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Here's Why the Banksy Movie Is a Banksy Prank (fastcompany.com)
33 points by guynamedloren on May 3, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

For those of you who are curious, the "documentary" Exit Through the Gift Shop is absolutely brilliant and definitely worth watching. I'm not educated enough on the subject to speculate whether or not Guetta is a hoax, but here's another interesting article on the matter:


Don't feel bad -- it's hard for anyone to say to what degree Guetta is a hoax.

Certainly Guetta is a real person who has been in LA making his own art under the MBW name for years. This is reasonably well-known, as the article you link to notes.

What's harder to tell is (1) to what degree Banksy and Shepard Fairey are behind the making of the MBW art work, and (2) to what degree the movie was shot by MBW and just arranged by Banksy as was claimed in the movie.

About (1), of course Guetta does not do all the MBW work. Lots of artists use fabricators; this is even shown in the movie. So in order to answer (1), all the sudden you're down in the details of which particular pieces Guetta did do, what percentage, whatever. Booo-ring.

You can ask very well-informed people who have followed the LA art scene for years (relatives hounded my wife to ask her friend, the editor of http://coagula.com/) and they can't fully answer these questions. Also, they don't want spend energy to find the answer, because the uncertainty is part of the point.

"Outsiders" seem to really want to know, however, perhaps because it will make them "insiders" in their own minds.

I can't find the original article (I thought it was LA Times), but a major news publication put some serious resources into fact checking as much of this as possible. They came to the conclusion that Mr. Brainwash's background is all legit from as far as they can tell and they couldn't find any reason to doubt the authenticity of the film. Maybe someone knows the article I'm thinking of?

I'm not sure, but the best counter argument I've heard is that while Guetta is 100% real, as is his background, personality, and his street art footage, he is not actually the famous street artist "Mr Brainwash". Instead, Mr Brainwash is a fictional character designed to be a front for a collaborative effort between Banksy and Shepard Fairey, and Guetta happens to play the role of Mr Brainwash for the sake of the film. As a result, all of the art claimed to be produced by Mr Brainwash (and the art shows) is actually part of a very elaborate prank. That's a tough one to prove or disprove, but I wouldn't be the least be surprised if it were a prank.

Definitely a prank. But the whole point of Banksy's career is to blur the lines between art and prank. And really, a found urinal that Duchamp autographed with someone else's name? That isn't even original at this point? That's not a prank? :-)

The movie definitely grows in value when you realize there's a huge real-life prank going on, and that no-one is quite sure exactly what it is. Kind of like not being sure if you're on a seedy street or in an art gallery. But that's a big part of the feeling that street art is supposed to give you, as nearly as I can tell, and Banksy and Fairey are at the top of the game at it.

For me, one of the big mysteries is who actually made the movie. You mean to tell me that Banksy and Shepard Fairey made that? It's a very well-done movie. It sets off new and old footage really well. It's engaging and provocative. So they do street art very well, and are really good at making films? Seems to much to hope for, but it certainly could be true. That's part of the fun, I think. :-)

It's brilliant because it preempts those sharks who would inevitably try to cash in on the popularity of Banksy et al.'s work. They would commercialize, productize, and commoditize it.

Of course that would defeat the purpose of the original. But people would come to associate the forms (spraypaint stencil, physical pranks, etc) with the corporate message, and then anyone who saw the originals would think of the corporate message instead of the subversive one.

The movie invents a character who represents those commercial interests. Mr. Brainwash tries to cash in on the popularity of the art by copying the forms without the meaning. By the end of the movie he is a laughingstock - and the audience has been trained to avoid capitalistic dreck in the form of art. Banksy mentally inoculated the audience against exploitation!

Art today is all about this kind of ultra-committed theatre and manufactured image. Authenticity is dead and doubting it is no longer cool. Is it a hoax? Just don't even ask.

Pop music is the best example this, but shockingly it was pro wrestling that blazed the trail.


The movie is obviously a spoof and fits into Banky's prankster narrative. For those who have seen the movie, remember the scenes when: Shepard Fairey talks about perceived power creating real power, the fake Princess Diana currency, the hipster/followers in line who get interviewed and talk about 'art'. There are others, but those scenes make it the most obvious.

Anyone who watched the 'documentary' and didn't get the obvious spoof has a serious irony deficiency and should eat more spinach.

The whole thing didn't 'smell right to me' and when I read some time ago that it might have been a prank it became more obvious that this is where the stench emanated from...

hmm: Hacker NEWS, 2 hours ago, May 3 2011; article, "Wed Apr 14, 2010"

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