(exit through the gift shop) a review

would you ride your bike over that??

This is perhaps the most mind bending documentary I’ve seen in about 6 months. The other one being about the global financial crisis of ’08 –  Inside Job.

It’s about graffiti street art, specifically Banksy, a famous mischief from London who gives expression to the mundane things we pass by every day. Before I get into why this film is killer, I would just say this. If you’re interested in business and pop culture (who isn’t?) then WATCH IT. It will take you for an amusing ride, only to punch you in the face half way through.  If you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading now. Download this and come back here, to read my thoughts. It’s a swift one and half hours of time well spent.

– – –

Welcome back.

So as you know it starts off about this hilarious French film maker, Thierry, later known as Mr. Brainwash. He loves filming, eventually gets drawn to street art, which leads to him making art himself.  He learned how to make street from all these guys over the past ten years.. and then he does it? Whoose being fooled? Was he actually talented? I think he was.  Funny I  think that’s how we all learn in a way. Collaboration isn’t it called? One of the people he collaborates with is Shepard Fairey, who is famous for the Obey images and the iconic Obama poster.

I guess collaborating and stealing is a very fine line. A friend of mine for example felt Mr. Brainwash was created by Bansky. In her words: ” Like, it’s all a hoax. Bansky is so illusive, why would he all of a sudden agree to do a movie if not to mess with people? I think the movie was to draw attention to art and authenticity – how this crazy French guy reproduced images, threw some paint on them, and sold them for thousands of dollars. I think Bansky was trying to prove that anyone could do this as long as the audience was stupid enough to buy into it. Okay, so that last sentence may be reaching, but hopefully you get what I’m saying….. I agree with you on collaboration and taking ideas from our influences, but at what point does it become “stealing”?

As the late, great, Michael Jackson once stated – “It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation… period.”

Well damn. Why did you have to bring MJ into this? I ll get back to him in a bit.

So I decided to watch it for a second time and I dunno about it being a hoax. That is fascinating premise though…but I feel the story is well too scripted for this to be just a hoax.

Real or not, this is really making you question why artists like Damien Hirst get paid millions of dollars for their art. Banksy himself gets paid half a million for certain pieces and he questions you, what do people value? Well like beauty, “value” is in the eye of the beholder. Kinda of relates to a blog post I wrote actually (someone sold virtual asteroid for half a million dollars). Anyways, Banksy is cool cos he’s bit of a punk. I did some research on him and found that he did a hugely successful show, “Barely Legal” in 2006, and gave a flyer out stating this:

“1.7 billion people have no access to clean drinking water. 20 billion people live below the poverty line. Every day hundreds of people are made to feel physically sick by morons at art shows telling them how bad the world is but never actually doing something about it. Anybody want a free glass of wine?”

I think you might call it stealing because he paints this French guy as a bit of a putz, who just miraculously honed his craft in 6 months.. well maybe he wasn’t as sophisticated about it? I’d argue the French guy is very talented. He just wears his influences on his sleeve.

As for Michael’s comment, well he by no means can claim to be the most original person either, nor can The Beatles, or Elvis, etc. They’re very unique, however. For example,  the moon walk was underground dance move for YEARS, he popularized and branded it, made it his own in 83′ with Billie Jean. Even before that Michael solo moves and singing style was heavily influenced by  James Brown, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, etc. He became all these influences coming together, with a twist. Watch this, it’s absolutely fantastic:

See I’d argue Radiohead makes weird music okay to listen to, because people  now trust Radiohead for producing weird sounds. They made it cool to listen to serious music. And it’s great, cos if they’re good, we becomes curious to learn where these influences came from. People learn about who Andy Warhol is, and appreciate the pioneers of pop art in the case of this film.

I think your good or a pro when people start imitating you. But it’s a very fine line isn’t it?  Hopefully it eventually leads one creating something unique as well, because no one wants just a cover band.  We remember the music,  so you have to move beyond imitation.

One argument you could actually make is Thierry seems enamored seeing his graffiti everywhere, more than the actual art itself. More in love with the idea of photocopying his image everywhere and people knowing about him than actually making a statement. He openly admits in the film he was addicted to this.

And perhaps that’s what Thierry should be mostly credited for? How he made connections. Cos Thierry became a huge star himself! Like whatever you may say, he has drive, made observations, very likable character.  Shepard loved his passion for the filming, and called him an accomplice. He became enamored with street art and that led to him become an artist as well. In a way this movie is a tribute to apprenticeships. There is tremendous value in this act, as you work with people smarter than you. See how they work, learn from it and apply it to your situation. It motivated him to work at that level. That and having  major guts.  Right?  So many questions, hence this review. And  definitely one to watch on a first date perhaps – you will talk all night afterwards!

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