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136 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art like a land mine, December 6, 2005
This review is from: Wall and Piece (Hardcover)
Think art has lost its edge? Witness the art of England's Banksy and reconsider.

His message: that if the powerful and wealthy get to force-feed consumerist propaganda to citizens via giant billboards... then citizens have the right to reply in kind. To that end he's trekked around the world throwing up politically pointed, often funny, always eye-popping street art wherever he damn well pleases: On sidewalks, on train trestles, on the West Bank wall between Israel and Palestine, in monkey cages at the zoo, in the world's great museums (unbeknownst to the curators, of course), and on farm animals (yes, ON them).

"Wall and Piece" is a "best of" overview of Banksy's career, and impresses on a lot of levels. There's the skill and variety of Banksy's techniques (stencils, illustrations, paintings, screenprints and sculptures are all on display). There's the caustic wit of his writing (expressed here in almost epigrammatic blurbs about art and politics). And there's his genius as a prankster. Example: Not content merely to graffitti a blank wall in Westminster, Banksy instead throws up an official-looking "This Wall Is A Designated Graffitti Area" stencil (complete with a "royal" crest swiped off a pack of cigarettes)... and watches others do the work for him.

For those yearning for art that's active... that excites and inspires instead of merely placating... this is the book of the year. One warning: it sits on your coffee table like a social land mine. Guests come over, crack it open, and it obliterates conversation for a while as they get sucked in. Completely Addictive. Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 14, 2007 10:58:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 16, 2007 2:12:32 PM PST
John says:
And yet, I didn't really find his artwork "subversive". When an artist creates graffiti that shows helicopters above civilians, and then the text "Americans at Work", and places it in London, I tend to think that is not subversive, but rather, conventional, in that it merely reinforces the already-existing prejudices of Brits in London. A truly "subversive" act is to challenge the majority, not to reinforce its prejudices.

For instance, I didn't see any graffiti sprayed anywhere near anything Islamic in London (which would not be hard to find, by the way, as there are evidently mosques and Islamic centers all over London). The artist obviously steered clear of being THAT provocative, and stayed within the "white lines" of "progressive politics" and the British socialist intelligensia. For instance, he likes to spray images and texts on walls. Can you imagine if he sprayed "non-conformist text" on or near something Islamic ? My guess is that the cops would come down on him VERY heavily (not to mention Muslims in London). He probably would also be accused of some kind of "political" crime (incitement of religious intolerance, etc), based on the laws the Brits now have, and based on their "red mayor", Livingston, etc. What I am trying to say is, I think the police and authorities probably let him have his "bit of fun" as long as it stayed within certain pre-defined lines, but if he had crossed the invisible line, my guess is, he would have paid (in more ways than one), and he probably knows that. So this is all kind of like having your cake and trying to eat it too. The Brits might view this as showing how tolerant and idiosyncratic London is and pat themselves on the back a bit, but I think many of us know the reality.

He also managed to get to Israel (why Isreal, and not, say, Lebanon or Egypt ??) and spray the wall that keeps the Palestinian bombers from blowing up Israelis), and spray that. His protest seems to only point toward the U.S. and Israel, which, in Britain is as conventional as you can get, in terms of viewpoint. I would be able to have a bit more respect for him, if he were an "equal-opportunity sprayer". But he isn't, as far as I can tell.

For instance, if he were really out to challenge the conventions, he might put the following into his texts for the Brits in future:

- Something about animal rights resulting in the death of the majority of the fox population of Britain (since the fox-hunting ban was put in, the fox population of Britain has plummeted).
- The idea that Saddam really did have WMDs (he gassed 6,000 Kurds with poison gas, a WMD).
- etc.

Christopher Hitchins (a man who criticizes all religion, including Islam) is a truly courageous subversive. Basky isn't, in my view.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 11, 2010 2:41:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 11, 2010 2:42:29 PM PDT
JoanMcBitch says:
I think you're not giving him time. His views are not as one dimensional as you're implying. Being raised in England & feeling the strong arm of America in your country will have its impact. Let's see what time & infamy accomplish.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2011 11:59:48 PM PST
Y. Sangalli says:
first off your use of the words "something islamic" (in particular) is utterly absurd: it's about as revealing as anything else you wrote of your tendency to conceive of the world around you in rather plain, dual, "us and them" terms, which is in itself a miracle of simple-mindedness. next: your "affirmative action" (how ironic!) approach to art-as-social criticism is so plainly tinted by a nationalist, conservative (read "republican") and in fact rather conventional perspective that it ends up eclipsing any merit your basic argument might have had: how do you propose to transcend the problem you denounce of a politically committed aesthetic project when you yourself present an approach that sounds like a political rally? finally, your notion that criticism of the US or Israel is somehow mainstream or "conventional" in a cultural matrix (London's) other than the one you belong to suggests that such criticism can only be dismissed, and that therefore there can be no merit to any of (among many others) banksy's art: are you implying that both nations are entirely "above reproach"????? look around you, John: how many in your neck of the woods would dare disagree with your rant? now who's being conventional? ..... the conventions just happen to be those of a different part of the world.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 14, 2013 4:15:58 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 14, 2013 4:17:14 AM PDT
M says:
Lucas, please STFU!
Your stink of bs is detectable years later, yes through time and space, dumb lush.
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