1.22.2009

Banksy: The Makings of a Perfect Rebel

by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz

When my sister and I reunited during the recent holidays, I picked her up from her school early to go for hot dogs at a stand in one of the developing parts of Nashville. As we walked around, she pointed out and read every one of the graffiti tags, explaining to me what each artist's sign meant. I'm sure each of the teenagers got a fantastic rush out of painting their pseudonyms, but honestly, to me, they all sort of looked the same. My dad gets so annoyed at "those hooligans, childishly scribbling their names in public places. Its just foolish vandalism!"


Understandably, the term "street artist" seemed like an oxymoron to me until I ran across Banksy. Apparently, he's become somewhat of an indie hero (I gather this from the fact that I purchased his book at Urban Outfitters). So what makes him better than the average teen rebel? His work is satirical, well informed, and thankfully thought provoking. He pushes peoples' buttons, and his messages are consistent and unrelenting. Moreover, Banksy's arguments are exceedingly powerful because he has prioritized artistic expression to be of upmost importance; his stencils are technically excellent. While I don't necessarily condone the defacing of public property, my opinions have been swayed by some of the quotes from his book, Wall and Piece. In particular, I couldn't help feeling a tinge of excitement when I was invited to "imagine a city where graffiti wasn't illegal, a city where everybody could draw wherever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases… a city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big businesses."

A good rebel creates productive frustration. Banksy's work incites at least inspiration, at most, political action. In a Che Guevera sketch, he challenges the recycling of icons and notes (in regard to that ubiquitous t-shirt): "people always seem to think if they dress like a revolutionary they don't actually have to behave like one." Clearly,Banksy's images are often controversial. Some, specifically the London police, find his art to be inappropriate, but, amidst constant mindless advertisement, I think the public needs exposure to bold, intelligent thought.

Come to D.C., Banksy!

(The photo of Banksy's work in Brighton, U.K. is by Pete Barr-Watson of Brighton via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see more examples of Banksy's work in this blog, please see the short series "Objectively Good?")







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