Sunday, 27 March 2011

Banksy, continued.

Banksy: the Artist

Banksy, to some people he is nothing more than an invisible vandal who defaces property and attacks the establishment. To others, he is a gifted revolutionary whose work has grabbed the attention of a generation. But little is actually known about the man himself. He is claimed to be one Robert Banks, obviously otherwise known by his alias 'Banksy'. Originally from Bristol, his date of birth is reported to be 28th July 1973,

(Sourced from The Daily Mail -

Banksy's first major published work is a compilation, of all his own various pieces, titled: Wall and Piece.


The compilation is littered with quotes, opinions and accounts from Banksy himself. Within which, he shares many of his views on society, the establishment, british culture, consumerismand humour. He is described as being: anti-war, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, anti-authoritarianism, an anarchist and an existentialist. His works have been sighted in London, Brighton and much of South-East England. His work now sells for thousands of pounds and he even has a following of celebrity collectors including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera.

Many people claim to have taken a picture of Bansky at work in an effort to confirm his identity for certain; however, due to the fact that any pictures taken seem to differ greatly in appearance. This, plus a myriad of theories, 'interviews', accounts and reports all claiming they have the answer leaves his true identity shrouded in mystery still.

Each major news source has something to say about the identity of Banksy:

Banksy: iconic work (political)

There are many particular pieces that would be defined as 'iconic' as Banksy's work borrows much from advertising, logos and motifs in popular culture and recent history. However, his most iconic and indeed his most provocative work would no doubt be his approach to consumerism and advertising. Banksy dubs his view of advertising as 'Brandalism'. Taken from 'Wall and Piece' Banksy says:

“People abuse you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

However, you are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Screw that. Any advert in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. You especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They have rearranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.” - Banksy

With this strong philosophy in mind, Banksy has made some striking and politically challenging work to support his views

Titled as 'Poster for Greenpeace campaign against deforestation' in 'Wall and Piece' this image shows the main characters from Disney's animated feature, 'The Jungle Book' taken hostage, blinded, bound and lined up like convicts ready for execution by firing squad. In front stands the executioner again in the iconic Disney style furthering the believability and indeed legitimacy of the piece. Behind the cartoon characters sits an unedited image of a ravaged forest provided by Greenpeace. The harsh comparison between fiction and reality is exaggerated by placing the cartoon characters in perspective of the photograph itself giving it a streak of chilling realism.

The image as a whole hits hard, driving our memories back to earlier days in our childhood or even the younger years of our children where we and our young drew comfort and security from Disney's beloved and classic style. Now here we see it used in a new and painful way. We see our friends from our past in trouble, scared and threatened. No doubt, the first reaction to this is anger. How dare Banksy defile such a precious memory of ours? What gives him the right? It's once we ask ourselves this question and then look at the annihilated forest, that we inevitably fall into his trap. We are so quick to question his right to use these images that we selfishly ignore the trees that in reality have already been long destroyed. Banksy uses our reactions as a giant, emotional mirror and shows it right to us, and we don't like what we see.

Whilst it is potentially disturbing, and not even that well known about in connection with Banksy, this image is an absolutely perfect example of Banksy's genius ability to take an icon or motif and re-harness its power and meaning elsewhere; in this case he takes a beloved childhood memory and exploits it to show the reality of those who already have been. Truly, a loud and bold parry, to an otherwise quiet and deceptive attack.

Comparatively, that was the shallow end.

(Sourced from 'Wall and Piece')

Having no official title, the above piece has been dubbed 'The Burger King Kid' and is an edited photo of a starving African child with an empty bowl wearing a paper hat from the popular fast food restaurant 'Burger King'. This image screams injustice on too many levels to count but the prominent one being: the developed have everything and the third-world have nothing, and nobody cares. Top that off with a gritty pop-art style and some dark humour, and the result is again another perfect summary of a horrible aspect of consumerism and how is has corrupted western culture as we know it

(Sourced from 'Wall and Piece')

Again, having no title, the next image is Banksy's version of the infamous photograph of Phan Thị Kim Phúc taken by Nick Ut in Trang Bang in Vietnam during the war. The original photo shows the main subject Phan Thị Kim Phúc at roughly nine years of age; having just barely escaped death by napalm, along with other traumatised children, running for her life and horribly burned by the napalm attack. The image became an icon for the horror of the Vietnam War and the victims who suffered in it.


It is because of Banksy's anonymity he can produce work such as this. He has the freedom to express the messages he conveys to us that few people do. The same message is conveyed as before on a completely new level. He brings Disney back into frame in the form of Mickey Mouse and the fast food angle again also in the shape of Ronald MacDonald. Both franchises hold the girls hands it making them both look like the parents of some badly behaved child caught in mid-tantrum. The simplicity and ease of this edit and the new image that emerges forth is frankly sickening. This terrible image is somehow made even worse by adding the other images of Mickey Mouse and Ronald MacDonald. The selfish thoughts that we all suppress when we see an image such as the original are amplified by Banksy and his technique of exploding the truth in our faces.

Adding War to the list, we have yet another grim list of events and issues dragged out of the archives of our past.

(Sourced from 'Wall and Piece')

Another tragedy Banksy uses to comment on the constant presence of 'Brandalism'. Using the famous 'Tank Man' image from the The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, also known as the Tiananmen Square massacre. An interesting sub-theme of this particular piece is Banksy's concept of Brandalism pushing advertisements in ours faces. Here, with a small addition, this man turns the tables, if only for a moment.


Banksy even touches on religion with consumerism as well. Here we see the classic renaissance image of christ on the cross only the cross is replaced with shopping bags instead. Again, this could mean a multitude of things, but the most obvious point is clearly society having lost the true meaning of christmas. Jesus being the centre of religious importance at christmas, he is here represented holding multiple bags of purchases in each hand almost being 'crucified' by them, also him holding them aloft represents the power of consumerism over the true meaning of faith and spirituality during this religious holiday.

(Sourced from 'Wall and Piece')

Also looking carefully, we see in the right bundle of bags a small Mickey Mouse head with the ears protruding from the top of the bags, again dragging Disney into the mix. On the left we have a wrapped gift and a candy cane thus confirming that it is indeed christmas as the subject of this particular message.

These few images are but a few of Banksy's collective work, however these are without a doubt the most politically relevant and are the most revealing of Banksy's work not just as an artist but as the revolutionary he really is. His fearlessness to tackle controversial images and themes is something rarely seen these days and is something to be valued. Whilst he is not a master scholar or teacher of the arts he makes many valid points that need to be addressed in our society. His hidden identity is proof to the fact that there is no such thing as true freedom of expression, because if there was, then he wouldn't need to be as secretive as he is.

Yet because of that fact he is so talked about, so controversial and so very iconic; but the ultimate irony of it all is he may have produced some of the most memorable work of this generation, but in the end it will ultimately all fade away and become as unknown and unseen as the artist's face who created it.

1 comment:

  1. Stuart all this research is fantastic however we needed it last week before the meeting where we decided what was going on to the slides. Neither myself, Vicky or Aiden are prepared to change the slides at this point as we spent four hours sorting them out on Thursday. I really don't mean to rain on your parade but if you wanted to have a large input you should have been at the meetings.