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Exit through the Gift Shop at the Harris

June 3, 2010

If the streets belong to us, why can’t we make them in our own image? Graffiti is the practice of making public art at personal expense.  At its best it is social commentary, and fittingly so.

As part of the Three Rivers Film festival, the Harris Theater will be showing the film Exit through the Gift Shop, a film about graffiti and street art directed by Banksy, one of the most notorious and elusive graffiti artists.

Banksy’s art comments on society, politics, nature, art and even other graffiti. He incorporates pieces of the urban landscape into his works, which tend to show a nostalgia for nature and preurbanization. Many convey the sense of imprisonment, showing people locked up or immobilized. His art is often sarcastic, poking fun at politicians, businessmen, and the masses.

Banksy

The film itself is a documentary about a man who attempted to make a documentary about Banksy. Thierry Guetta happened to start filming his cousin, known also as Space Invader, a man who created images of space invaders and plastered them around Paris. Through his cousin, he became acquainted with other makers of street art, such as Shephard Fairey, and, over the years, collected hundreds of hours of footage of their lives and works. Guetta met with a variety of artists, but would not be satisfied until he met Banksy, the most famous one. He eventually found him, and was even permitted to film him. Banksy appears in the film hooded and in shadow, his voice modified.

However, Banksy found Guetta to be himself an interesting subject matter and thus turned the film into a study of his work, and the history of the street art movement. Guetta becomes the central figure of the film. He is wacky and energetic, perpetually moving and filming, even when there is nothing of note to be filmed.

Some moviegoers see the film as sincere, while others are certain the whole thing is a stunt perpetrated by Banksy at the expense of the masses.

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