Banksy Does New York
I watched this Banksy (I know) film on Sky Arts last night.
Sky gets a bad rep. Their money has pretty much ruined football, their news channel is nothing more than shameless propaganda and their owners practically run the country. These are all things which I, as a person, firmly disagree with.
But they also supply my superior TV and broadband package, and I even subscribe to Sky Sports (they show NFL and test match cricket, what do you want from me?). When it comes to Sky, I'm a walking contradiction and confusion personified.
Those contradictions balance the need to be pleased with the blind devotion to ugly commercialism, and they are the key themes in this film. Banksy spent a whole month unveiling a new street art/graffiti installation each day, on the streets of New York. The film isn't made, curated or even approved by the artist himself, but somebody is obviously profiting from this month long project and the general heritage of his name.
Maybe it's even actually him, who knows? Just like when he installs something on a garden wall, it is suddenly worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and he doesn't reap the financial rewards. One point of the film is that his work is often stolen and sold for private profit. 'He doesn't report his work as stolen though, so how is it stealing?' is one defence put forward for this. Some of the losers on the film spend their time hunting out his work all month and they think people are stealing from him (and them, as fans) when they sell it on, yet they clearly seem the most gutted that it isn't themselves who are making a quick buck. The whole thing is very confusing and exposes people's greed as much as it provokes thought or enjoyment.
If it is stealing, who knows? I don't.
What I do know is that some parts of this film stand out as massively impressive. My favourite moment is when Banksy installs a piece deep in the Bronx. Art fans, hipsters and gimps roll up to come and instagram the life out of it. Whilst the crowd grows, a Bronx street guy starts threatening to stamp the installation down unless all the tourists pay him $20. Now that's entrepreneurism.
After all, those White Americans never normally visit or care about his neighbourhood, hence why he has resorted to profiteering out of some sudden interest in his area, thanks to some faceless graffiti, if only to make a couple of hundred dollars on the back of something worth a hundred times that. Those people having to pay $20 wouldn't be having to pay a big scary man to take pictures of something that isn't his to profit from if they, as a whole, did care about his neighbourhood before and after Banksy put some art there.
Really makes you think etc.