(One of the posts I wrote on my Swell 24.7 blog in my previous life as a gift store owner in the busy tourist town of Provincetown on Cape Cod; posts that are grouped here under the category What Else Is Swell?, and are generally about life in Provincetown, life as a retailer, our fabulous dog Jack who sat outside the store for well over a decade, and other random things that grabbed me at the time.)
OK, I admit it, I’ve got Banksy fever. Like much of the country (well the artsy, independent documentary film watching part of it at least) I can’t get enough of the renegade mystery street artist whose film Exit Through the Gift Shop (dubbed the world’s first street art disaster movie) has been nominated for an Academy Award. To be fair I’ve been a fan since long before the film. My Mom lives in Bristol, Banksy’s home town, so that was my home base for close to ten years. But, to be fair again, it was a long time after I left the UK, let alone Bristol, that I first became aware of him through some article in The Guardian. I was totally captivated by this picture which had appeared overnight.
I like to think that maybe I saw some of his work in person during some foray around Bristol, but I really can’t swear to it. There was a lot of graffiti; some of it was pretty interesting. It may have been his but I don’t know for sure. Over the years he’s done pieces on random back street buildings and more visible walls like Israel’s West Bank barrier.
And he is not just famous for his graffiti but also for stunts like when he hangs his own work in famous art galleries (often unnoticed for many day), or puts Guantanamo dummies next to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland; or for 3D pieces like this phone box.
Political, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, thought provoking, funny, mindless vanadlism; all of the above?
Fast forward to 2010 when Exit Through the Gift Shop hits the indie film festival circuit, though sadly not the one in Provincetown so I ended up seeing it through Netflix. And then forward again to 2011 when the film becomes a surprise nomination for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars airing this Sunday evening.
And now Banksy is everywhere.
In the run up to the Oscars he has apparently arrived in LA and is painting the town red (and black, and blue, and yellow and every other color); most famously this billboard on the Sunset Strip that was swiftly removed by the billboard company. (If they are smart they will put it safely away as Banksy pieces go for hundreds of thousands of dollars, or pounds, these days.)
It’s amazing that anyone can do this much painting in such a busy location and not be noticed doing it. You’ve got to admire that, even if you think it’s wrong. Of course he works at night and much of his art is done with stencils but it has still got to take some time to execute, and yet he never seems to get caught.
And for the record I think the film is a hoax, of sorts. Maybe better described as a film about a hoax; but the ultimate Banksy installation art piece nonetheless. (I believed every word of it until Thierry Guetta needs to create 500 original works of art for the first 500 people to show up to his exhibit and he does it by splattering paint on 500 identical images – while his wheelchair is being pushed passed the rows of paper. Right. Yeah, that’s definitely when doubts started to set in.) And what better way to top off the ultimate piece of guerrilla art than to win an Oscar for it?
What intrigues me the most is what will happen at the ceremony on Sunday. Not will he pull some stunt on stage while accepting the award (should he win it), but will the security people know what to do if someone shows up in a hoodie claiming to be him? How will they know it’s him? Or not him? (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences apparently first claimed no one could receive an award in disguise, and then apparently back tracked and said Banksy was welcome. Smart move; the street cred is certainly something the ceremony could use.)
I’m predicting that hundreds will show up in hoodies claiming to be Banksy? I would not be at all surprised if Banksy himself has been recruiting similarly statured ex pats (they would have to have British accents) and furnishing them with loosely fitting hooded garments ready for a slow but constant deja vu down the red carpet at the Kodak Theater.
Now that could even top the audacity of the film itself.
These are some of my favorites but you can see lots more Banksy images at his website or here.