Being as this is my first contribution to Brain Dead Blog, I’ve figured theres no better way to prematurely establish my legacy than with an entry teeming with indecision and blatant non-commitment wrapped in the guise of superfluous language. For that reason, I’ve decided to review a documentary called “Exit Through The Gift Shop”.
Unlike most if not all movie reviews I’ve ever written, I would be doing this film a great deal of disservice by beginning at the beginning. The truth is, it is an almost impossible task to dissect this in terms of “acts”, as the line between where it ends and where it begins becomes completely devoured in itself once you feel you’ve reached the logical conclusion. To put it simply is to say that “ETTGS” is a documentary shot by a Frenchman named Thierry Guetta hoping to shine a light on the subversive street art movement typically cloaked in darkness. While we may originally enroll in this film to learn more about specific tactics employed or in the hopes of gaining a worms eye view into the process that pulls the strings of contemporary genius, what we end up getting is actually an awareness of ourselves and our place in the relationship that we have with art (in my case I found myself to be the neglectful spouse that occasionally finds himself in fits of masturbatory practices while others I am friends with are battered by art yet love it so much they cant leave it). Through Guetta’s lens, we as the viewer slowly become aware of the similarities between the cameraman and his subjects, frequently watching him out climb, out run and out think even the most renown artists, though I use “renown” loosely as many of those with whom we may be familiar have never shown their faces in public. This underlying commonality of wit, mischief and immediate insight does not go unrecognized by the Street Jesus “Banksy” who, while FINALLY giving the public some insight into his life and art, begs Guetta to take some time off from behind the lens and focus on becoming an artist himself after realizing that the documentary in process is so convoluted, nobody will want to see it.
As somewhat expected, the guerilla becomes aware of its spectator and charges the divide with all of its might, overtaking the observer and dragging him back to its den. Guetta is now in the throes of the art community he once tried to objectively observe and with a ferocity unmatched by ANY artist covered, Guetta (under the alias “Mr.Brainwash”) opens an art show in Los Angeles showcasing no fewer that 300 of his own subversive pieces to a public both as bewildered and indecisive as I was watching this movie. In a defense mechanism likened to a porcupine erecting his quills at the slightest sense of danger, art critics have a way of deterring “layman” when they realize that their opinions are so ill formed that they might accidentally resemble the opinion of the misinformed majority they have spend their lives distancing themselves from. They use the word “genius”. So while the question that remains to most of us is “Where did Mr.Brainwash come from, where is he now and where is he going?” the film simply ends with a crowd of LA’s elite fawning over the “genius” of neo Banksy works, viewers at home fooled into watching a movie about a nobody turned somebody and Banksy himself begrudgingly accepting the fact that he created a monster and once again shutting himself down from the public.
And now, to quote Eli Cash in The Royal Tennenbaums “but what this presupposes is… maybe he didn’t?”
I’m not going to use this review as my dissertation as to what I believe art to be. I don’t know a thing about it other than I know it when I see it. Essentially I feel that art exists to explain itself to me and that I believe in a creative hierarchy which looks like this:
G E N I U S
i n s a n i t y
This not only shows the path ideas take from the subconscious into full blown realization but also what mental level you have to be at to undermine those on top of you. Banksy is a genius. Everything he did was subverted by the insanity of Guetta. Initially I thought “there you have it, that’s the movie”. Until a friend brought another idea to my attention. The idea that Banksy, again, is a GENIUS.
What originally struck me as odd was the sheer QUANTITY of the paintings produced by Mr.Brainwash. How could a man with a family back in France, little income, few connections and hardly any sanity left commandeer such an overwhelming output of work in so little time? How could he end up on the cover of LA Weekly, sell almost every single one of his pieces to the most astute collectors and get commissioned by Madonna for her album cover art with so few credentials in the art world? How could he- and here is the most important question of all- fool the art community, subvert art ITSELF and do so without ANYONE knowing who he is?
Hmmmm. Fooling the art community, subverting art as we thought we knew it, nobody knowing who he really is…sounds like someone I’m so interested in that I paid to rent a movie about only to have the movie not actually be about him at all…
(posted by Keith Buckley)