Category Archives: Banksy – Outside

Context is king – a tale of two pieces

Banksy.co.uk was updated last week with two new pieces in coastal towns, the first in the South in Folkestone and the second in the East in Clacton on Sea. That’s where the similarities end – they both had quite different purposes and quite different responses.

Banksy in Folkestone (Photo: Banksy.co.uk)

‘Art Buff’ in Folkestone, a title surely with a double meaning? The buffing of graffiti with grey paint is a subject Banksy has addressed before (most notably in New Orleans) but this is a new take on the subject. Before and after photos of the Folkestone piece show that there was originally a crudely painted over piece of writing on a wall that just left a grey mess -  a typical response by town councils the nation over with their widely advertised graffiti reporting hotlines and removal programmes. Banksy has taken this scene and added a little old lady art buff, depicting her attentively inspecting the ‘artwork’  which now sits on a plinth whilst she listens  to an audio guide.  The wording on his website says ‘Part of the Folkestone Triennial. Kind of.’  Which implies his unauthorised participation in an event that occurs every three years that aims to put art on the streets and transform parts of the town into a creative hub (and has been pretty effective in doing so). Despite being covered in perspex in record time it has been drawing a steady stream of visitors and has inevitably started appearing on unofficial Tshirts and fridge magnets on sale in the local area.

The wall before (Photo: Banksy.co.uk)

And after (Photo: Banksy.co.uk)

The second piece to be revealed was in Clacton on Sea and has proved altogether more controversial. It depicts several native species of pigeon protesting about an African migrant. Despite it’s relatively obvious message ridiculing  attitudes someone allegedly reported it as racist graffiti and the council buffing teams were promptly despatched and removed it from the wall.


Nigel Brown, communications manager for the council, said “We would obviously welcome an appropriate Banksy original on any of our seafronts and would be delighted if he returned in the future.” A statement which completely and conveniently misses the point of why Clacton on Sea was chosen in the first place. The town is shortly to play host to a by election forced by the local Conservative MP’s defection to the UK Independence Party. With migration one of the key topics Clacton On Sea could well be on its way to be known not for its art (like Folkestone) but for the success of a right wing Little Englander party.

A Clacton On Sea resident (Photo: Banksy.co.uk, love the way the join on the wall has been used to create a line for the birds to rest on)

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What happened next – Banksy’s two new pieces

Two new pieces appeared last week. The first was identified on Sunday in Cheltenham and was widely attributed to Banksy but has yet to appear on his website. The second appeared on his website on Monday but its location in Bristol wasn’t reported until later in the week. Since this time they have both gathered massive media attention but for quite different reasons.

Cheltenham is home to the British Intelligence  Service’s Government Communications Headquarters or GCHQ for short. It’s where  the Security Service MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 carry out some of their work. As part of this they have the power to monitor communications, a process that as Edward Snowden’s leaks have revealed is carried out on an industrial scale. Surveillance is nothing new but the sheer volume and ease with which it can be carried out now is something new. Oddly these stories have a tendency to disappear very quickly from the media, usually accompanied by a terse statement from GCHQ that it’s all nothing to worry about. For example:

“Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Intelligence and Security Committee”.

Err, so that explains why GCHQ have intercepted millions of webcam images taken in peoples homes via Optic Nerve of which 3 – 11 per cent contained images of people in states of undress? Was this authorised, necessary and proportionate? You’re an adult, I’ll let you decide.

So this piece is topical and it helps to keep the story in the media. GCHQ even provided a quote on the art work: “”This is the first time we have ever been asked to comment on art. “Although we are not qualified critics, we are as intrigued as the rest of the residents of Cheltenham about the appearance of the mysterious artwork. For those who are interested, our website gives a glimpse of what modern-day intelligence operatives are really like, although some may be disappointed by the lack of trench coats and dark glasses.”

Disappointed maybe but hardly surprised given that these are not essential items for modern surveillance.

Since the piece has appeared it has been painted over and restored and become quite a tourist attraction with a steady stream of visitors interacting with the art as captured by this time lapse video. The local authorities have taken an interest in the piece so if you’d like to see it without a plexi glass covering get down to the junction of Fairview Road and Hewlett Road, like now.

The second art work took a while longer than a few hours to pin down. Depicting a couple embracing each other it quickly becomes apparent that their gaze is not fixed on the other person but rather their own mobile phone held behind the others back. Despite being right next to the person they care about they choose to concentrate their thoughts on something or someone else.

Banksy – New work in Bristol (image: Banksy.co.uk)

Once discovered this piece was prised off the wall by the owner of the Boys Boxing Club that happened to be located next door. In a classic case of Finders Keepers he told a BBC news reporter that it was probably a gift from Banksy to solve his cash crisis for his facility to keep errant youngsters off the streets. No doubt if they didn’t take up boxing they’d be doing something anti social like, err, graffiti perhaps? When the reporter asked him if it was his wall he could only meekly reply that it was a wall. I think that this was the moment he realised there might just be some problems with ownership here. That and the two Police Officers turning up to offer their take on the subject. The piece has since been taken away to be displayed in the Bristol Museum (the scene of Banksy’s blockbuster of a summer exhibition in 2009).

The original location for the new Banksy piece (Image: banksy.co.uk)

CCTV footage appeared of the installation and some commentators seemed surprised at the level of organisation involved with the camera capturing a white van and several figures working behind coverings to create the piece. Anyone who has read Banksy’s interview with Shepard Fairey will not be surprised by this, I’ll leave you with his take on the subject:

“I’m always trying to move on. You’re not supposed to get dumber as you get older. You’re not supposed to just do the same old thing. You’re supposed to find a new way through and carry on. I invest back into the street bombing from selling shit. Recently, I’ve been pretending to be a construction manager and paying cash to get scaffolding put up against buildings, then I cover the scaffolding with plastic sheeting and stand behind it making large paintings in the middle of the city. I could never have done that a few years ago”.

More pictures:

The phone box has rapidly become an interactive art exhibit.

Apparently these are not what modern spies look like. Who knew? It’s almost as if the artist was using them as a metaphor.

The most photographed phone box in Britain this week

Congratulations, you (or your landlord) has just won the lottery / the opportunity to have a constant stream of people larking about outside your house.

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Saturday 22nd March, 12 noon PST

ORIGINAL POST, read the update below: Following on from collaborations with other artists such as Shepard Fairey, Faile and Invader BNE.org are reportedly planning a collab with Banksy to mark World Water Day at 12 Noon PST sharp on BNE.org. And that’s about all I know right now. So check in on the day at the right time to find out more.

UPDATE: Message on Banksy.co.uk “Banksy Has Not Made Any T Shirts For A Water Charity”. This is exactly why I used the word “reportedly’ in my original post as it seemed odd. Once details were released on BNE.org including the claim that this was the first and last time he would do this I smelled a rat and not the Banksy kind. Banksy has definitely produced T-shirts on several occasions before including Wrong War and Turf War designs. Supporting clean water for drinking and sanitation around the world is still very much a worthwhile cause but you don’t need to buy an expensive T shirt of very questionable authenticity to do this.

Finally a few pictures from last weeks #withsyria campaign support:

 

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Banksy – Better Out Than In – Day 31

Banksy’s month long residency ended today with an inflatable tag overlooking the Long Island Expressway. The piece didn’t last long though, with the now customary gaggle of Banksy onlookers and the NYPD in attendance two men cut the piece down and tried to make off with it and it all ended up in an unseemly scuffle caught on video. Despite this its fair to say this month has been pretty successful for Banksy. Some interventions have created massive media interest, in particular those that could be attached to a price tag such as the impromptu stall selling genuine Banksy art or the donation of a modified oil painting to a homeless / AIDS charity shop. Others have not gone down so well – there was something of a mixed reaction to Banksy’s comments on the building being built where the World Trade Center once stood. We’ve seen some great art, the tagger leopard and the collaboration with Os Gemeos being particular favourites. The theatrical interventions and sculptures were well received and created quite a stir. All in all after 31 days of activity it’s going to feel quite dull for a while. So long for now, it’s been a blast and we’ll leave the last word to Banksy’s dry narrator for the whole series:

“Banksy asserts that outside is where art should live, amongst us and rather than street art being a fad, maybe its the last 1,000 years of art history are the blip, when art came inside in service of the church and institutions. But arts rightful place is on the cave walls of our communities where it can act as a public service, provoke debate, voice concerns, forge identities. The world we live in today is run, visually at least, by traffic signs, billboards and planning committees, is that it? Don’t we want to live in a world made by art, not just decorated by it?”

photos: banksy.co.uk

 

 

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Banksy – Better Out Than In – Day 29

Banksy bought this oil painting from a thrift store in 23rd Street New York, amended as he done with so many other examples and gave it a new title “The banality of the banality of evil” before returning it to the thrift store, Housing Works. Where you’d think it will considerably boost this months takings for the shop, bookstore, and HIV/AIDS and homelessness advocacy organisation…it’s since been put up on a charity auction site and is currently at $95,200. Auction closes 31st October.

photos: banksy.co.uk

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Banksy – Better Out Than In – Day 28

Banksy in Coney Island with a classic robot piece.

photos: banksy.co.uk

What happened next: According to Gothamist someone has already had this artwork tattooed on their arm.

“As they have with other New Yorkers whose buildings were tagged by Banksy in his month-long “Better Out Than In” city tour, the NYPD asked Ruocco if he wanted to press graffiti charges against the artist.

“What are they filing a complaint about?” Ruocco said, declining the offer. “The guy puts $20,000 on your wall!” Source New York Post.

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Banksy – Better Out Than In – Day 27

Banksy in Greenpoint. According to his website he had planned to have his opinion printed in the NY times but they decided against publication. So he put the article up on his website and painted a wall with this apt slogan instead.

 

photos: Banksy.co.uk

What happened next: Roundly criticised for his criticism even serial Banksy critic / page hit generator Jonathan Jones of The Guardian got in on the act – a sure sign that Banksy was probably right in his appraisal. As for the slogan on the wall – according to Gothamist that was painted over by an ‘older woman’ (careful!) 24 hours later.

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Banksy – Better Out Than In – Day 26

Banksy adds his own New York bumper slogan to a van in Sunset Park.

photos: banksy.co.uk

What happened next: “After Shabbos I got a lot of phone calls,” Israel told VIN News.  “I googled Banksy and thought I would just leave the truck where it was until Monday, but a chasidishe guy called me and said ‘you better go move the truck before someone vandalizes it.’” Israel, truck and Banksy owner – more here.

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Banksy – Better Out Than In – Day 25

The Grim Reaper in a dodgem car originally appeared in a painting that was gifted to a band that happened to have the same name as Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop film. Today it made a real life appearance in Houston Street, Bowery circling around behind a fence where it will reappear every night from dusk to midnight until Sunday. See video footage here.

photos: banksy.co.uk

What happened next: an owner of a car parked nearby had her SUV roof damaged as onlookers clambered onto her vehicle to get a better view (New York Post)

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