Brainwashing Your Face – Exit Through the Gift Shop

— Ofelia Sta. Maria

A few weeks ago, an image of Osama Bin Laden’s face painted on the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was reported to be Banksy’s latest stunt. This could immediately sound like a hoax (it was), were it reported under a different name, but it was Banksy, the one who painted nine images on the walls of the West Bank in Palestinian territories. Banksy, who succeeded in placing his own work in between classic, century-old museum art pieces; Banksy, the world’s greatest and sneakiest freak of nature.

After thousands of canvases, successful installations, empty paint cans, and success in avoiding the cops, he had found another way to make art. It was only last year that the world saw a full-length Banksy film documentary, and we thought we’d finally catch a clearer glimpse of him, but we don’t. If anything, more questions are raised.

Exit Through the Gift Shop can and will make people wonder how the graffiti ninja did it, but it’s possible that he’s conned his audience. Again.

What happens in the film: Thierry Guetta, a French man selling vintage clothes for a living, is obsessed with filming everything around him. He finds out that his cousin is Space Invader, a French Street artist known for his mosaic tile works. Because of this, Thierry developed an interest for street art. He started following different street artists and eventually meets Obey (Andre the Giant has a Posse) creator Shepard Fairey. He follows Fairey and other artists wherever they go’”filming the process of printing and stenciling to the installation of the pieces on the streets.

Eventually, Thierry hears about Banksy, who surprisingly agrees to be filmed. The French man follows Banksy everywhere and when all the footage is done and edited, Banksy decided that Thierry’s just ‘someone with mental problems who happened to have a camera,’ and what he made ‘was an hour and a half of unwatchable nightmare trailers.’ Banksy’s solution: Thierry should let go of the camera so he can do the documentary himself, and go out and make art. Thierry obeys this, starts calling himself ‘Mr. Brainwash,’ produces one of the highest selling art shows, and sells meaningless pieces adored by (rich) people and the media.

This, again, sparks the never-ending debate on how important a piece of art is, and how it’s supposed to be appreciated. Thierry wheatpasting a huge print of his face in the streets makes for interesting debate on the philosophy of street art. If you’d interpret this as a real documentary, you’ll see how Banksy experiences absurd real-life events on overnight artists like Thierry, and how even he’”a street art god’”cannot control it. While the Frenchman spent just a few months working on a show and became more focused on its publicity rather than the pieces, everyone he filmed in the beginning showed passion; working on their craft for years (Fairey specifically mentioned that he has been doing it for more than 10 years).

‘Most artists take years to develop their style, Thierry seemed to miss out on all those bits,’ said Banksy.

Let’s say everything in the movie actually happened’”some French guy with a video camera happens to be Space Invader’s cousin, was entertained by Fairey, got ahold of Banksy (who is possibly not human), and became a millionaire because of half-baked, reprinted copies of photoshopped crap dubbed ‘art””isn’t it just as interesting as the idea that none of those things really happened?

Thierry knew nothing about street art before hanging out with the ones who live by it, but once he got the idea, he became a street artist himself. If the documentary’s a hoax, on the other hand, you will still see a commentary on how to be an artist, and what is needed to fully become one. Being able to print large papers to stick on walls does not make one an artist; that having a moniker and a Sharpie does not immediately make one a graffiti artist.

Whether it’s fact or fiction, this film’s a ten. And it didn’t even need Beck’s cameo to prove that it’s awesome.

The great thing about this whole thing is it doesn’t even matter anymore if the movie’s a fake or not. Either way, it is a work that illustrates something that has happened, is happening, and will happen with this counterculture and the whole art world in general.What we get from this is another form of Banksy’s genius. Once again, he did something to confuse and entertain the audience.

This is no spoiler, but pay attention to what happens to the huge slab of concrete at the end of the film. Read what’s written on it and look at what it’s doing. Never has there been any kind of dystopian suggestion that is so hilarious, serious, and entertaining all at the same time.

‘That’s why I call myself Mr. Brainwash. It’s because everything that I do… somewhere… it brainwash your face!’ explained Thierry.

Truer words have never been spoken.


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