Sick burn, New Yorker!
Recently, British guerrilla artist Banksy has taken up “residency” in New York, meaning his stencils randomly pop up, only to be immediately tagged over by local graffiti artists. And then there’s been a few performance pieces he pulled, like selling his work to unwitting buyers from a streetside stall for $60 (had serious art buyers been in the know, the pieces would have gone for about $31,000). But you know what’s kind of awesome about New York? We really don’t give a shit. Sure, there’s perpetual 24/7 Banksy media coverage, but the average Joe probably gives a Banksy stencil the same attention as he would a bodega mural mourning the death of a local drug dealer.
I’ll admit, it’s almost always nice to see public art. Whether it’s your taste or not, it’s usually better than an empty lot or a crumbling wall. But it seems like the city’s sentiment was summed up nicely in The New Yorker cartoon. There’s something extra stinging about a flippant dismiss from a New Yorker. It’s like having your white grandma inform you that your twerking is sub-par, or being told by a local beat policeman that your Captain Beefheart collection consists of only his “Tragic Band” material.
Take the latest Banksy performance piece, wherein a meat truck of stuffed animals is animated to, I don’t know, show the horrors of factory farming? There’s a presumptuousness to that piece—“Hey, did you know that factory farming is really inhumane?!?” “Why no I didn’t! At least not until I saw that really earnest and heavy-handed social commentary rolling down 8th Avenue!” Plus, I saw a drag queen do something similar (but better) two years ago.
And that shit had glitter.
When so much of your hype stems from your anonymity, it makes perfect sense that New Yorkers would be largely unimpressed. It’s a city full of anonymous people, so that whole supposedly edgy anonymity novelty just doesn’t move us. You don’t want to be seen? Awesome, ‘cos we don’t have the time to look. There’s dog shit on the sidewalk and bike messengers and taxis to dodge. There’s so, so, so much going on. Why would we pursue a coy “anonymous celebrity,” when we have tons of artists in the minor leagues, desperate to get their real names out there? It was tourists who bought those Banksy originals in Central Park, and I have to wonder, if Banksy revealed his identity, would his fans (and the media) continue to be so enthusiastic about his work?
Perhaps we Banksy-shruggers just don’t “get it”—I never claimed to be cultured. But I really do think that his brand of “spectacle” simply doesn’t translate very well to our fair city. Below, you can see his venture into short film, wherein Syrian rebels shoot down Dumbo the elephant with a rocket launcher, shrieking “Allahu Akbar!”. It’s ironic, it’s political, it’s vague, it’s Banksy. It’s a another brand in a heavily branded city, and we have shit to do.