Don’t you even start to think I can’t see all those question marks in your minds. ‘What is she doing now?’ Well, let’s call ‘Banksy for the Wimp’ the unloved bastard of my insecurities and frustrations.
Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, we are more prone to criticize in an area we lack security ourselves. As I am a rag rug of insecurities – partly because of my little flirt with Asperger, partly because I simply think too much, and partly just because – I have a plethora of areas to choose from. Yet, the one thing I define myself about is my art and its impact. And I compare. And I judge (No, we shouldn’t judge, but I am no angel and I do.) And there was something about Banksy that made me want to hit a wall with my head. Repeatedly.
Before I say another word: I don’t know Banksy as a person. He might be the sweetest guy all around. This is not in any way a criticism of him as a human being. And as I point out later our understanding of art is probably closer than it appears from a look at what we do and especially, how we do it. So, no personal offense meant.
That said, art is a cultural tool like bow and arrow, writing, pizza or music. They change because our culture changes or to express it differently, each tool develops with the cultural constrains it has to fit.
Take the example of music: As the standards for performance, the methods of transmission and distribution and the methods of consumption changed, so did what we are offered and play. The internet enhanced this process. Musicians have access to a never known range of influences to draw from and can publish their creations on thousands of different platforms without having to go through labels etc. It’s a market of niches without a real center. Everything goes somewhere (This implies already a problem: without direction no development as development always suggests one knows where one means to go in an abstract way at least…).
But technology is not the only aspect of our culture that shapes our tools. We live in a culture of personality which pursues what Susan Cain calls an extrovert ideal. The beginnings can be traced back to Max Stirner who developed a philosophy of a consequent individuality. He said that the ego is always there in everything and nothing should be more important to a person than him/herself. It is a philosophy of pure egoism, which took without being widely known by name roots in a newly anonymous and highly competitive society (end of the 19th/ beginning of the 20th century, around the time when psychology became the new science too, what is no coincident). It let to the belief that extroversion is a way to outshine the crowd. As Susan Cain points out in Quiet today we don’t just believe that extroversion makes us more successful, we even think that it makes us a better person.
Duchamp named Max Stirner’s philosophy as one of the columns of his ideas; the other being Poincare’s work. Duchamp again was one of the main influencers of modern art and his readymade Fountain (an urinal signed with the pseudonym R.Mutt) was in 2004 selected as the most influential art work of the 20th century by 500 renowned artists and historians. He concluded that it is the artist’s choice to call something art and that the exhibition or presentation is a creative act itself. As with extroversion this idea took a life of its own. What was meant to distinguish retinal art from conceptual art led to the belief in show and image cultivation over everything.
That’s what makes me look weary at this Banksy phenomenon. Yes, you can say it is because I am not a show master and never will be one. To put it into a nutshell, I lack any and every self-marketing ability. It makes me question whether I will ever be a ‘real’ artist in today’s world and not just the skilled talent, who never made it. It fuels my insecurities especially after finishing such a big project like Aurora C40 with what I believe to be great art in it and important ideas, but again no big bang and sparklers show factor.
But then, what about the tool’s influence on culture? Can a change in the tool have an impact on culture or will it always be only a reflection thereof?
Do you remember that what might feel like hours ago with all my babbling I said that Banksy’s and my understanding of art might not be very different? Drumroll as this is the point where I make an argument for this theory. Beyond the self-expression we both have a message or messages we want to bring to the people and not wait until the people come to a gallery or museum. We mean to pick people up where they are, from their daily grind, confront them with bigger ideas, involve them, make them think, maybe even feel good for a second and smile. He hits the street. I send my shoes out on the street and use pop culture references to start from a common ground with those, who usually not look at art. We believe that the tool we wield can influence our culture and help change things, maybe even this pesky belief that loud is always better.
So, maybe ‘Banksy for the Wimp’ is also a silent, tongue-in-my-cheek genuflexion in front of another as crazy as they come smarty pants.