Posted by: martinworster | September 13, 2007


Arsehole or aerosole?

Click to enlarge!At times, it was hard to walk around the gallery without bumping into the hoardes – myself included – of males taking digital pictures of every work, ready to be passed on digitally, a kind of graffiti over the walls and passages of the information superhighway.

Click to enlarge!In another room, a screen showed videos of some of Banksy’s pranks and guerilla art shenanigans. The week prior he had put a faux-Guatanamo bay prisoner in orange uniform with shackled hands near one of the rides in Disneyland. The ride was closed for two hours whilst Walt’s staff investigated what it was. In another, he punked the new release of Paris Hiltons CD by replacing it with a new graffiti daubed cover and subversive recording. In a glass cabinet these CDs were shown, crawled over by huge cockroaches. Incidentally these CDs are now passing hands for top dollar over on eBay.

Despite his contradictions, I like Banksy. I like the myth he creates about himself by keeping his identity secret. I like his street, graffiti background and I’ve seen a lot of his daubings in London and LA and they always put a smile on my face. Some of them are silly and have no meaning, those are perhaps my favourites. The trompe l’oeil of a lady sweeping rubbish into a wall. Silly comments with puns that would put The Sun sub-editors to shame. If good art is about provocation to open your horizons and being made to see the world in a different light then Banksy achieves that with deft hand of spraycan and sleight of marker pen and stencil.

After walking around I decided that I wanted to own a piece of this so I joined the queue to buy some of the limited edition prints. In front of me in the ‘line’ was Home Alone’s Macauley Caulkin – he avoided eye contact and looked sullen acting like he was some ex-child star who squandered all his money, sued his parents and had problems with drugs. His girlfriend was really nice and I chatted to her as she flirted with my six month year old son as I tried to flirt with her. I also saw Beck, perhaps the best musical talent contemporary So Cal has to offer.

After waiting nearly an hour, I got to the front of the queue to find out there were only two of the Limited Edition prints left so I bought them. One was called Morons (showing an old school Sothebyesque auction house scene with the slogan ‘I Can’t Believe You Morons Buy This Shit’) and the other was aptly called ‘Sale Ends’. I was happy with my purchases but I came away with the distinct feeling due to the names of the works that I had been part of the show, as if it was a walk in, interactive gag, at our own expense. A piece of Banksy situationism with us, the punters situated slap bang in the middle. I was ‘punked’ but happy, especially if he does turn out to be the next Warhol. Then I, along with this scrappy, Dickensian Bristolian joker, will also be laughing all the way to the Banksy.

To pick up my purchases I had to come back to the exhibition on the last day. You could sense something was up by all the cars jostling to park. A queue stretched for nearly a mile around the block as Angelino’s waited to to subverted. An animal rights campaigner handed out protest leaflets against Banksy’s painting of the pink elephant. Banksy had been all over the LA press, in the LA Times and on the myriad of TV channels, and the media frenzy had created a public frenzy. Banksy’s campaign was clearly a massive success. I jumped the queue as I was collecting ‘art’. I walked out proudly clutching two poster tubes. One was marked ‘Moron’ and the other ‘Sale Ends’. In the exhibition space I noticed the elephant had been unpainted, and was now a natural, healthy gray, looking happier as it chomped on leaves, oblivious to all the fuss.

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