SÉA­MAS O’REILLY

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

If you were con­sum­ing any of the print re­ac­tion to Banksy’s lat­est state­ment against the cul­ture in­dus­try, you may have read that the art world was “stunned” and “slammed” by last week’s Sotheby’s auc­tion, at which the artist set up one of his prints to shred the mo­ment it was sold.

By con­trast, on­line re­ac­tion to the stunt was mostly de­risory, more firmly ce­ment­ing Banksy’s odd place in mod­ern me­dia, li­onised by the more tra­di­tional or­gans of the press as a rad­i­cal an­ar­chist, and near-uni­ver­sally mocked on so­cial me­dia as a sixth-form poseur.

“My room­mate banksy is at it again,” wrote @elec­trole­mon on Twit­ter, in a typ­i­cal joke way back in 2014, “he made cof­fee and put some­thing in­side that would ‘RE­ALLY’ wake me up”. This he posted above an im­age of a piece of pa­per float­ing in his cof­fee, on which is writ­ten “the govern­ment is bad”.

Hav­ing been one of the most sure-footed web-mythol­o­gis­ers of the 2000s, there’s a sense that Banksy’s cur­rent com­men­tary is leaden and heavy-handed, where once it seemed ex­cit­ing and rev­e­la­tory. The col­lec­tive shrug re­ceived by his Dis­ma­land par­ody theme park – fi­nally some­one tak­ing a pop at Dis­ney! – was a re­cent sign that the finger on the spray-can was no longer on the pulse. More un­set­tling still, be­sides the cri­tiques of his tone or style, many felt the stunt it­self didn’t even ring true.

Step for­ward self-pro­claimed art nerd Ja­son Bai­ley, who went into a deep dive on the Banksy stunt on art­nome.com. Analysing the video Banksy pub­lished, which pur­ported to show the mech­a­nism of the frame and has since been taken down – Bai­ley laid out a co­her­ent the­sis for what he thinks hap­pened.

Charm­inglysmug

This he does with a great deal of de­tail and a charm­ingly smug af­fect that rather adds to pro­ceed­ings; analysing the gears of the shred­der, he also di­gests the prob­a­bil­i­ties that Banksy’s work would ran­domly end up be­ing the last sale of the day, and how on Earth Sotheby’s didn’t no­tice a gi­ant bloody shred­der with a bat­tery hooked up to it.

His con­clu­sion is; they al­most cer­tainly did no­tice it, and while the mech­a­nism would prob­a­bly have worked as de­scribed, Sotheby’s would al­most cer­tainly have been in ca­hoots. This claim was bol­stered by the chip­per, not-at-all both­ered state­ment Sotheby’s re­leased af­ter the stunt (which, in­ci­den­tally, is es­ti­mated to have dou­bled the work’s value).

Bai­ley ends by say­ing that the whole thing is “pretty dam­ag­ing”, since “there is noth­ing less cool than be­ing a sock pup­pet for the in­dus­try you are claim­ing to rebel against”.

By feed­ing the hand he bites, one can’t help think­ing Banksy is very much a rebel without a cause, or even a point.

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