H's Reviews > Wall and Piece

Wall and Piece by Banksy
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's review
Aug 02, 2009

bookshelves: art
Read in August, 2009

Provocative and clever, but I would argue ultimately vapid. Something like an underground cultural icon for urban youth today. I only see three basic techniques or themes in his methods:

Irony. Soldiers painting peace signs, zoo monkeys holding homeless signs, traffic signs warning of more (or less) serious things. They're all clever enough, but ultimately just artifacts of a stagnant, consumerist generation that's well aware of its stagnation and consumerism. Like television commercials that poke fun at the fact that they're a commercial: it's witty and self-protective. This either leads to people hating the content and calling it a bastardization of art, or people loving it because they're in on the joke and they "get it." There's basically no message except, "What's the message?"

Commentary on political decadence. Valid enough. But again there's no solution, no grappling with the actual complexity of issues. Just toting anarchy, non-hypocrisy, peace exclusively in terms of non-violence. His anonymity is fortunate because if Banksy were a real figurehead there might be some small shudders of revolution leading toward nothing real.

Pranks/daredevilism. Gets him more laughs than respect, I'd say, except among disenchanted youth. There's a lot of ego involved despite his claims to anonymity and unpaid, unpretentious art. Why spray your tag across the world in challenging places if you're really being anonymous?

He's an important figure for urban history, but he's not a hero and he's not a role model. He's full of talent (he wouldn't get this much attention if his art and stencils were ugly and untrained) and potential but ultimately has nothing to say and no real method of causing significant change. He's on a soapbox. On the other hand, though, because of the way he's popularizing the art, he's also an example of empowerment for the voiceless. But I would also suspect that his example has led to just as much useless or vapid graffiti as it has intelligent graffiti.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Well said. Fair too.

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