Why we should lift eyes from the ground and look around: Discovering Banksy.

I must admit I have not been drawn to street art like that before, or perhaps I haven't been able to fully appreciate it. Hence, the exhibit of the artwork of Banksy in Antwerp was quite eye-opening and a complete discovery for me.

Banksy is a British-based anonymous street artist and a political activist of unverified identity. In the very beginning I found some his works a little too eccentric and I am being very careful with what social activists are preaching for as very often I find they do it for the sole purpose of either feeling good about themselves or to gain a certain social status. At the same time, they can attract masses of people and create massive hype and attention. It might be that their causes and approaches are simply not talking to me based on my own convictions. Clearly that's why we fight for freedom of expression but yet we are all responsible for maintaining a level of critical view, which is the only instrument to filter non-sense and alternative facts.

Banksy's works not only spoke to me, but made me feel for causes and concepts, which I haven't been thinking about. I trust that this by itself should be the function of socially oriented art - not only to illustrate belief but also to awaken such. So that's where my interest towards street art and murals was consciously conceived.

I am sharing here a few of his works, which I found most revealing and moving (presented through my own perspective).

PEACE

The idea of the "Girl with the balloon" symbolizes the agreement to submit to a certain social order, letting go of something that is a primary human being's need - love. And then "The flower thrower" sends a message of hope in the face of revolutionary violence.


Girl with Balloon, 2004
Flower thrower, 2002

"The Bomb hugger" and the "Suicide bomber needs a hug" manifest the ultimate need for non-violent solution to social disorder. The kids who have grown up with fear of Nuclear attacks during the Cold war, brought together by fear and today we see a manifestation of how violence conceives more violence every single day and how clearly humanity has not learned from past mistakes.

Bomb Hugger, 2003
Even a suicide bomber needs a hug, 2005















The "Stop and Search Study" showing a police man searching Dorothy of Oz, together with the "Police Kids" show the irrational limits that state security can reach despite the inherent playfulness and innocence of childhood.


Stop and Search Study, 2007
Police Kids, 2006
















The "Flying Copper" emphasizes the oppression of the state through the contrast created by wings, smiley face and warm colors. And a similar message is reinforced through the "CND" reminding how many wars have been actually started supposedly in the name peace and democracy.


Flying Copper, 2003


CND, 2005

MODERN VALUES: Consumerism, Wealth & Religion

The "Sale Ends" mocks the Black Friday consumers, while the "Trolleys" shows sort of compassion towards the consumers obsessed with commercial invasion.


Sale Ends
 Trolleys, 2007

















Ultimately sarcastic the "Festival" shows punk fans who are the symbol on anti-capitalism queuing for 30-dollar t-shirts saying "Destroy Capitalism". Similarly "Christ with Shopping Bags" illustrates how Christmas has become the date for mass-consumerism hysteria.


Festival, 2006

Christ with Shopping Bags, 2004
















The "Love Heart Wasp" refers to a group of American citizens, in possession of disproportionate social and financial power  and then I found "Morons" absolutely hilarious with the auction picture saying "I can't believe you morons actually buy this shit." portraying how money is artificially being made out of art, which is not always of a particular value, while true meaningful art is organically appreciated.


Love Heart Wasp, 2004
Morons, 2006
















The "Mother Theresa" painting with the words "I learned a valuable lesson from this woman - Moisturize every day" critiques the fact that a religious figure has become a pop-culture icon of virtue and it also pushes forward the missed lessons, which could have been learned from Mother Theresa. And then finally on religion the "Toxic Mary" implies the brutal reality of the peaceful and loving connotations implied by religion, but always bringing a current of war, political and territorial conflicts. 


Mother Teresa, 2006
Toxic Mary, 2004















IDENTITY

Banksy has been obsessed with the idea about "The elephant in the room", which I personally have 
always found fascinating as people tend to never talk about it as it is usually never convenient, but there is always one elephant in there. In his show "Barely legal" he has practically fitted a whole elephant as part of the "invisible" decor in the room.


Barely legal show, 2006: The Elephant in the Room
The "Paranoid Pictures" illustrates the great and contagious paranoia dictating how people act, wasting energy and potential in conspiracies and fear. It is best explained by a quote by Banksy himself: "Your mind works best when you are paranoid. You explore every avenue and possibility of your situation at high speed with total clarity." 


Paranoid Pictures, 2003
Rats are present in numerous works of Banksy and that concept crystalized for me after awhile. Banksy relates himself to rats, as they prefer the life of the shadows. He reveals that people are on his radar and target, and that he is actually aware of their conception of the world.


Radar Rat, 2004
The world of Banksy is absolutely fascinating and revealing, offering invaluable food for thought. It is our responsibility to open eyes for concepts that are not visible at first sight and do what is in our capacity to make a change when something is unjust. 

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