Street artist Banksy, known for his politically motivated work, has always been subversive in his ideas. His art has reached all corners of the world and has engaged a new audience to street and art. Arguably one of the leading minds in contemporary art, Banksy has recast our expectations of the process, place and function of graffiti. He has been known to demonstrate his ideas in the most controversial sense, by sneaking his pieces into prestigious galleries such as the Tate and using public areas to display works.
His creativity has not been limited by the availability of public space. His work has spanned to various mediums, perhaps one of his least known modes of practice has been film, where Banksy has continued to share his thoughts on culture. Beginning in 2010, Banksy has used film to advertise new works and furthermore offer his own, personal insight into the function of society. Since then, Banksy has continued to release films, providing a deeper awareness of how and why he works as an underground artist.
Exit Through the Gift Shop, 2010
In 2010, Banksy produced Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The piece actively followed the marketing and creative strategies of street artists, through the eyes of novice cameraman Thierry Guetta aka Mr. Brainwash. Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2010 Oscars, the film was widely received and heralded for its progressive attitude towards street art. Guetta, in his attempt to locate and befriend street artist Banksy, stumbles upon the world of underground street art.
Following a life-through-film mantra, Guetta takes his camera everywhere, in hope of capturing valuable footage of the infamous artist. Banksy and various other artists do feature in the film; however remain anonymous in order to protect their work and themselves. The artists comment on the function of graffiti within the framework of contemporary and modern art, discussing the meaning and importance of their work. There has been some speculation that the film is a hoax or a deliberate manipulation of events. Although Banksy and the others involved insist that the film is a compilation of real life footage that accurately document not only the work of Banksy, but the artistic developments of Guetta himself as Mr. Brainwash.
Following this, Banksy then released the 2011 B-Movie. B-Movie, a short fourteen-minute film that details how Banksy became submerged within the world of street art. The piece includes a dialogue from Banksy himself, discussing his own beginning with street art and as an artist in general. It also includes interviews with his closest acquaintances, such as 3D and Damien Hirst, whom are involved in the debate of Banksy within modern art. They consider his role within street art and what separates him from other artists, with his empowered and liberated state of mind. Banksy himself too considers this, expressing his concerns as an artist that is constantly evading the law. He stresses the temporality of his work, with the desire that people will experience his artwork as a poignant moment, rather than a capitalist investment. Banksy’s B-Movie attempts to place graffiti as accepted contemporary art, with the hope to reconstruct the stigmatisms that are associated with it.
Make This the Year You Discover a New Destination, 2015
More recently, Banksy produced the 2015 film Make This the Year You Discover a New Destination. Formatted as a travel advert, the film provided its viewers with a satirical commentary on the current political conflict within Gaza. The film was originally posted on Banksy’s own website, offering insight into the destruction that Gazan people experience daily. Featuring shocking imagery of Gaza’s remains, the film documents the harsh reality through the visual aid of distressed children and the rubble of their lost homes. The footage also highlights Banksy’s latest works, pieces located in their war-torn communities, as a criticism of the mistreatment and suffering of Gazan people. It seems Banksy’s intent has been to reflect on the wreckage of these people’s lives, through the power of art as a means for social justice.
Banksy does touch the hearts of many, by employing mediums that allow his work to be experienced by all. His commentary on the creativity of graffiti, has allowed the medium to become more integrated and widely accepted within the arena that is modern art. He has continued this discussion with other established artists, as seen in the B-Movie, where he attempts to address the issues that artists of his nature face. Many of his films work towards a level playing field, where all prejudices associated with graffiti can be abandoned. His work in Gaza has furthermore exemplified the legitimacy of street art, as a way to reach and unite people across the globe. Overall we can note the dedication of Banksy’s work, in its attempt to not only break the boundaries of traditional thinking, but also to find unity in diversity.