Max Zorn: Tape art shown in a certain light

Most think that brown packing tape is ugly. It’s only practical for sending packages. I would have thought the same thing just a few weeks ago. Until I heard of Max Zorn and saw exactly what one could do with this seemingly boring material. Zorn has brought something new appearing from the street art scene! The 30-year-old Dutchman brings these tape rolls to life and brightens the night with  fascinating works of art in cities worldwide. In 2011 it all began on a street lamp in Amsterdam … Today Max Zorn is an internationally known artist.

max zorn tape art work

What do you do? And where do you live? -I have just come back from France to Amsterdam to work here on two exciting projects. Amsterdam has become my home even though I travel a lot. But it was always like that. I was born in the Netherlands but grew up in Austria and Germany.How old are you and since when did you meet “tape” as your medium of choice? I just turned 30 and it was not as bad as expected! I’ve been using tape for over two years now and it takes up most of my time. It’s like a marriage, I have good and bad times with the cursed tape!

max zorn collage

Did you start with this art “in the street” like other graffiti artists? -Yep, it all started with the idea to make Street Art that works at night. I had long planned to use the city lights for making street art, but it was with tape that things really started to get going. Amsterdam was the perfect place for it. There are hundreds of old street lamps along the canals. I could not have asked for anything better for my tape images.

What was your first work of tape art?

Boxer-max zorn-My first image that consisted only of tape is of a boxer, which is still hanging on a street lamp in Amsterdam. In the beginning I used packing tape to fill in larger sections of my marker drawings. Once I hung them on street lamps, the light’s effect opened up new ideas with ditching markers and just using tape… That was the beginning.

When did you realize art begin to gain notoriety? -After I was asked this for the thousandth time, ¨How do you do it?¨ I was tired of giving cryptic explanations and instead just added a video that shows me making the work. I uploaded this short video to Youtube but the next day went to Portugal to surf for a month. When I came back, I had noticed the video had reached all corners of the internet and I had thousands of emails in my inbox. It was then that I slowly realized that I probably would not get rid of the tape so quickly.


In your videos you wear a protection around the nose and mouth – are you shy or is the tape smell harmful? ;-)  -Street art falls under a grey area. It’s not yet been a problem for me in Europe, but in countries such as Singapore, China, (etc.) things are a bit more risky. Therefore I am not interested in showing my face on camera. I also believe that the art should be in the limelight, not the artist.

What fascinates you about the tape art? Is it how the light interacts with the works? -Yes, it is is how the light plays against the various layers of tape that continues to draw me under its spell. Usually, I do not really know what a design will look like and therefore I rely entirely on the effect of the tape. Often, houses, roads, and other contours emerge quite naturally from the linear structure of the tape. Much like a sculptor works with a stone or tree trunk, I create my images working together with the tape. The light and the possibility to give the image more depth, layer by layer. This, for me, is what makes the whole process magical.

Do you know before starting each work, exactly what you want to do? Or do you let the tape take over? -At the beginning of each piece, I have a pretty good idea of the design, but often, once I start, everything changes very quickly. What looked good as a pencil sketch, sometimes does not work with tape. So I mostly rely on my hands and tape to know what they are doing. It is the most fun when I do not know myself what it looks like in the end.


What inspires you? You have many classics, for example, James Dean and other images from the 50s … -For some reason, I have an affinity for nostalgic and film noir imagery. Where it comes from, I just don´t know. I think it has something to do with the fact that I’ve always been a fan of authors such as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac. It is often the nature of this kind of storytelling, which I incorporate into my images.


Do you use your fame for special projects? -”Stick Together” is a good example of what I like about urban art and, like so many others, want to continue with. In this case, the idea to see art as something that allows others to experience real meaning only in the context of the city.GetASticker

I never thought that the project would become so popular, but it shows how enthusiastic and relaxed most feel about urban art. This project is an ongoing initiative committed to providing a limitless amount of art to a global community wanting to get active on the street.

What do you especially enjoy about your work? -The freedom to create. Sometimes I complain about the workload, but I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything in the world.

Anything that annoys you? -Tape, especially when I wake up in the morning and it´s stuck in my hair!

Do you have a favorite image? -Always the latest one!

max zorn collage light

Street Art can change the WORLD? How can we promote it? -The world can only change itself. but street art can be a symbol for the freedom to express our political, social and aesthetic ideas in public. It shows on a small scale that we can help shape, influence, and only when we have the courage to do so, change our environment. This may sometimes be underestimated in our relatively open societies but, in other parts of the world but it can mean everything.

OK … then it’s settled, I can call on our readers to order a sticker and attach it in their city ;-) ?

Sure, I’m happy that so many people want to participate. But I have to say that I get 100 requests a day, and since each sticker is a work of art, made by hand, I can not make more than one per day. The chance to get a sticker right away is not very likely… but that should not stop anyone from trying.

In September you will be participating in Freiburg, the first Frei-Cycle Design Fair for Recycling & Upcycling. How do you feel about the subject?
When I was asked to participate, I had to think a long time before saying yes. Without question, the issue of sustainability is of particular importance, but is often regarded as dull or comes across as wagging the finger. I find it refreshing to bring people together, the creative and ordinary to deal with the question of how we handle our conscious and intelligent use of resources. What some view as trash, is the building material for art and design furniture for others. This mentality will hopefully ignite new ideas and concepts for a more prudent use of our resources.

Do you have any tips for other creative professionals and those who wish to pursue art?
Just this, don’t feel like you have to do it and get started on it now. The opinions of others can be a huge motivation, but we must not be fazed when doing things that can sometimes be viewed as obscure. That’s the joke of creativity: a thousand others have tried the same before you, it wouldn’t be anything more imaginative. However, you can still venture onto thin ice.

Max, thank you! If you are currently working on a project, initiative, (etc.) let us know! We would love to write about it!

Here is a call to all of Freiburg. Prior to “Frei Cycle” we bring “Stick Together” to Freiburg: We will hide some small tape art in the city and whoever is the first one to get a photo of it, gets a free ticket for the “free-cycle” as well as other awards. Visit the Facebook Page. There you will find all the information about the project. Good luck with your search!

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