Thursday, 25 August 2011

Banksy - Pulling the Wool Over Your Eyes

Banksy it seems, will always remain an enigma. No one knows his identity, and yet he is one of the most recognised artists in modern Britain, largely through his achievement of taking the reviled art of ‘graffiti’ and making it the now publically acceptable ‘street art’.

What’s the difference? Where do we draw the line?

In the film Exit Through the Gift Shop ‘directed’ by Banksy, what starts out as a film you expect to be about Banksy himself, turns out to be about another artist ‘Mr. Brainwash’ or (‘MBW’ for short) who attempts to follow in his footsteps and become a street artist himself.

Now we all know about Banksy’s pieces provoking thought and turning conceptions on its head - so what about this film? As well as the initial ‘trick’ of having the film be about another artist, the film throws up questions about the nature of ‘art’, the fashions it goes through, herd mentatility and how someone can (as MBW does in the film) go straight into the business end of it - seeing it more as a means to an end rather than the process?

Is the film itself a Banksy ‘piece’? Is MBW even real?

The flipside to Banksy’s shenanigans is presented in the Channel 4 documentary Graffiti Wars in which underground graffiti legend King Robbo talks about his long standing feud with Banksy after the alleged desecration of a 25 year old King Robbo piece – a severe faux pas in the writing scene.

Robbo laments how Banksy’s ideas are stolen from other artists, how his stencils are a too easy a method delivery and how his ‘street art’ is now recognised as 'legitimate' and protected in London whilst all other graffiti is painted over and erased.

This further fuels the debate of what is classed as art and what is not. What makes the leaders of the graffiti scene wallow in obscurity whilst Bansky has become a household name?

This kind of discussion would be better suited elsewhere so we wont be delving into it here, but it seems generally that people cannot agree on an objective answer.

And why should they? After all, it's subjective; some people just seem to feel the answer after looking at a piece as it creates a gut emotion within them.

Perhaps this is why Banksy can so easily continue to pull the wool over our eyes.

23 Aug 2011

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