Monday, May 10, 2010

life ain't so bad at all, live your life off the wall

"exit through the gift shop" is everything you would expect from a handful of street artists/practical jokers. there is seemingly no point to the film for the first half even though there is a steady narrative to keep the viewer focused on the action. countless hours of guerrilla executed, cinema verite style footage was compiled to show and legitimize the slowly growing bodies of work these self styled street artists are responsible for.

whether or not banksy is actually responsible for this film is up for debate as is the true identity of the shadowy figure at the beginning of the film. i would rather it wasn't actually banksy to be honest because i think it would sort of cheapen the film if it was. not because i think banksy is lowering himself to having to defend his art or challenge what he thinks is wrong, but because up until now his motives have been almost completely unknown. while his work is politically charged more often than not, there is no clear message in his work other than that of anti-authoritarian opposition and calling attention to issues banksy feels need addressing.

where i think the film suffers is its complete lack of any explanation of what graffiti was and is. the film takes some broad leaps and either assumes that only people familiar with the work of its subjects will watch it or doesn't care. that is dangerous for a few reasons. first; it becomes more difficult to classify what street art is or is not because the viewer is given no frame of social reference. second; it sets up this new wave of artists as the creative influence for everything that has happened since the late 80s/early 90s effectively wiping out any of the original causes and social contexts that created what we now know as graffiti art. it quite literally dismisses the work of an army of people from new york to paris that made spray paint such a powerful weapon.

on the other hand, i applaud this film for it's unabashed honesty (at least that's what i'm hoping it is whether it's due to a sense of injustice and setting the record straight or to protect their self interests) because it really does set out to destroy people that don't pay their dues.

is art as simple as photocopying an image and writing an odd slogan for juxtaposition or does it take years to perfect a style? does it really matter in the end when a horde of mindless spoiled children rally around the opinion of "authority" and buy up what they've been told is "cool"? when it's hard to distinguish "honest and real" from "contrived and fake" because the message has been removed by marketing then all the ignorant public is left with is one painting of a rat or another painting of a rat holding paint can. which is "real"? which one was lifted? which one had a meaning and which one was because the "artist" saw it somewhere and thought it was cool?

these are all questions exit... tries to answer but leaves the decision firmly in the lap of the viewer. the final argument is one of finished product or the method used to create it. does hiring a team of people and telling them what to paint mean the project manager isn't an artist? it does if the project manager can't make anything by themselves.

go see the film and decide for yourself.

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