Saturday, May 12, 2007

Art Activism

I am feeling disillusioned or at the very least conflicted about an artist whose work I have appreciated. I just read an article in the New Yorker about Banksy. I still appreciate some of his work such as the work that he put on the West Bank barrier of a little girl trying to escape apartheid by sailing away and the image of two policemen kissing.

But the artist has also become quite the rave, selling his art work for high prices at Southeby's and to the stars in Los Angeles. I like his commentary but is it becoming less potent as he is going way beyond just making a simple and decent economic living? Are people heeding his message or does he even want them too? Is bringing an elephant painted with the words "global poverty" to an art opening just an extravagence?

I am an activist art purist and only a few can make my approval list. Most likely Banksy could care less about my reaction and in fact anticipated it. This is the nature of art afterall right? To cause people to think, even Margaret? Perhaps his art is activist afterall.

While I lived with my disenchantment, I switched magazines to MS. and was once again reminded how powerful visual statements can be. Don't "Tease" These Eyes shines light on a wonderful project and group of women that are confronting the sexual harrassment that they face in India. Through installation and performance art, Blank Noise Project is saying no to eve-teasing, the Indian euphemism for sexual harassment.


In the installation We Never Asked For It that took place in Kolkata, Bangalore, and New Delhi, women brought clothing that they had been sexually harrassed in and displayed them all over the cities. In another performance piece, women stared men down on the streets just as women routinely are. For me, this is activist art- art with a purpose and an unblemished message.

You go amazingly courageous and creative women!!!

3 comments:

Lacithecat said...

Oddly I had never even heard of Banksy until last week. Maybe I had come across them before but my mind was too busy to register him. I think he sounds amazing.

Being a trained Economist I have to argue that he other people put such a high price on his paintings - that is not his fault. He did say that he is giving big pieces away as he too is horrified about the amount of cash involved.

What i am mystifed about is that how do we know any of the above is really Banksy since no one knows who he is. He could be - for example - several people.

And that performance art ... that was brilliant

Wendy said...

m,
i really enjoyed this post. thank you! THANK YOU!

margaret said...

lacithecat,
I see your point, but he is selling the paintings and if he really wanted his paintings to remain making powerful statements, Banksy could make sure that a part of the money received goes to work on an issue related to the subject of the work of art. For instance, if he sells a work about the gaza strip he could give to a human righs organization dedicated to this issue. This way, the buyer of the art work is also becoming involved in creating social change!