Monday, December 26, 2011

exit through the gift shop

"Very entertaining with a great sound track and engaging story. Even though the premise is street art the real story is how gullible wealthy patrons can be duped into buying questionable art for exorbitant prices; based on slick promotion. Catchphrasing B.T. Barnum "There's a sucker born every minute"."  -Gerry (You Tube comment)

Above is a comment I found on You Tube that pretty well sums up how I feel about the movie I'm about to  discuss. Posted here is the best trailer I could find for the film "Exit Through the Gift Shop", which I finally got around to watching last night after it was recommended to me by my dental hygienist Adam, who is a street art enthusiast himself. I'm probably one of the last people on Earth who hasn't seen this film yet, and I couldn't recommend it enough to anyone with at least a passing interest in art. While the film touches base with perhaps the most brilliant and significant artist of our time, Banksy , it's really mostly about a camera-obsessed fella from France named Theirry Guetta who accidentally got into filming and documenting street artists in action, first by way of his cousin, acclaimed street artist Invader. What happens next simply could not have been predicted, and after viewing the film I was left with so many questions, mostly wondering just how something so terribly wrong went so right, mainly for Guetta, who decided to adopt the street art alias "Mister Brain Wash" or simply M.B.W.. The genius of Banksy's, and many great street artists' work lies in the subtle, clever commentary on so much of what's gone wrong with modern society. His ability to morph sometimes iconic visual imagery into something completely new and thought-provoking is the essence of Banksy's art, usually executed with a sly, even British sense of humor. Often times, it might take five, sometimes ten or more years for a good street artist to get their work noticed and accepted by the so-called higher establishments (museums and galleries), for better or worse. Usually this is never the intention of the artist to get assimilated into mainstream and popular culture, but sometimes their work becomes so powerful and utterly recognizable, that even the casual observer begins to take notice. Such was the case with the likes of Shepard Fairey (who plays a prominent role in "Exit..."), Keith Haring, Swoon, and Futura, to name a few. Basically, you have to pay your dues. Enter Theirry Guetta aka M.B.W.. In some ways, the guy did pay his dues, traveling and filming a good handful of today's street artists, entering a mostly dark and dangerous subculture, going places most men or women would never venture, to capture the artists whose lives are fueled by an insatiable inner fire to get their visual message out to the world by all means necessary, essentially using the world as their canvas. Of course, Guetta himself gets the street art bug, especially after meeting who he considered the holy grail of visual perpetrators, Banksy himself. How these artists accepted Mr. Guetta into their world is a bit perplexing, though Banksy offers a good explanation in the film. The problem is, Guetta never had intentions of ever actually making a documentary in the first place, and frankly never would have if it wasn't for Banksy urging him to get one made. After six months of editing thousands of hours of footage, the initial final cut turned out to be a nightmare of incomprehensible, unwatchable mess. This is when things started to take a turn for the worse, unless you were Guetta, or should I say M.B.W.? Unlike the actual, real artists in this film, Guetta took an entirely different route on his way to fame and fortune, and judging by the tastes in popular music and film nowadays, I shouldn't be surprised how so many people were duped into believing the hype and buying into what was some of the most contrived, insincere, and lifeless work by an "artist" ever created. 

Perhaps, if anything, this film is a commentary on how low the bar has been set and how visually illiterate we as a people have become. Still, there is a part of me that wants to root for Guetta, who from the get go was an underdog in life and worked hard to get to where he was at. Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh and blame the guy for wanting to be like Banksy, Fairey, Invader or Swoon or any of the now hugely successful and world renowned street artists on the rise today, even though his approach was wrong on all levels. Maybe I should blame the people who allowed him to get away with it all, allowing themselves to be fooled in the name of trendiness and hype. There is some speculation and theory that Banksy actually planned all of this absurdity with Guetta all along, some calling M.B.W. Banksy's biggest and best work to date. If this is true, then I tip my hat to both men for pulling off the most genius art prank of all time. In the meantime, you can see it all for yourself HERE, and be the judge.