Earlier this month, I read an article titled “These Men Are Now Charging People to Look at Banksy’s Latest Stencil”. Unsurprisingly, the article (located on gawker.com) detailed a group of men covering the piece—which is a black-and-white stencil of a beaver—and charging people somewhere between $5 and $20 to look at it. The article, whose tone I found generally appropriate, called these men “heroes” and aptly argued:
“[the men] have elevated the original work, turning it into a performance piece about the commodification and hipster-fication of people’s homes. If you’re going to treat a neighborhood like an art museum, why shouldn’t the residents of that neighborhood charge admission, particularly when many New Yorkers would never come to that part of the city [otherwise]?”
What became especially fascinating, however, is the comments posted on the gawker.com article. People’s responses ranged from asinine to insightful, from “Please spend the money on teeth” to “So, they’re asserting ownership over something heretofore free based on intimidation and arbitrary claims to land.
This sounds like the most American thing ever. Good for them” and everything in between. While a handful of comments were wildly offensive, the majority were in vehement support of Banksy and the men.
And those are only the comments that were made public. The article has over 100 comments “awaiting review” that are not currently visible. How exciting is that? That’s a lot of average internet-viewers who had enough of a response to this art-fueled event to bother posting about it online.
And, funnily enough, my mother would later ask me if I’d heard about Banksy’s latest project—a piece of “sculpture art” taking on the meat industry.
That’s a lot of audience involvement. I’m accustomed to people responding to my artistic work because I live in the heart of an artistic community. I rarely put anything into the world that doesn’t return with sincere and well-considered feedback. But I often find myself concerned—won’t that feedback cease once I leave art school?
Maybe not. Sure, Banksy is a household name. (he’s arguably one of the most famous living visual artists today), and not every artist draws the kind of responses that Banksy does. But if people are conscious enough to respond with so much life to a graffiti artist, there have to be ways to get them involved in conversation with theatre.
Perhaps it takes something as un-subtle as a screaming truck full of stuffed animals?