Social Action Now!

An objective view to worldwide social issues

Social criticism through art: Banksy’s passive complain

Who does not like to complain? And even more now that there are many reasons to complain about. The society’s uncertain situation, which is worsen every minute, the increasing unemployment and decrease in life quality, with its consequent lack of interest from the government, leads to a necessity to speak our minds. However, individuals are not commonly listened. This was Banksy’s situation. A British citizen with an idea to convey but no enough relevance to be heard started grafting in the streets of Liverpool to express himself. Little is known about his personal information, due to the effort made to stay anonymous.

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By painting images which criticize nowadays problems, such as the exploitation of cheap labor force, homophobia or the excessive addiction to technology, in alleys, public sculptures and abandoned places, this author climbed to the top of success. In a Smithsonian article written by Will Ellsworth-Jones he is precisely described as a “graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateur” (2013). Even his nick name is a paradox of what he does and the consequences. Banksy developed from Robin Banx, which sounds like “robbing banks”. According to David Trueba (2010), Banksy maintains his fame due to his anonymity. As a result of the success he had in Great Britain, his art spread to other part of the world, appearing in New York and Paris, among other cities.

His works have been valued in millions of dollar. Related to this, answering to the question “What do you think about people selling the art you put on the street?”, posed in his official page by a fan, he expresses his opinion, once more against society and its unstoppable consumerism: “As a kid I always dreamt of growing up to be a character in Robin Hood. I just never realized I’d end up playing one of the gold coins.” This makes us think that their inner meaning and aim of criticism have been forgotten and substituted by the mere beauty of art. He personally says: “This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count.” Unfortunately, what do people tend to do when art is in their hands? What have we done with it since it first ended up in our power? Destroy it, of course. Banksy clearly conveyed the idea in the following mural.

banksy

Whenever culture and the power to decide it is up to us, the cure is always worst that the disease. What can be seen in the picture is the culture of our beginnings being erased as easily as it came and with no visible reason. It is a metaphor of today. In popular culture, the choice is the citizen’s and we just need to look around to see what we have done with it. Soap opera TV programs and Junk TV invade the media to a point where it is nearly impossible to watch anything differing from that. Manuel Arboccó appropriately compares citizens with children, stating that “Kids usually select the programs that entertain, rather than educate.” (2014) This is what has happened nowadays and which is steadily but continuously worsening culture. Apparently our likes do not seem to be the best.

Another social issue criticized by this famous artist is homophobia. The following work appeared on the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton, England, in 2004. The clear aim of it was to criticize the discrimination homosexual people have to undergo constantly, and even more in England, one of the few countries which did not have a law accepting homosexuality until recently. Although homosexuality is mostly accepted in our society and strongly publicly defended by organizations, these same organizations show clear rejection towards it. This is basically what is expressed in the painting, two male policemen engaging in a passionate kiss. This situation, unfortunately and contradicting the ideals the government defend, would be shocking and probably strongly judged by witnesses. Here is a clear example of the paradox between what it is said to be defended and what it is really personally thought.

Banksy,

To sum up, the artist set up an organization called Pest Control (a tongue-in-cheek-titled organization) to authenticate the real Banksy artworks as there are a lot of people who try to imitate it because of his success.  Nevertheless, although copying his art is not the best option, trying to find a way like he did to express our opinion and catch citizens’ attention might be the solution to the lack of importance and authority that people have in modern societies. Never be afraid to express yourself, even when people try to make you think you are not worth it. Being different to passive people is not bad at all.

Banksy pigeons

P.S: Should you be interests in further analysis or information about each of Banksy’ s works, I strongly recommend you to visit this page, where a short explanation and description if given about Banksy’s 50 most famous works: http://www.complex.com/style/2013/11/banksy-greatest-works/kissing-coppers

 

References

Arboccó, M. (20 de Julio de 2014). El Peruano, diario official. Obtenido de http://www.elperuano.com.pe/edicion/noticia-sobre-llamada-television-basura-20415.aspx#.VJIHvvl5M1Y

Ellsworth-Jones, W. (February de 2013). Smithsonian. Obtenido de http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-story-behind-banksy-4310304/?no-ist

Trueba, D. (20 de Oct de 2010). El Pais. Archivo. Obtenido de http://elpais.com/diario/2010/10/20/radiotv/1287525605_850215.html

Official Banksy web page

http://banksy.co.uk/faq.asp