Monday, August 24, 2009

Banksy in the Bristol Museum - on the Side of the Underdog.

Went to Bristol today to see the Banksy. Three hours 40 minutes queuing, rained on twice, but all worth it. Nice busker doing Pink Panther on one of those ?melodion things, keyboard that you blow into. Got talking with the neighbours in the queue. No problem with the wait, Three hours well spent.

Plunge into the Bristol Museum vs Banksy . Brilliant. First the triolith of Portaloos, suitably defaced with tags and scribble.

Then the Shock Jock. A radio programme on graffiti. Deeply disturbing piece. Was it real? I tend to believe it was. I tried to ring the number they gave, but it was discontinued.

Then the statues. David. Michaelangelo brought forward into the century that kicked off with this absurd "war on terror".
The Lion Tamer.

Classical works desecrated, not by Banksy, but by the way in which we are governed. Banksy is a satirist. Maybe the critis who diss him should ask themselves whether they would also have found Hogarth not quite to their taste.

After the statues, the Zoo.
Leopard poised on a branch, tail twitching, simian artist painting a beach in the certain knowledge that he would never be on a beach again unless someone unlocks his damned cage.
Nuggety chicks.
Sausages (so realistically represented that you could almost imagine they were alive). Tweety Pie.
(A bird within a guilded cage
Sets all Heaven in a Rage.
But not the Contented Twit.
He doesn't mind a bit. - Milligan)

The Riot Policeman theme. We as a society seem as if we don't mind a bit either, as shades of the prison house close about us. But it would be infinitely better world if Riot Policemen were running free in the meadow instead of running amok in the City.

The paintings. My favourite was the House of Commons. The MP Expenses scandal must have put millions onto the value of that painting.

After the Exhibition we all milled up into the normal Bristol Museum, looking for anomalies. Looking hard at all the stuff, getting drawn into it, looking into deep time, pondering the meaning of the Ordovician period, and then your consciousness is suddently dragged into 2009 by the a piece by The Unknown Vandal - the Trolley. And the Stalagmite. I found a Rat among the Chinese Dynastic pieces.

This is art without snobs on. There were no loud proclamations by art critics, self-appointed or otherwise, about the concept that lies within this piece, what notion the artist is exploring. Banksy needs no interpretation. He is interpreting 2009 to us with enormous clarity. A child can understand it - though a banker might not get it.

The critics who disrespect Banksy have to come to terms with the collaboration with Damien Hirst. Nice one Damien.

It follows from Banksy that the Law on graffiti has to be amended. Off the top of my head:

Let's start with sites.
Rule 1 - preferred sites should be hoardings, concrete expanses and bricked up windows. Owner's permission is preferable also.
Rule 2 - content: must be judged to be of artistic merit. um...a jury of citizens? The Honourable Guild of Graffiti artists? Help needed here.

Rule 1 is easy to apply. Rule 2 is a bit more difficult.

Anyway Rule 3 is easy - graffiti art can lift our spirits, and deepen our appreciation of our visual environment. It should be encouraged, in a way that lifts our spirits by being part of a general uplift in the quality of our visual environment. Well painted street furniture is better than dirty, rusty, rotting street furniture. There is such a thing as aesthetic, just as there is such a thing as society.

Congratulations to whoever in the Bristol Museum saw this one through. Bloody amazing. We live in topsy turvy times. The respected classes have earned our profound disrespect, but the once-vilified graffiti artists are getting the recognition they deserve - a breakthrough movement like all the previous art revolutions.

No, not a breakthrough. Banksy is leading a Break-Out Movement.

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