Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011, #1

Exit Through the Gift Shop
"Street Artist" Banksy cobbles years of footage of himself, Shepard Fairey, and other graffiti/stencil artists doing their thing, all meticulously documented by a compulsive videographer named Thierry Guetta. In the course of making the film (more accurately, in the course of wrenching Guetta's footage away from him and turning it into something usable), Banksy convinces Guetta to go do some street art of his own. He adopts the persona "Mr. Brainwash" and does a little street-stencil work before hiring a stable of designers and artists to churn out a ton of derivative pop art, displaying it all in a huge, wildly successful 2008 art exhibition.

Or does he? Long before Exit Through the Gift Shop was released, rumors were circulating that Mr. Brainwash was a hoax put on by Fairey and/or Banksy. Guetta is quite the character. Artistically he's akin to Mark Borchardt and Tommy Wiseau, but does appear, at least, to be very good at turning trash into cash -- he's first shown putting hundred-dollar tags on "vintage" clothes at his trendy LA boutique. He's maybe a little too good at this to be real; as the years of videography go on, and then as his (seemingly very expensive) art show comes together, I thought at least once, "where's this money coming from again?"

If Mr. Brainwash is indeed a hoax, does that make EThGS a mockumentary? I don't think so, It's still about creating subversive art, and it's quite possible that Banksy has documented a creation of a human installation.



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