Book Title: Banksy. You are an Acceptable Level of Threat and If You Were Not You Would Know About it
Author: Patrick Potter (Author), Gary Shove (Editor)
Style: Coffee Table Book
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Non-Fiction, Art
Page Count: 240
Format: Hardcover (library)
Reading time: 2 hours
Date Finished: 1/16/17
My impressions: Given how bored I was with the modern art featured in Art That Changed the World the other day, I was starting to wonder if perhaps the best art of today is the corporate arena. For that reason, I’m glad I picked up this book about Banksy, the anonymous street artist persona from Britain who’s synonymous with using graffiti to speak truth to power. It was a great reminder that art can still be interesting and engaging in our modern era without being commercial, even if the powers that be spend a lot of time, money and effort trying to commercialize it anyhow.
This book is a production of Carpet Bombing Culture, a publishing house that tends towards leftist politics and elevating street artists and counter-cultural voices. As such, the writing in this book (which is about Banksy as well as the various contexts in which his artwork has appeared) has a very interesting quality to it, and it’s gilded with a patronizing tone from the perspective of someone who does understand what Banksy is about conveying information to an audience that largely sees street art as a thrill to be consumed rather than an act of challenging those seeking to control others.
I lingered over the pages in this book quite a bit, thinking about how the context of the imagery matters as much as what’s actually there. The book does take some time to explain that the where is often as important to the message as the what, and just seeing these pieces of art in pages of a book somewhat robs them of their power, since they’re intended to be experienced in one’s day to day life.
While I’ve enjoyed seeing Banksy’s work, this book has really got me thinking about the broader culture, especially the graffiti in my own city, and how exciting some of it is when it shows up in places where it’s not expected. Granted, there’s plenty of tagging, which this book points out is a selfish action not unlike a video game. But there’s also true street art, often speaking powerfully about oppression and inequality, generally in the parts of town that aren’t on my way to work.
Perhaps I should spend some time looking for opportunities to experience that artwork for myself.