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Banksy Speaks in Berlin

By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire February 15, 2010 at 1:01AM

Bansky in Berlin?
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Bansky in Berlin?

An apparent press conference by "Exit Through the Gift Shop" director, and mysterious street artist, Banksy was canceled in Berlin today. A subject of the film, which debuted last month at the Sundance Film Festival, Banksy remains an incognito artist. He issued a video statement that was shown prior to the press screening of his movie on Sunday at the Berlinale, in lieu of a press conference.

He started by saying, in a recorded message, "Unfortunately I can't be with you today, so I am speaking from my home in England via satellite link."

"I guess my ambition was to make a film that would do for graffiti art what 'Karate Kid' did for martial arts, a film that would get every school kid in the world picking up a spray can and having a go," said a silhouetted figure, identified as Banksy, in a digitally altered voice on the short video message. He added, "As it turns out, I think we might have made a film that does for street art what 'Jaws' did for water sking."

Word that Banksy was in England and would not attend the Berlinale contradicted statements from the festival published by Reuters and AFP, which had said that he would attend the premiere and walk the red carpet unnoticed.

Earlier in the day, during a press conference for Noah Baumbach's "Greenberg," Rhys Ifans was asked about the cancellation of the conversation with journalists. The narrator of the Bansky doc, he responded coyly, "I am sorry to be the bringer of bad news, but Banksy passed away quiety in his sleep last night." Continuing he added, "She was a beautiful eight year old girl who was very deft at climbing and very handy with a spray can."

Since Sundance, "Exit Through The Gift Shop" has been surrounded by a sense mystery and playfulness. Featuring low quality video featuring street artists, Shepard Fairey, Invader and others at work on the streets of various cities (Paris, New York, Los Angeles), the film follows street artists atop buildings, along bridges and climbing walls to add their distinctive tags. Fairey became well known for his "Andre The Giant" imagery, while Invader places on walls, buildings and other urban structures, mosaic tiles that evoke images from the video game, Space Invaders. The video footage in the first half of the film is said to come from Thierry Guetta, another secretive artist. Now known as Mr. Brainwash, Guetta is seen obsessively tracking the street artists with his video camera until Bansky eventually turns the tables on him and takes over the film as Guetta becomes a street artist.

Banksy has called the movie, “A film about a man who tried to make a film about me."

Meanwhile, some have charged that Bansky and Brainwash are in either the same person or somehow very closely linked. But, those who believe the bond will no doubt wonder if the artist is actually in New York City tonight where Mr. Brainwash is opening a 15,000 square foot show in Manhattan's Meat Packing District.

"Essentially, I thought it was important to start recording the global phenomenon of street art, because I felt if we didn't get it on tape a lot of people wouldn't believe some of the things that were going on," Banksy said in the video statement today. Is he implying that he recorded the footage attributed to Thierry Guetta in "Exit Through the Gift Shop?"

Continuing, Banksy said today, "As it turns out, some of the people don't believe it anyway and they think the film is some kind of spoof. This is ironic because 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' is one othe most honest films you'll ever see. There was no plan, there was no script and we didn't even realize we were making a film until about halfway through."

Manohla Dargis took a closer look at "Exit Through The Gift Shop" in The New York Times. "It’s impossible to know how much of the movie was created for our amusement, or for Banksy’s, much less if the guy in the shadows really is who he says he is," she wrote in a piece this weekend.

"Does it matter if Mr. Guetta, who adopted the perhaps instructive name of Mr. Brainwash (or MBW), is another art prank from Banksy?" Dargis asked, "Certainly, just by virtue of the fame that they imparted by proxy to Mr. Guetta, Banksy and Mr. Fairey each have a creative stake in Mr. Brainwash. As it happens, an MBW show opens in New York on Sunday, the same day that “Exit Through the Gift Shop” will have its initial screening at the Berlin Film Festival. Coincidence? Again, does it matter? Only if you’re interested in who’s dissembling for art and for profit."

In mysteriously examining high profile guerrilla artists like Fairey, Banksy and Brainwash, "Exit Through The Gift Shop" profiles (and adds value) to their popular art, much of which -- like Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns -- appropriates everyday imagery and popular commercial inconography. Such classic and contemporary pop art is sold at high prices in galleries.

The questions about the authorship of the film, like the intrigue surrounding street art that suddenly appears on walls and buildings in urban areas, intensify debates about the definition of art. This alleged documentary -- entertaining, engaging but elusive -- playfully examines such issues and tweaks the non fiction form at the same time. It will be released in the U.K. next month, meanwhile Cinetic Media is aiming to secure a deal for the film in other territories.

“‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ is one of those films that comes along once in a great while, a warped hybrid of reality and self-induced fiction while at the same time a totally entertaining experience,” said Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper, in a statement last month. “The story is so bizarre I began to question if it could even be real… but in the end I didn’t care."

EDITORS NOTE: This article was revised on Sunday to add a link to a New York Times article by Manohla Dargis and updated again Monday to remove an embeddable video link to Banksy's press statement at the request of the filmmakers.

-- the full statement from Banksy is listed on page two --

Guten tag.

Hello ladies and gentlemen, my name is Bansky, unfortunately I can't be with you today, so I am speaking from my home in England via satellite link. I'd like to start by saying that I never intended to make a film and some people might say I've succceeded in that ambition."

Essentially, I thought it was important to start recording the global phenomenon of street art, because I felt if we didn't get it on tape a lot of people wouldn't believe some of the things that were going on. As it turns out, some of the people don't believe it anyway and they think the film is some kind of spoof. This is ironic because 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' is one othe most honest films you'll ever see. There was no plan, there was no script and we didn't even realize we were making a film until about halfway through."

I guess my ambition was too make a film that would do for graffiti  art what 'Karate Kid' did for martial arts. A film that would get every school kid in the world picking up a spray can and having a go. As it tirns out, i think we might have made a film that does for street art what 'Jaws' did for water sking."

I think its a good film. I think its a good film if you've got very low expectations. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you very much for coming.

Auf wieder sehen.

This article is related to: Features, Festival Dispatch







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