from the archives
Over the weekend the hubster and I watched the indie documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which films various street artists, (also known as graffiti artists) in their quest to cover cities with their artwork. The most infamous of the street artists is the elusive Banksy, who also happened to produce the film.
Banksy has pulled off some of the most genius/risky/devious pranks and art displays among all street artists. He appears in the film with his face blacked out, voice disguised–still an enigma. No one knows who this mystery man is but, his creativity and talent are undeniable, even if you disagree with his mode of operation.
After watching this movie, I realized…I think I love vandalism…
My favorite Banksy work is a stencil of a girl holding a bouquet of balloons, being lifted up and away over the controversial Israeli West Bank barrier. He created a total of nine stencils on the security wall, most of them, as the Guardian explains, “provocative without being directly polemical.”
Exit Through the Giftshop is, on the other hand, quite ambiguous and leaves audiences guessing, as to who is the real Banksy? It may in fact be a mockumentary, as many speculate, but either way, I was hooked. The risks these artists take to have their work displayed is staggering. The political messages, the social commentary, the resistance to the status quo: Glorious.
I loved every second of it. I was even weighing whether or not I too could become a controversial yet mysterious street artist. I’d name myself She-Ra, after my favorite girlhood cartoon character.
After the movie however, I admitted to my husband that if I see some schmuck with a rusty can of green spray paint throwing some hideous slashes, crisscrosses or, heaven forbid, his name (“Little G Dawg” for instance) up on a city wall, I consider it vandalism. Little G Dawg is a hooligan.
On the other hand, if I see some master of his craft, a Banksy, or Shepard Fairey, or JR, and watch them leave behind a magnificent piece of artwork, albeit still on the side of a public building, well, then I call that a masterpiece. That’s not graffiti. That is genius. Illegal, yes, but still genius.
Surprisingly, Exit Through the Gift Shop raises some of the same questions: What is art really? Who decides? What process does an artist have to go through in order to be considered a true artist? Is art still art even if it is disposable? Or if it is illegal?
So now I pose the questions to you: When you view “street art” images do you consider them art or graffiti? Is that painting or illustration, displayed illegally on the front of a public building, vandalism or simply unsolicited art? What do you think? Should it be welcomed or prosecuted?