Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop

When does an artist go too far? Can you make fun of the contemporary art viewer/reviewer/critic while at the same time using them for your own success? The theater, for the premiere of this film, was only half full (half empty?) with the typical art crowd. Gangs of hipsters, urban youth, and a few older/more educated persons. This in itself is almost performance art. What crowd does a "documentary" about street art bring into the theater? Close your eyes, imagine... and, you're right on spot.

The director, famed British street artist Banksy, uses the film as a satire against the commercialization of art (more specifically, street art). But, in doing so, is throwing stones at his crowd of on lookers. Street art is meant for everyone. This is where Banksy's idealism about his "art" and his "craft" starts to get under my skin. Rothkos, Newmans, Matisses, Van Goghs, and etc hang on the walls of art museums and art collectors. These spaces are created for a select few. The curious. The art interested. The collector. Banksy's art (and other street art) is for the every day person. Placed alongside billboards, curb sides, and bus stop terminals. Banksy and others are playing to the masses. I find his stance hypocritical.

This is not to say I don't find street artists to be artists. I respect their methods, their styles, and the group dynamic involved in the movement. Graffiti and the likes are a street version of the Dadaist movement. They are using pop images, collages, and unusual medium as a means to express themselves. This is a respected movement. An interesting and sometimes misunderstood art movement. My annoyance is not with the art or the artist... but, with Banksy's arrogance in attempting to hold a mirror up to the audience.

The "documentary" is clever. It contains all the requirements of a documentary. The details of why so much film footage exists. A somewhat specific goal from the start. And, a series of interesting, eclectic characters to make the audience think 'isn't life grand and bizarre?' The film succeeds at being very funny. But, only in the way I see through all of its attempts at pointing a finger at the audience. For demanding one not love art for the sake of loving art.

Art was never meant for the masses. Art was never meant to be understood by everyone. Art was never meant to be a means for everyone to express themselves. Banksy understands. But, I'm not sure he makes his audience understand. In the end, I think too many people miss the point. Another piece of art misunderstood by its audience. Bansky may have fallen prey to the one thing he is trying so hard to run away from.


1 comment:

  1. It's making fun of hipsters. People who think they are an original and creative generation when all they do is imitate styles of the past. This "hipster" culture doesn't make sense. Every retro style that hipsters copy died when they sold out. But this generation unknowingly makes it a point to sell out what they believe is so unique. The success of "Life is Beautiful" by Mr. Brainwash helps prove that point by showing that this guy just mashed together different styles with little to no perceived artistic ability. I was so surprised to see people eat that up. But not surprised that they were the people later offended by this movie.