Friday, August 13, 2010
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
We rather quickly find Banksy himself addressing the camera, cloaked in anonymity (he is, after all, a Criminal), and reporting on the nature of his film. We are introduced to Thierry, an obsessive and compulsive videographer whose camera remains open more than his eyes, who has a house full of thousands of tapes, and who just happens to have an artistic cousin that goes by Space Invader. Thus our un-reluctant cameraman arrives conveniently at the near-birth of the street art movement and seems the perfect accomplice to document the temporary, illegal, and most culturally responsive of all art forms. If you haven’t seen this film, stop reading.
But there is more in store for Thierry as he records and becomes a part of the global scene. The artists that surround him want his footage to go somewhere, to be a public document to what is happening on the streets. Thierry is too obsessive and unorganized for that. It is here that Banksy takes over, telling his cameraman to go back stateside and have his own little art show; developing the ideas he has been working in the streets. Mr. Brainwash is thus fully realized.
Let’s pull out of the film for a moment. Graffiti is illegal. It is vandalism and destruction to private property. The street art movement was born from the act of desecration. They should all be arrested. Come on. It reflects, practically minute by minute, the social, political, and culture mood, ideas, and events both local and global. Thus its economic viability is not lost on anyone with a brain and without much thought, graffiti and street art has been commercialized, bought and sold, and devalued. Banksy’s exhibit entitled Brandalism is perhaps the most succinct of descriptors. Enter Thierry, an amateur videographer who reckoned himself a street artist, set up a show in L.A. by copying and pasting the most recognizable pop art already in existence and selling it to an eager public for a million dollars. It’s like Andy Warhol on acid.
We expect a documentary to tell us the truth. This film does that, at least in part. The street art movement is alive and real, ever growing and changing and evolving and improvising. Thierry, to some degree, is real. His huge art show was real, someone really made a million dollars selling mass-produced pop-street art to truthfully keen collectors. But truth be told, this is a film by the most notorious, levelheaded, and politically conscious ghost in history. It is the first film by a renegade artist known for the daring, who has painted walls and repackaged Paris Hilton CDs. It is here that the film’s readings have been cast into unreliability with no resolution in sight. Thierry would very conveniently be the most indescribably perfect comment on the modern art world. You could not create a better person, but you could create him.
He had the privilege of an in to the street art scene, he rolled with the best artists in the world, he started is own brand name, MBW, and sold art to countless of people. What better way to comment on how fucked up greedy the art collecting masses are than to mass-produce a bunch of cut-outs that parade as art and sell it right to them. And laugh all the while.
The more I think about the plausibility of Banksy having created this character, the more sense it makes. And Banksy would be the one to do it. I saw the film twice before hearing of such a preposterous idea, but it now makes perfect sense. See the film and decide for yourself. And buy something on the way out.