Friday, May 7, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop- She said

Most of us modern people know the term “street art” by it’s more common and illegal term, graffiti. But there’s a whole underground culture of street artists, and some of them are making money, and LOTS of it. Now, from what I understand, like any form of art, you’re not suppose to get into it for the money. You enter into the world because you’re passionate about making art and/or making a statement (whatever that may be). In Exit through the Gift Shop, we meet “Banksy”, a legendary street artist from Britain, making a documentary of the man, Thierry Guetta, who was making a documentary about street artists.

Now the rumor surrounding this movie is that it’s a hoax, that maybe Guetta and Banksy are pulling a farce on the audience. No one really knows, and to be honest, I think it makes the movie more intriguing. Guetta is a quirky, cartoonish character who will drop whatever he’s doing if it means getting a good shot for his documentary. He is able to catch some of the most prominent street artists in action: Banksy, Invader, and Shepard Fairey. He records 1000s upon 1000s of hours of footage and dumps his tapes into random, unmarked boxes. Eventually, he tries to make a movie, but as Banksy puts it, “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before…” Banksy then plants idea in Guetta’s head to become a street artist, thus Mr. Brainwash is born.

Guetta puts together his first art show, and it’s huge. However, he didn’t have to “pay his dues” as most artists have. He gets Banksy to put a quote for his art show, and BAM, Guetta has upwards to 7,000 people the first day. He makes millions of dollars. Now, is his art good? One could argue he’s not really an artist. He blatantly takes ideas from other artists, like Warhol. Some say he finds inspiration; others say he’s rip off-wannabe.

At this point is where the question comes in…did Banksy and Guetta create “Mr. Brainwash” to prove a point about art? Was this an elaborate hoax to show how fake and superficial some artists could be, and how blind the masses are?

Or is it a true story? Did Guetta become inspired by the culture he followed for so long and discovered he had a natural gift? Was he just at the right place at the right time and knew the right people? Is he just a lucky guy?

None of these questions are answered, and that’s what makes this film so great. The debate that happens afterwards between members of the audience is why I loved this movie so much. I stayed talking with people for at least half an hour discussing the validity of Guetta, his art, and his sudden success.

Personally, I think it’s a hoax and a brilliant social commentary on art and the passion behind it. The movie is very entertaining and keeps the audience engaged throughout. The world street art that we’re able to scratch the surface of is inspiring and brilliant. The artists like Shepard and Invader do this because they love it and want to make a statement. Guetta…he seems to be in it for the money, which completely goes against the unwritten morals of this culture.

If the truth ever comes out and Banksy and Guetta has pulled one over on the world, I will be impressed. Banksy proves that he can delve in to the subconscious of a culture, create a mess of an artist, and come out clean and brilliant on the other end.

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