Posts Tagged ‘Banksy’

Public art of the day

Posted: 6 October 2013 in Uncategorized
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Banksy

And property is theft. . .

Slave+Labor+(Bunting+Boy),+London,+2012

The controversial auction of “Slave Labour (Bunting Boy)” [ht: ja], a Banksy mural that disappeared from the wall of a north London shop in mysterious circumstances, was dramatically halted on Saturday just moments before it was due to go under the hammer.

As for the rest of the contemporary art market,

While a few high-profile crimes have brought the most egregious art world misdeeds to light, a whole host of surreptitious or underhand maneuvers – most of which are perfectly legal – remain in shadow. Notoriously unregulated, the American art market has metastasized in recent years, even as the American economy has sputtered.

And for financiers, oligarchs and other “ultra high net worth individuals”, the art world offers a spectacular two-in-one deal. In addition to reliably strong returns on investment at the very top of the market, art offers instant social prestige to people who may have already made their fortunes, sometimes in a manner not in keeping with the art world’s supposed progressive values.

At Art Basel Miami Beach this past December, several dealers publicly lamented the absence of the billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen, once one of their most reliable collectors. Cohen is currently under investigation over allegations related to insider trading. The Justice Department has not pressed charges against Cohen or his firm, SAC Capital Advisors, and Cohen has always maintained that he has acted appropriately. Six employees of SAC have been convicted or pled guilty to insider trading; others have been assisting federal authorities in their investigation. . .

All of this has a direct effect on artists, and on the art they make. “The vast majority of artists are struggling, underpaid, underemployed, and under-recognized,” [artist Andrea] Fraser said. “Like the majority of workers in other fields, they feel like victims of a system over which they have no control.” Her students at UCLA, where she teaches an undergraduate course on the social and economic aspects of art, “find it pretty devastating”.

Public art of the day

Posted: 21 October 2012 in Uncategorized
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source [ht: sm]

What does it mean to you to be a radical?

Connie Doebele put that question to Alexander Cockburn in an in-depth C-SPAN interview in 2007.

My own answer is: a radical is someone who doesn’t blame the victims.

A Melbourne builder has destroyed a valuable piece of street art by Banksy by drilling a hole through it to put in a bathroom pipe.

Here’s the original:

Public art of the day

Posted: 16 December 2011 in Uncategorized
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Banksy, “Cardinal Sin”

The following post was contributed by Mike Fleisch.

“Why Is Exit Through the Gift Shop Nominated for Best Documentary?” ask Linda Flanagan and Sarah Sangree. It’s a fair question. How did the organization responsible for cementing in the public consciousness a cinema-value system of movie stars and marketing budgets manage to get this one right? To include a work for our consideration that so compellingly and directly challenges mainstream conceptions of art, celebrity, and authorship, among other things? Unfortunately, Flanagan and Sangree take a different stance:

Exit Through the Gift Shop purports to tell the story of Thierry Guetta, a slightly unhinged vintage clothing store owner-turned-filmmaker who falls in love with street art, meets and compulsively films its iconic and secretive creators, and then, in a film within-a-film shot by Banksy, supposedly discovers his own artistic potential. His new alter ego is known as Mr. Brainwash, and his derivative “art,” manufactured by assistants, is a huge commercial success. Banksy and Shepard Fairey (known for his Obama Hope poster) chuckle over their friend’s good fortune even as they gently mock him…

Audiences have lapped it up. Viewers congratulate themselves for being so postmodern, and so very smart… There are enough questions about Banksy’s role, the real identity of Guetta, and whether this is all an elaborate piece of performance art to drop it from consideration…

Nonfiction work has its own creative category in literature and media because it is a distinct intellectual and artistic endeavor, and veracity is its main claim to legitimacy. When The New York Times or The New Republic find a plagiarist in their midst, alarms go off and heads roll…

It’s hard to make sense of this film’s nomination in the documentary category, except as a ploy by the Academy to remain relevant with a younger audience that is presumably indifferent to truth and sympathetic to guerrilla graffiti artists.

The authors apparently feel “lied to,” and take exception to perceived dishonesty in a mode that they believe to be inherently about Truth-tellers telling the Truth. They’re hung up on mercifully outdated notions of agency, individual genius, and represented reality. Notice that the events of the film remain unquestioned: the street art scenes depicted, Mr. Brainwash’s rise… these are not in dispute. The ambiguity Flanagan and Sangree resent is rather: are the interviewees lying, and is Guetta for real– is he a real artist? Are we to take him seriously? What is the answer!?

For starters, we have to understand how the category Best Documentary­–Feature itself reflects cultural and historical influences. Ignoring for a moment the problematic subjectivity hinted at by the word “Best,” let’s quickly review the historical documentary mode of filmmaking.

When first the Lumiere brothers changed the world by putting light to intermittently moving celluloid, short films of trains entering stations and workers leaving factories resulted. The commercial moving image was born with these “actuality films,” rooted in spectacle. Soon travelogues and the films of Robert Flaherty purported to show audiences how Eskimos lived; Flaherty famously asked hunters to use harpoons instead of their preferred shotguns. Dziga Vertov contributed to the Soviet Kino-Pravda (Film Truth!) newsreel series by manipulating the medium itself, with varying film speeds, lenses, and experimental editing. Wartime newsreel footage frequently involved reenactments for the camera, and then propaganda film really got going in World War II, with Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will pitted against Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series. And right there we have our first Oscar-winning Best Documentary of feature length… In 1942, twenty-five nominees, all war propaganda, were pared down to four winners, including Prelude to War, the first of Capra’s series (also nominated was Mr. Gardenia Jones, starring Ronald Reagan in the title role). But then, would any blue-blooded, honest-to-goodness Real American in 1942 have called these films anything other than The Truth?

Technological advances and shrinking cameras led to handheld cinematography and the midcentury phenomena of cinéma-vérité and direct cinema, which aimed to remove the distancing mechanism of mediation and place viewers in the middle of the action. Werner Herzog most eloquently refutes this approach:

Cinema is inherently able to present a number of dimensions much deeper than the level of truth that we find in cinéma vérité and even reality itself, and it is these dimensions that are the most fertile areas for filmmakers. I truly hope to be one of those to finally bury cinéma vérité for good…Cinéma vérité is the accountant’s truth, it merely skirts the surface of what constitutes a deeper form of truth in cinema.

Herzog addresses his comments to the formal elements and stylistic choices of vérité, but we can apply them with equal weight to the modern practice of documentary film as fact-based journalism-argument, here described and advocated by Flanagan and Sangree:

The best (documentaries) combine trenchant investigative journalism with compelling characters and a well-crafted narrative, shining a light into unexplored corners and challenging us to think about the world in a new way. We hold documentary filmmakers and other purported truth-tellers to a higher standard because sometimes what we learn drives us to change how we think, feel and live. We have to trust them.

Doesn’t really resonate, does it? They’re talking about a classroom exercise, a transfer of declarative sentences from one with knowledge to one without– a trusting, open soul just waiting for sufficiently clear marching orders. It takes real condescension to allow the audience so little responsibility.

Contrast this with the challenge Exit Through the Gift Shop poses for a viewer. The film manages to:

  • tell the story of a real-life art “success story,” Mr. Brainwash, from bystander to worldwide phenomenon and economic wonder
  • translate the ethos and philosophy of street art, its project, to the medium of film, including the balancing acts of entertainment and craft, of claimed ownership and gift
  • ask questions about authenticity and authorship, both within the narrative and by the film’s very existence and controversy
  • allow audiences to interpret motive, character, and scenario for themselves, without clear heroes and villains
  • BACKGROUND the best existing footage of street art practice, by the world’s most prolific and recognized practitioners

Looking again, Flanagan and Sangree’s summary of the best docs (minus “trenchant investigative journalism”) literally, if incompletely, describes Exit:

…compelling characters and a well-crafted narrative, shining a light into unexplored corners and challenging us to think about the world in a new way.

The question is, how do we respond to the challenge? And…how did the Academy get it right?

The opening credits for last night’s episode of “The Simpsons” was storyboarded and directed by none other than Banksy.

The video has been pulled from YouTube “due to a copyright claim by Twentieth Century Fox,” but it’s still available here.

On last night’s episode of “The Simpsons,” the credit sequence started as normal. The only hint that things might be awry was the word “Banksy” scrawled across a few of the walls and billboards of Springfield. But once the family hit the couch, things got interesting. The show outsources much of its animation to South Korea, and the sequence focuses on the sweatshop conditions of a Fox animation gulag: overworked adults and children dip cels into toxic materials, decapitated dolphin heads seal packages, and a chained and sickly unicorn punches holes in “Simpsons” DVDs.

Anyone who has seen my various web sites in recent years knows I’m a big fan of Banksy’s work—and of public/street art more generally.

Now, Banksy has a film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which Ben Davis thinks is a poison valentine to the street art movement.

I haven’t seen the film yet (given my relative isolation on the mountain) but it wouldn’t surprise me if, in fact, Banksy uses his film to ask questions about the so-called street art movement. What counts as street art? (I changed the designation on this blog from graffiti to public art awhile back.) Has street art just become a form of global marketing—for commodities or for the artists themselves? (The pieces I have chosen for this site tend to have a “critical” edge, especially about economic issues.)

Gallery art focuses, ultimately, on selling status symbols to rich people, but for this very reason it tends to maintain a certain distance from corporate design. Street art is hostile to established commercial art channels, but has been altogether more comfortable moving in and out of mass commercial culture.

But, in my understanding of modern art history, there’s no artistic movement that has maintained a purely aesthetic sensibility separate from “the market” or, more generally, capitalist forms of economic organization. (I’d also argue the reverse: there’s no capitalism separate from notions of aesthetic value.)

The more interesting question is, does public/street art create, in the art itself, a notion of value distinct from capitalist value? Is there a sense in which public/street art represents something like the gift and therefore a critique of capitalist notions of value? I’ll have to see if Banksy poses a question like that when I finally have the opportunity to see his film. . .

Graffiti of the day

Posted: 21 December 2009 in Uncategorized
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Banksy [more here]