The Shed - - Editorial - Lara Wyatt

Ev­ery year when the New Zealand In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val is an­nounced, my first move is to rush straight to Auck­land’s Civic Theatre and grab my copy of the pro­gramme with all the films and the sched­ule pub­lished in­side. I then get my trusty high­lighter out and mark out ev­ery sin­gle film I want to get to, and put it into my di­ary. How­ever, in pre­vi­ous years I al­ways ended up putting off book­ing un­til ev­ery­thing was booked out, or other plans had arisen.

This year, I made sure I went to the ma­jor­ity of the films that I had high­lighted. One of those I got to at­tend — thanks to an ad­di­tional screen­ing, as the first one sold out im­me­di­ately — was Banksy Does New York. I’d pre­vi­ously heard about the elu­sive Banksy, and had seen plenty of his work, thanks to the world­wide web, but watch­ing this doc­u­men­tary about his month-long res­i­dency in New York re­ally made me think about the mo­ti­va­tions be­hind cre­ation.

Dur­ing his res­i­dency, Banksy left a new piece of work some­where in New York ev­ery day, and would al­lude to it on his web­site, mak­ing New York­ers swarm to wher­ever it was lo­cated to see what he’d pro­duced. What made me gasp was that op­por­tunists would come along with chis­els and other such tools to cut the works out of the walls and doors they adorned, or would pick up sculp­tures Banksy had cre­ated and load them into the back of their trucks. Th­ese art­works would then ap­pear in gal­leries with the po­ten­tial to be sold off for hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars, of which Banksy would see none.

This made me think about the work that artists cre­ate, and why they cre­ate it. To me, this film in­di­cated the artist’s pas­sion for art and the political mes­sages that he wanted to bring to the at­ten­tion of the works’ view­ers, rather than a de­sire to ben­e­fit fi­nan­cially. There were spe­cific sit­u­a­tions where the de­sire for oth­ers to ben­e­fit more than the artist was ev­i­dent, such as when Banksy sold orig­i­nal works — with­out la­belling them as orig­i­nals — on the side of the street for $60; very few of them sold, but those who did pur­chase one are likely to ben­e­fit from a whop­ping re­sale value. There was also the time when Banksy pur­chased a paint­ing from a Hous­ing Works store, made an ad­di­tion, put it back in the store; the money raised from its auc­tion went straight to the cause. This lat­ter ex­am­ple brought to the at­ten­tion of the New York City pub­lic the not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that ad­vo­cates for “the end of the dual crises of homelessne­ss and AIDS” in New York.

Through­out the res­i­dency, Banksy was able to uti­lize 31 days to por­tray a va­ri­ety of political mes­sages and state­ments about so­ci­ety and var­i­ous his­tor­i­cal events to a main­stream au­di­ence, show­cas­ing to them what was hap­pen­ing in the world around them that they might not no­tice as they went about their daily lives.

Through his art, Banksy dis­misses the idea of be­ing paid for his cre­ations in favour of the big-pic­ture ideal of aware­ness of the world we live in and keep­ing in­formed. His day-nine piece was painted on the side of two ve­hi­cles and showed stam­ped­ing horses with nightvi­sion gog­gles, with ac­com­pa­ny­ing au­dio from the Col­lat­eral Mur­der video show­ing the killing of chil­dren and civil­ians by US sol­diers in Iraq. The door of one of the ve­hi­cles was stolen from the dis­play and put up for auc­tion — but it would ap­pear Banksy is OK with that as the political mes­sage was re­ceived by a large au­di­ence.

Art can be an in­cred­i­ble ves­sel of knowl­edge and aware­ness, re­veal­ing to a main­stream au­di­ence that there are many de­ci­sions and events oc­cur­ring un­der their noses that they may not be aware of, and this film high­lighted for me the huge im­pact the art world can have by mak­ing peo­ple stop, think, and make a change in their so­ci­ety and com­mu­ni­ties.

I guess that’s one of the bonuses for those of us lucky to be work­ing as pro­fes­sion­als in the cre­ative in­dus­tries — as we all know, it’s not just ‘work’.

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