neukölln. Tom’s next endeavors include a video game with hairdressers and medieval enactments of non-binary trans issues, as well as making music with their friend Ben. Their long-term film project about Montgomery Clift is still pending.

Photos of Tom Moore’s work by Ariane Coloumbe and Tom Moore