Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Banksy's Irrelevant Opinion

Often the line between editorials and rants is fine and technical. Editorials are opinionated, but backed by personal points of reference and alternatives. They are intended to foster debate, not blow off steam.

Rants typically consist of "grass is greener" jargon and argument bait. Of course rants are usually published in the comments below an article so by the time an argument ensues, the writer is long gone.

Banksy, London's popular yet illusive graffiti artist, has been making his way through New York City.

Some love him and some hate him. Some think he's a vandal, others a political statement. Few claim to know who he is.

But this isn't about Banksy the artist. It's about Banksy the self professed architecture critic.

Banksy's mock New York Times page, including the article he presented as an editorial.

Banksy recently presented an editorial to the New York Times, a rant attempting to eviscerate the design for the city's new One World Trade Center. His editorial is full of 9-11 bait claiming the "shyscraper" proves the terrorists won simply because he doesn't care for the building.

His commentary is too literal to delve into. The true problem with his article is it serves no purpose. Not liking the new WTC is fine. It's been both torn apart and praised by architecture critics around the world. Any opinion can be validated.

But Banksy fails to mention why. He offers no alternatives, perhaps because he isn't versed in architecture enough to know where to go. Instead of citing similar designs, better designs, or even comparing it to the original World Trade Center, he suggests "kids with roller poles" tag the façade.

Returning the commentary Banksy started back to his comfort zone is elementary. But he's not even doing that. His writing is trite. If he thinks the WTC would look better tagged with his Blek le Rat rip offs, tell us why.

But he can't. One of the biggest differences between an editorial and a rant, especially when published online, is the anonymity of the author. In order to have a legitimate opinion you have to be available to answer to it.

It's not surprising that the New York Times declined to publish his editorial. The mysterious nature that surrounds his identity excuses himself from any debate. It allows him to scream and the sun with no accountability. 

Banksy took the Times' snub to the streets, tagging an unrelated Brookly building with the words, "This site contains blocked messages," as if the Times was censoring his words. It does his artwork no service, particularly when One World Trade Center has been no stranger to criticism.

Banksy's reaction to the New York Times' snub suggesting that the Times censored his work. Confusing censorship with bad writing, Banksy fails to note that every news outlet in the nation published a copy of his editorial in one way or another.
The juvenile words in his unpublished (now published everywhere) New York Times editorial expose flaws in the man's creativity and talent.

Much - perhaps all - of Banksy's success stems from his mystique.

A lot of artists prefer anonymity. But it's one thing to want to exercise your craft and be left alone. It's another to get off on being noticed, on stirring up shit, and then vanish before anyone can ask for a follow up.

The cultural statement in Banksy's art has always been subversive, and graffiti has been the perfect medium for his message. But his editorial opens up the motivation as a political rabblerouser.

Did he not get the reception in New York that he expected? Was he annoyed that One World Trade Center overshadowed the grace of his presence. We'll never know. His position is almost voyeuristic.

Banksy's success in art circles hinged on his absence. The interesting thing about being an anonymous artist is that the second you succeed, you're no longer successful. If the one quality that sets you apart from other outsider artists is that no one knows who you are, then the mysterious allure that gives your work any credibility is gone the moment you submit an article to the New York Times.

Whether the identity of Banksy has been exposed or not, we now know enough about the man to examine his work at face value. Compared to the extravagant graffiti that adorns the lesser parts of New York City and much of Philadelphia, without mystery Banksy's stencils are boring and his installations look like marketing gimmicks, an anti-establishment Target advertisement.

London and New York City have separate cultural issues. Perhaps Banksy doesn't get that. Maybe he doesn't understand the difference between censorship and bad writing. If Banksy wanted to test the international waters, he should have remained humble, because right now he looks like an ass.

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