Thursday, April 15, 2010

Banksy's Grand Scheme

What makes good art good; and should everyone make art? Banksy answers these questions with great insight and a movie full of hilarity.

This documentary is the Grizzlyman of the art world. Yes it's about street art and actually features footage of Banksy as he tags Gaza and LA alike; but it's really about Thierry Guetta. Also known as Mr. Brainwash, an eccentric (mental) frenchman with a passion for filmming street art.

Thierry was a true ethnographer, he captured everything on film and filled his house with endless boxes of tapes of graffiti artists from Sheppard Fairy to Invader creating their art across the world. He didn't have a plan he just shot. Then the art world started selling Banksy's work at auction houses. He was pissed and knew the time was right to strike back. The problem was Thierry wasn't a documentary filmmaker, he just loved filmming. Thierry took a stab at the film but when Banksy saw Theirry's work he said, "I used to tell everyone to go off and make art; I don't do that anymore."

Now the film get's interesting. Under Banksy's request, Thierry's passion for film turns to street art, but Thierry knows no limits. He hires a team of henchmen and starts producing images for his street art show. The only problem is he hasn't cultivated a style or put any thought into his work, but that doesn't stop the masses from consuming his work. With an endorsement from Banksy and Fairy he transforms into "Mr. Brainswash" and becomes an overnight art sensation clearing over a million on his first gallery opening.

Now the question for me is why were people so quick to assign value to his art? Sheppard got noticed after employing a strategy of recognition equals power. His reputation grew the more people noticed his work, the more it was noticed the more influence and power he gained - his work became a movement based on drawing people's attention to this idea of branding. Banksy has risen by employing a similar strategy - he created thoughtful work riddled with political and cultural overtones. He knows how to express his ideas with wit, tact and creativity - and this film may be his master piece.

At first I was pissed at Thierry for desecrating the art world, in fact I thought Banksy was too; but then I had an idea of what Mr. Brainwash was. He's not an artist, he's part entrepreneur; but more importantly he's a pawn in Banksy's plot for retaliation . The film starts out with an anecdote explaining how Thierry became successful selling vintage fashion. He found a profitable model for buying cheap clothes and marking them up 400%. It worked because people bought it. Well the same was true with his art; but then I thought, what if that was Banksy's plan from the start - after all he did get a lot of investors to spend their money on what has now been outed as superficial art. I couldn't help thinking that this seemed like one sweet victory for a man who has an obsession with almost anything but the bank.