Created in May 2008 on Leake Street, London
Painted over by August 2008
A person is jet blasting a wall. The viewer can see immediately that he shouldn't be - he is jet blasting over supposed graffiti in what appears to be an attempt to overcome an act of vandalism and to tidy up an urban scene. Because the depicted scene being blasted is obvious, and we know it's not graffiti, the overall piece invokes disappointment and anger. The implications of this clever satire work on several levels.
It expresses an ignorance of an artistic legacy and the danger of ill-thought policies that protect the wrong things at the expense of the right things. Banksy seems to be saying that we hasten to erase elements of artistic expression for the sake of arbitrary notions of putative cultural norms. As a socio-political statement, we are destroying our artistic and anthropological origins at a cost. It’s not so much the ignorance of a council worker following orders, it’s the real and vicious act of censorship. The figure (the council worker) itself is also graffiti, but nobody is insisting that the figure is removed, just the art.
Banksy is also commenting on the value of art, questioning what IS art, and how that sits with public space versus private gallery space.
"The Art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say. When you go to an Art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires."
The role of graffiti as an art form is juxtaposed with the role of Palaeolithic rock art; marking the walls around us seems to be a part of what makes us human. 'Graffiti Removal' suggests that the cultural legacy of society is slowly being erased by society, much like some graffiti is quickly removed regardless of its message, positive or negative.
→ Rock Art and Graffiti
→ World Rock Art
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