Activists Hall of Fame: Banksy

Vegeancia Banksy, an internationally known graffiti artist, activist, director, and painter based in England, creates satirical street art and subversive epigrams that combine irreverent dark humor with graffiti using a distinctive stenciling technique. His work gives a voice to the voiceless living in urban environments. Bansky’s work was born out of the Bristol underground scene, which involved collaborations between artists and musicians.

You have sent the maid home early like a thousand times before

Like a castle in its corner in a medieval game I foresee terrible trouble

And I stay here just the same…..Steely Dan, Dirty Work

Banksy sculpture for Occupy London

Banksy sculpture for Occupy London

His first film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, billed as “the world’s first street art disaster movie,” made its debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In January 2011, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary for the film. Banksy has also self-published several books that contain photos of his work in various countries as well as some of his canvas work and exhibitions, accompanied by his own writings.

AN INTERVIEW WITH BANKSY
By Ossian Ward | Time Out London, Mon Mar 1 2010

Reclusive street artist, Banksy, comes out of the shadows to tell Time Out about his notoriety, ongoing graffiti wars and increasing the value of London property. But not to plug his new film.

Many people claim to have done so, but I have indeed met – albeit accidentally – the real Banksy, an unremarkable, medium-build man wearing glasses, at an East End graffiti jam a few years ago. However, direct access to him is strictly limited nowadays. Banksy nevertheless agreed to an exclusive interview to settle some scores and to create a brand new piece of work for Time Out’s cover, in which he revisits some of his classic pieces featuring royal Foot Guards variously pissing or spraying graffiti on walls. After lots of waiting and furtive messaging, the trail having gone cold many times, he responded to our questions from his bomb-proof bunker. But like Kirk Douglas, I had to make sure that this really was Spartacus first…

Detail of Banksy sculpture at Occupy London

Detail of Banksy sculpture at Occupy London

Is this definitely you? After all, some hacks have been duped into unofficial interviews with imposters, naming no names (the Guardian Guide)…
I wish you were talking to an imposter. I don’t have much of a personality, so it’s difficult to “be” one. Also I want to talk up the film, but I don’t want to talk about it – I’m worried I might ruin the ending. Can we just run a blank page that people can draw on?

Can you at least say why you’ve dubbed this the first ever street-art ‘disaster movie’? Does that mean it’s your last film?
I consider this whole experience to be a disaster on many levels. I think it will be known as my first movie, the one that didn’t lead to a career in filmmaking.

First came the art, then your move into animatronics, then a feature film… does that make you the next Walt Disney?
I’d never thought about it like that. I guess opening a giant theme park for vandals would be next. I was at a holiday camp when ìLicense to Illî by the Beastie Boys came out. Practically every kid had a VW badge hanging around their necks that they’d stolen off a car in town. I remember the police raided the camp and the mayor came and gave us a stern lecture by the paddling pool.

Now that your mugshot has appeared in the paper, do you get recognised on the street?
I know a couple of years ago a bloke claimed he was Banksy to get into a nightclub in Shoreditch and when word went around he got a kicking off some other graffiti writers. It’s in my interest not to comment on any of the photos doing the rounds.

What’s this battle with Robbo and Drax all about, then?
I didn’t deliberately start a battle with Robbo – have you seen the size of him? In the ’90s him and Drax were infamous enough that we’d even heard about them in Bristol. The truth is I didn’t paint over a piece that said “Robbo”, I painted over a piece that said “nrkjfgrekuh”. But either way, I don’t buy into the idea a wall “belongs” to a certain writer, or anyone else for that matter.

Traditional graffiti writers have a bunch of rules they like to stick to, and good luck to them, but I didn’t become a graffiti artist so I could have somebody else tell me what to do. If you’re the type who gets sentimental about people scribbling over your stuff, I suggest graffiti is probably not the right hobby for you.

You are accused by the graffiti community of selling them out? How do you plead?
It’s hard to know what “selling outî means – these days you can make more money producing a run of anti-McDonald’s posters than you can make designing actual posters for McDonald’s.

I tell myself I use art to promote dissent, but maybe I am just using dissent to promote my art. I plead not guilty to selling out. But I plead it from a bigger house than I used to live in.” Read more here.

Crowds gathered to see Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film is a film directed by Banksy that tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art. The film charts Guetta’s constant documenting of his every waking moment on film, from a chance encounter with his cousin, the artist Invader, to his introduction to a host of street artists with a focus on Shepard Fairey and Banksy, whose anonymity is preserved by obscuring his face and altering his voice, to Guetta’s eventual fame as a street artist himself. The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on 24 January, 2010. It is narrated by Rhys Ifans. The music is by Geoff Barrow. It includes Richard Hawley‘s “Tonight The Streets Are Ours”.The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards.

There has been debate over whether or not the documentary is genuine or a mockumentary.

BANKSYFILMS This is the inside story of Street Art – a brutal and revealing account of what happens when fame, money and vandalism collide. Exit Through the Gift Shop follows an eccentric shop-keeper turned amateur film-maker as he attempts to capture many of the world’s most infamous vandals on camera, only to have a British stencil artist named Banksy turn the camcorder back on its owner with wildly unexpected results.  One of the most provocative films about art ever made, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a fascinating study  of low-level criminality, comradeship and incompetence.  By turns shocking, hilarious and absurd, this is an enthralling modern-day fairytale… with bolt cutters.

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