Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Banksy on the Inside

Barry Hoggard (a daily must-read, if you're not already) highlighted this last week, and the always-ahead-of-the-crowd Wooster Collective has been all over it. Even the BBC got there before I did (I never was all that quick), but in case you missed them elsewhere, below are some images of the secretive graffiti artist Banksy's work on the highly controversial security wall Israel is building. The Guardian wrote about it this way:

Israel describes it as a vital security barrier, while the UN says it's illegal. But as far as the guerrilla graffiti artist Banksy is concerned, the 425-mile long barrier that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories is a vast concrete canvas too tempting to resist.

Here's a sampler:

Banksy (see his website here and his rational for the wall paintings here) has been in the news before. He's the artist, you may recall, who was hanging his own work in major museums. Wikipedia summarizes the project:

Another of Banksy's tricks involved hanging a piece of his own Art in London's Tate Modern, and as of March 2005, the New York Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History. In May 2005 Bansky's version of primitive cave painting depicting a human figure hunting wildlife while pushing a shopping cart was found hanging in the British Museum.
For me, his pranks seem good-natured enough (although, I hope he doesn't decide to take on galleries), but it was this exchange he posted on his website between himself and a resident of Ramallah that opened my eyes to the humanity in his work:

Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.

Me [Banksy]: Thanks

Old man: We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.
Here's one more image:


Blogger Mark said...

"We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home."

I think it works both ways. In this instance his work draws attention to the inhumanity of it all. In his own wonderful way Bansky proves the wall can be breeched.

8/10/2005 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

on every level.

Bill Gusky

8/10/2005 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Josh said...

I think the statement would have been more interesting if he painted them on the Israeli side of the wall instead of the Palestinian side.

8/10/2005 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous LA artist said...

I really like the idea of trying to add lightness and humor to the situation. Serious people kill each other. People who laugh together could be friends. Very simplistic but with the growing research that shows the smiling does activate your brain and body chemistry in positive ways - I'm all for promoting gentleness and laughter. Bravo, Banksy!!

8/10/2005 05:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like graffiti, and I like where Banksy is coming from. But just like Bush's speeches outside the US, this is for a specific domestic audience. It's not really for the palestinians, is it? His work on the wall plays with conventions of both high art (it's graffiti) and of graffiti (they're high art paintings) and it's says something that it couldn't hurt for the art world or the taggers to hear. He's brilliant also in finding a highly contentious wall to tag. It points to the wall, and it makes sure his work is seen. And his western audience needs to think about this wall, and perhaps he'll help us to do that. He also makes a nice aesthetic-historical connection to the murals on the Berlin Wall.

It isn't as if this work can't speak to some palestinian audience, but no visual or stylistic reference that I can see seems designed to speak to them. The people who walk by this work every day will form a reaction I'm sure, but it could quite likely be a hostile reaction, and can we be sure they are wrong for that?

Banksy the provacatuer may not care, but I have to wonder if his intention was to provide more visual provocation to an encircled and harassed group of people.

8/10/2005 05:54:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

Interesting that each image shows either someone trying to escape to the other side, a means to do so, or that the other side is beautiful.

8/10/2005 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I suspect anonymous is correct. The work seems not designed for the local audience, but rather the Western audience.

How many girls in the Palestinian territory walk around with a ponytail, no scarf, a short dress, and what look like Pilgrim shoes?

Perhaps more than I realize, but it doesn't correspond with the images I normally associate with that region.

8/10/2005 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Excellent points Anonymous. Bansky IS addressing a Western audience, in an attempt to embarrass the builders of the wall.

8/11/2005 07:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a link to another Banksy attempt at embarrassment:


8/11/2005 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

that's awesome JohnF.

have to admit...he's got a great sense of humor.

8/11/2005 10:55:00 AM  

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