Tuesday, February 7, 2012

To the Wall

I love mysteries.  I can't get enough of them, whether it be in movies, books,  or video games.  It's part of the reason I'm majoring in forensic science.  It may also be part of the reason why, when I was younger, I was drawn to the author Lemony Snicket.  Here was an author who not only wrote entertaining children's novels, but was a mysterious figure.  No one knew what he looked like, where he was from, or really anything about him.  When I found Snicket to be just the pseudonym of Daniel Handler, Snicket's "handler", I was disappointed.  Snicket was the ultimate mystery figure to me at the time, and I was disappointed to learn his true identity.  Sure, Mr. Handler was creative to have the author of the book series actually become a charcter/spectator in the same world in which he was writing, but Snicket just didn't have the same impact on me.

But there is one creative individual out there who remains unmasked, an artist whose works don't line the walls of art galleries, but rather the walls of the word itself.  His name is Banksy.

One of Nine images by Banksy on the Israeli West Bank Barrier
For a lot of people, Banksy is a familiar name, especially to those in Europe.  But for others who have not heard of Banksy, or seen his work (other than the above picture), here's a quick rundown.  Banksy is a graffiti artist, using his artwork to get a political, and often humorous, statement to the masses.  He started in the early 1990's as a part of  underground street art scene of Bristol, England (where Banksy is supposedly from).  He started doing both stencils and free-form graffiti, but later changed to strictly stencils. Banksy and his work grew in popularity over the the next two decades as he began to expand his target locations across not only England, but the rest of the world.  He himself has placed his works in various museums and even Disneyland rides.

Banksy's "No Future" on the side of a Southampton home.

Banksy's true creativity shows in how he incorporates his surroundings, not only just the political issues of the time but also the physical surroundings.  For example, in one famous work, Banksy takes a simple "No Trespassing" sign and turns it into a clever statement about encroachment on Native American lands (pictured below).  He finds a way to make a bold, often controversial statement and add a dark, humorous tone to it.  In response to the censorship of his work (which there is much of), Banksy created the image of a normal building painter painting over a Banksy work.  The twist comes in noticing that at the same time, Banksy's work is getting rid of the painter as well, simply by killing him.  Death is a staple of dark-humor, and Banksy features it prominently in his works, along with other themes such as anti-war and anti-capitalism, among others.

One could say Banksy has a negative view on the art world as well.  He has been quoted saying "the art world is the biggest joke going," calling it "the home for the over-priveledged, pretentious, and weak."  Like many great artists, he is critical of his own work.  In response to the auction house Sotheby's selling his work, he posted on his website "I can't believe you morons actually buy this shit."

Because graffiti often carries a highly negative connotation, there are many who are not a fan of his work.  There are those members of the initiative Keep Britain Tidy that say his work is a glorification of vandalism.  Other graffiti artists, such as "The Father of Stencil Graffiti" Blek le Rat (clearly huge influence on the work of Banksy) has questioned the integrity of Banksy, wondering if Banksy is flat out copying his style. But the biggest piece of criticism I came across came from a famous art critic Matthew Collings.  Collings called Banksy's work "entertaining bits of rubbish on a wall", and that "it's quite obvious [Banksy's art] isn't really anything."

Some of you reading this may agree that this isn't truly art.  The messages Banksy portrays can be a little off-setting to some.  But, to many, his work is art, art in a form that hits close to home.  A form often considered to be of a depressing and damaging nature.  Banksy displays his personal views, views that are becoming much more prevalent, for the whole world to see.

1 comment:

  1. I think this example really draws attention to the issue of validating creativity. As pointed out, some people are very moved and impressed by Banksy's art, use of environment, and his messages. Others see his work simply as scribbling and as the defacement of buildings. So who is right? Is anyone? Can that questioned be answered? I guess that's the underlying question of this entire course! Bansky sort of challenges the approach we've talked about that the individual is connected to the domain and field he or she operates in by denouncing his domain and drawing mixed reviews from his field. It could also be argued that he works in multiple domains/fields if one were to look at his standing in the underground street art scene and in the art scene in general. It would be really interesting to learn more about him as an individual and find out what causes him to see a certain environment as an ideal canvas / piece to incorporate into his art and to understand his motivations for the messages he expresses. What caused him to abandon traditional means of showcasing his art and instead make his art part of the world around him? What inspires the themes he conveys in his works? I was very intrigued after reading this post, and I'll definitely have to find out more about Bansky since I find what he does very original and engaging! Thanks for sharing. :)


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