Banksy Takes New York

Written by Eric Jones

Banksy hits the nail on the head with this piece. There is graffiti all over New York but you generally don't see crowds gathered around it snapping photos, or building owners slapping plexiglas over top to protect it from other taggers. When Banksy's name is attached, it becomes profound. Not because of his fame, or because of his Bruce Wayne style anonymity… but because it actually is profound.

During the month of October, the undercover artist is attempting to mount a city-wide New York show called "Better Out Than In", complete with museum style audio tours of the work, facilitated through toll-free phone numbers next to the pieces. The profundity comes from shifting the point of view folks have about stuff they normally ignore. And not getting caught.

While in art school, I walked every day past a large, drab green metal enclosure on the sidewalk. It had the sound of rushing water inside and, apparently, was put there by the town of La Canada, California to cover some sort of water-works. I'm sure I was the only one who ever noticed it because everyone else in La Canada had a car. One night, in my first and only urge to tag, I made a stencil and painted "La Canada Falls" on the side of it. The town is at the foot of the Angeles National Forest and there were official signs along Foothill Blvd. proclaiming "Scenic Drive". So, to make sure my mischief was perceived as art, not mischief, I made a series of signs with arrows pointing to "La Canada Falls - 1 MIle" and placed them a mile on either side of my masterpiece. But I digress.

We city dwellers are often blinded and confused by the complexity of modern urban life. Banksy has made a career out of the sort of mischief that wipes the mist from our eyes. One could dismiss the quote above as a throwaway punchline, but it speaks volumes about not only the art world, but also the state of our general comprehension. Can you say for sure that it is not an actual quote by Plato? Plato was possibly smarter than Banksy and may have predicted the cult of personality.

We are all routinely tricked into believing things simply because they have been repeated often enough, by advertisements and politicians, or said by somebody we respect. If Dr. Oz were to advise eating gravel a lot of us would probably do it.

Banksy is the dead philosopher in this story; making everything from junkyard cars, to urine stained walls, to grim blue institutional doors seem profound by affixing his signature graffiti and wit. Layered conceptual clauses interrupting our idiot routines. By insisting that each and every waking thought is a metaphor, he has achieved the impossible: he's made conceptual art fun.

Visit Banksy's website to follow his New York adventure.