What is street art? There's a fine line between art done in public places and vandalism, or graffiti. Banksy mostly stays on the "art" side of the line. I first saw an article about his work in Wired magazine (Aug 2005), and immediately thought "this guy is a genius." A subversive genius, but a genius nonetheless... He uses stencils to make statements about everything from the WAR to politics, big business, government oppression, and the mess we're making of the environment. Art often elicits an emotional response, a punch in the gut, more so than the written word. It makes you think about, and hopefully, act on what you believe. What if, on the way to work or school, we all were provoked into changing something that needed changing? Perhaps the world would be a better place...
This image remains my favorite. There is something so inherently contradictory about angry protestors throwing flowers instead of bricks or Molotov cocktails at their opponents. Maybe the opponent is the government- they have riot police, we have flowers. Maybe its big business- they have zillions of advertising dollars, we have flowers. Maybe it's the corporate polluters- they have lobbyists, we have flowers. The question is: does the image mean are we powerless? Flowers are so ephemeral, so fragile. How could they possibly hurt anything? Or are the flowers a symbol of the intangible power that comes from belief and hope and the certainty of truth? Do they, like love, have the power to transform the enemy? I don't know what Banksy is saying, but the image sticks with me.
Below is the link to his website. He has also published a couple small books, which I found on Amazon. Be forewarned, you may find some of his images disturbing or offensive. But most of them are brilliant, especially the ones on the wall Israel has built around the West Bank. I also like the rats, in all their various incarnations and occupations. "We have met the enemy, and they are us."