Some thoughts on Exit Through the Giftshop

Watched Exit Through the Giftshop with Pip, Monica, and Josh last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it – the humor, involvement, art, story. Dialoge natural enough to be an actual documentary, clever enough to make you question if it actually is.

I took two main thoughts from it. I don’t think they get along with each other, but here goes:
1) MBW is a manifestation of the graffiti community as seen from people in other arts communities. It’s pulling from previous iterations of artistic ability to do something many see as degenerate and/or offensive.
2) Graffiti is like hacking in the way parkour is like hacking. Breaking systems other people take for granted. But a web dev taking the course of actions a hacker did months before is not hacking. It’s working on a (newly) established structure. That to me is the difference between MBW and the artists he looked up to. But because he wanted to be perceived as one of those artists instead of as his own thing, he didn’t hack (way of making things work in an unexpected way) but rather was a hack (someone who throws together shit content in order to have content). (See the internet for copious examples of both).

Now onto graffiti. I grew up in a family of architects and German engineers. I believe architecture lives up to the term “frozen music” it used to be called. It is art. And whether or not art itself should be defaced is a whole other argument as it involves grey areas of history, politics, new artistic statements, etc etc. That’s why art is so fascinating to me – because it is so fraught with nuance.

But then there’s all this architecture out there that’s crap. Or abandoned. Or both. And I love graffiti on that. It’s like dumpstering a plank or a canvas someone else did some attempt of art on and doing something new, something yours, on it. I’ll leave you with this, because I think it’s amazing. And please do watch Exit, if you haven’t already.

One thought on “Some thoughts on Exit Through the Giftshop

  1. I liked the movie as well, and I think your ideas are fairly spot on, and do play fairly well together, in that outsiders are often unable to distinguish someone who is a creator (hacker) from a plagiarist (hack). They are frequently more welcoming to the hack, in fact, because said individual is likely to be closer to their in-group. MBW makes a fine example, as his idea of being ‘like’ banksy or invader is to a) create a brand, rather than an identity, and b) have a show and make lots of money (ultimately) as quickly as possible, rather than by developing an interesting body of work through effort over time. Thus, he is far more like his LA audience than the artists he admires.

    As for your point about architecture… tagging the Taj Mahal is just a dick move. Painting a mural on the side of a warehouse painted that ubiquitous industrial gray is a whole ‘nother story, and altering or defacing a billboard is something else again. It’s been pointed out by banksy and others that modern urban life is a never-ending barrage of bullshit imagery that you never asked to see, most of it trying to sell you something or otherwise influence your behavior. Graffiti is (or can be, at least) a much needed subversive act in that environment.

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