One of the big stories surrounding this year’s Academy Awards besides Franco abandoning his Gramma after fleeing his own after-party and Franco donning a dress and Franco doing live Twittering was that elusive British street artist, Banksy, was up for Best Documentary. Given that it’s Banky, the satirical master himself, it would have been numerous levels of irony to:
- be nominated
- make an appearance
- not really make an appearance
- win an Oscar
- have been given that Oscar by the Queen of Media, Oprah Winfrey, and
- have Exit Through the Gift Shop officially accepted as a documentary.
That last point refers to the continuing question as to whether or not the film was pure farce. (The movie is now available on Netflix’s Instant Viewing).
I wrote about this on the Muvika blog last year and speculated that there was just too much outrageousness to accept it all as truth. Not that a megalomaniacal Frenchmen (Thierry Guetta) couldn’t make a really bad movie about graffiti artists and then become a popular street artist (the form is so standard, anyone could do it and quite successfully on a commercial level). He learned the ropes by sort of working as an apprentice, so why couldn’t he do the same? He was showing his work and Los Angeles, and later during a few month’s stint in NYC, the pretentious art capitals of the world.
After watching the movie, I wasn’t under the impression that Guetta was Banksy when I saw the movie as though Guetta was Banksy’s Kaiser Soze, just that Mr. Brainwash wasn’t really a real graffiti artist. His name and images hadn’t come up before (even if he did work with Shepard Faiery and street mosaic artist, Space Invader).
Instead, I was convinced that the Mr. Brainwash personality was an invention of Banksy’s to laugh at his colleagues and the audience. As in, look how disingenuous this guy’s work is (and putting together his first Los Angeles show was captured so dramatically that it was more like watching a Reality TV episode unfold as they raced to the finish line to get everything up and displayed in time for the opening). That this is what street art was reduced to and millions of people mindlessly flocked to the shows (even Banksy’s work has become quite valuable among collectors). Afterall, it was Banksy who encouraged him to start doing his own street art work. Maybe it was even an unintended consequence that he created a monster.
A recent post on Second Sight (“Chasing Mr. Brainwash: The Final Word on ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop'”), revealed recent court documents that at least negate the suspicion that Guetta and Banksy are one in the same (Guetta was being sued by legendary skateboard photographer Glenn E. Friedman for misuse of his work). Guetta is indeed real. And he does go by the moniker Mr. Brainwash. And given that he had been collaborating with Sheppard Faiery (who loves that spotlight and is also being sued, but by The Associate Press over a dispute of rights to the photo that served as the basis for the iconic Obama hope graphic), maybe it was just Banksy who pushed it out into the spotlight. If so, he did get the last laugh, making it a mockumentary in the truest sense.