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Customer Review

42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never mind the bollocks - here's Banksy, May 11, 2007
This review is from: Wall and Piece (Hardcover)
In a time when most works of art consist of either inconsequential pseudo-intellectual "abstractions" or fatuous entertainment, it can be a great relief to stumble upon something like Banksy's paintings/writings on the wall. And here we have a nice compilation by this growingly famous pseudo-anonymous artist for all those who do not plan to bother travelling to London, Barcelona, San Francisco, Palestine or whatever other hellish place that has been blessed with his striking graffiti creations.

Incidentally, the Oxford Dictionary defines graffiti as: "drawings or writing on a wall, etc. in a public place. They are usually rude, humorous or political." Banksy's work, of course, is all three simultaneously. Perhaps that's one of the elements distinguishing him from other (half)underground artists (or just assertive kids) trying to get their message through by painting public buildings without official permission.
For better or for worse, Banksy's art is loaded with meanings - and they're not that difficult to figure out, either. No wonder that no self-respecting "modern art" museum showed much interest in him - at least until he made himself noticed by blatantly breaking the rules. Don't we all love a non-conformist!

In many ways, Banksy represents the good old punk ethos at its best: he is an exemplary practitioner of Do-It-Yourself techniques (up to his famous pranks of sneaking his works into big international museums); his themes are often (if not always) anti-authoritarian; his art is oozing with cynicism and (self-)mockery. Even the leitmotiv of the (nasty, snide, irredeemable) RAT as a reverse mirror of mainstream values, empty promises and not-so-subtle state disciplinary measures is reminiscent of the height of punk insubordination. Those were the days!
Still, as we all know, Punk is Dead. Anarchy didn't even come close to becoming more than a cute slogan. The "System" hasn't collapsed (yet). But that doesn't mean one should stop kicking and screaming, does it?

Fortunately, Banksy isn't just a "retro" artist - quite the opposite, he manages to reflect his own time and culture in a unique and very convincing way. Which is a hell of an achievement, considering how quickly any defiance is turned into a (boring) spectacle these days, with cheap t-shirts and mugs thrown into the bargain.
Whether in his mockery of paranoia-inducing surveillance cameras, ever-present police officers, soldiers and impressive arsenal (of the peaceful West) - or his caricatures of a commercial culture incorporating everything from revolutionary anti-capitalist icons to flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark, - Banksy twists symbols and turns meanings upside down to shed a light on the contradictions lying beneath a stifling pile of stupefying nonsense and outright lies. Plus he's funny about it. What else could you wish for?

Although there are lots of pictures of Banksy's art on the internet, this book offers two advantages: 1) it's much nicer and more comfortable to look at the (many) printed pictures; and 2) the artist has added some interesting personal thoughts/experiences which only contribute to his image of a smart, somewhat riotous but also admirably understated RAT. And a wise self-promoter.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 15, 2007 5:47:23 PM PST
John says:
Ok, I have written it before, but I still think his "subversion" stays within "safe" lines. For instance, just like the Borat movie, he stays far, far away from Islam. To me, it would be truly courageous for instance to also challenge Muslims in Britain, not just the non-Muslim Brits. Britain is something like 10 % Muslim, and Muslims play a big role in London particularly. And yet, the artist as far as I can tell, goes no where near that "minefield". So yes, fun and creative, yes. But truly courageous or subversive ? No. Not really. Not in the same way Christopher Hitchens is.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2009 5:49:05 PM PDT
J. P. Murray says:
Why does this person keep commenting, and how does he do so with Christopher Hitchens pubes blocking the view of his monitor.
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