Anti-Banksy graffiti contains potent message

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What's art and what's graffiti?

Tucked away in an alleyway few know exists and even fewer would venture down is a piece of graffiti composed of two sentences.

It reads: “If your name is Banksy then feel free to paint on fence. If not then don’t waste your time as your worthless art will just be covered over.”

The words are painted on a passageway behind houses in Hanover Place, St Stephen’s.

It’s perhaps an odd location for a message about a man who is an now established art luvvie, a favourite of the modern middle class, middle aged urban set whose voice so dominates the cultural and social landscape of this country.

Don’t forget that when Banksy first rose to prominence, he was hailed a guerrilla artist par excellence whose stencil paintings contained such stinging messages.

To be honest with you, I’ve never got the Banksy cult. Sure, the bloke’s clever and he can raise a smile as well as provoking a thought. But much of his output is shallow, the kind of thing that if you heard it verbalised over the dinner table you’d want to tell the speaker they sounded like a sanctimonious sixth former.

But the thing that gets me is the gushing reverence his work inspires – and the reason why so many desperately want to bask in its edgy urban – even criminal – chic.

His art is used by people to send messages about themselves. “Hey, look, I’m not all organic wholefoods, cello lessons and Noam Chomsky books.”

It’s no better than the insipidly middle of the road people who get tattoo sleeves, tell you they listen to Grime music or develop a sudden fondness for working class pursuits like football.

Now while the actual empirical working class might do some of those things mentioned above, Banksy’s message about them is distinctly contemptuous.

His 2015 anti-theme park Dismaland was a case in point. It told people who go to places like Disneyland and Seaworld, who shop at Tesco or eat in McDonald’s that they are brainless morons, slaves to corporate programming.

The middle class bien pensant, which is revolted by such activities, lapped it up.

Equally, even the state loves a piece of the Banksy action. When Banksy painted his Art Buff on a wall in Folkestone, the local authority went nuts for it. It put a protective shield around it and then later cut it out of the wall.

And because it’s a Banksy, it was all but forgotten that they were dealing with – had anyone else done it – a piece of graffiti.

The message in the Hanover Place alleyway is right: you need to be Banksy to get away with graffiti. Everyone else is just a vandal.

1 COMMENT

  1. In the early hours of this morning, near to Loughborough Junction, SE London, 3 young men were hit by a train and killed. It has been speculated within the media that they were trying to spray paint railway property. Obviously, our sympathies must go to the families of the deceased. Mine do.

    Interesting though, that these young men haven’t been referred to (in any reports I’ve heard) as trespassers, vandals, or criminals. No, media reports have described them as graffiti artists. To be fair, the word “allegedly” should probably precede any description of whatever these men were, no matter what they were actually doing.

    My point is this. If I burgle your house, I’m not a larceny artist, I’m a thief. Were I to be found in possession of kiddie porn, I’d be convicted in a court of law, not exhibited in the Tate Gallery and in the event that I build a house without permission, I can expect to get into trouble, not receive a medal, no matter how eye-catching the architectural design.

    So called “graffiti artists” commit criminal damage. No more, no less. They spray paint and despoil property which is not theirs. They claim their daubings are “street art”, “the people’s poetry” and “the murals of the masses”. Really? I wonder if these euphemistic descriptions would apply if I trashed their flats, spray painted their clothes and tagged their motors? No, I doubt they would be and I expect the owners might be a tad miffed. The biter bit would not be how they’d see it!

    In Canterbury, small-minded, spray can-wielding vandals seem intent on trashing anything that takes their fancy, safe in the knowledge that they’ll probably get away with it. Ironically, our Council seems to apportion blame to the victims, insisting (on pain of conviction) that it’s these poor sods who must clear up, after they and their property have suffered damage.

    I don’t have a perfect solution to this problem but oh boy, would I like to see some of these criminal damagers caught, named and shamed, then put to work restoring the property they vandalised.

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