Monday, March 8, 2010

The Gift Shop And The Graffiti Artist

I’ve written about Banksy before, and he remains an enigmatic and mysterious figure. Plenty of people out there think they know who he is, and some have even named a middle class chap from Bristol as Britain’s most notorious, and successful street artist. This is the guy who has done everything from Blur album covers, to decorating the West Bank wall, gate-crashed Disneyland in a protest against Guantanamo Bay, and famously gave Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta bananas instead of guns – prompting a clean-up campaign from London Transport who famously said their cleaners were just that, professional cleaners, not professional art critics.

It doesn’t really matter who Banksy is. For some he’s a common graffiti artist and vandal, for others, an example of a true visionary artist the type that we now celebrate, looking back to unusual types such as Dali. One thing is certain: he’s asking questions of us all the time.

The latest question comes out very soon around the world, and has already debuted to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival – Exit Through the Gift Shop is Banksy’s first film. This will be worth seeing, even if you don’t end up seeing who Banksy is in the film (he is said to appear).

What comes shining through to me about this artist and film-maker is the sense of functioning creativity, an artist in flow, and a supporting movement of fans across the world who are happy to see Banksy’s work as a reflection of how they feel.

The LA Times calls Exit Through the Gift Shop “a film-within-a-film that begins as a chronicle of guerrilla art and its most prominent creators but morphs into a sly satire of celebrity, consumerism, the art world and filmmaking itself … a nearly impossible work to categorize”.

That sounds like a perfect fulfillment of David Bowie’s definition of creativity: “something I haven't seen before”. Get to the cinema and see for yourself.