"People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you're not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don't owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don't even start asking for theirs.
Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It belongs to you. It's yours to take, rearrange and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head" - Banksy
"The Art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say. When you go to an Art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires..." - Banksy
After checking out the aspens, I drove down into Park City, Utah. I almost decided not to even stop in town because from the road it sort of looked like a typical cutesy American main street chock-a-block full of quaint shops, which depresses me. So many American towns sell themselves as Historic or as a good tourist destination when in reality all that they have to offer is a short stroll past shop windows and Galleries full of crap. However, the Sundance Film Festival is held in Park City every year, so I figured there might be something worth seeing. I parked on a hill, walked down some steps that led to an alley which exited out onto Main Street Park City. And just as I was getting to the end of the alley, before I even really caught a glimpse of the town, I did a double, triple, quadruple take at the above work of graffiti on the wall. I recognized it immediately as a Banksy! Well, and not just because the locals framed it with a big BANKSY nameplate, neither.
"The human race is an unfair and stupid competition. A lot of the runners don't even get decent sneakers or clean drinking water. Some people are born with a massive head start, every possible help along the way and still the referees seem to be on their side. It's not surprising some people have given up competing altogether and gone to sit in the grandstand, eat junk food and shout abuse. What we need in this race is a lot more streakers." - Banksy
Needless to say, I stood around that corner for about a half hour taking shots, not even really noticing that my assessment of Park City as yet another whimsical trade street was otherwise entirely correct in my desire to use it as background.
Although I love Banksy's work, embarrassingly it was a bit of time before I came down off of the high of discovery to actually think about the meaning of the piece very deeply. I mean, my initial assessment was that it was a sort of anti-film industry statement and I left it at that. Then when I'd gotten off a few shots and calmed down a bit, I started to feel a bit stupid as I began to suspect that the joke was on me and my need to photograph everything, and that's the type of mania that Banksy was lampooning. I got a little shy and surreptitiously looked around to make sure that the locals, who were probably in on the joke by now, weren't laughing at me. Nothing too overt, but a girl walked past and I swear that she snorked at me.
Then I decided that I had better study it more closely. I slowly began to realize that maybe it was more of a comment on places like Park City; People find a beautiful bit of nature and WHAM! Ruin it by plunking down a town full of boutique shopping, ski slopes, spas, gigantic resort hotels that resemble Hogwarts and a million vacation houses which, due to the non-stop real estate frenzy, wind up all facing and contemplating each other, thus destroying the open natural beauty that had made the area a popular destination in the first place.
Feeling satisfied that Banksy wasn't necessarily having a laugh at my expense and being happy with my pictures, I wandered through town for a bit casting internal aspersions on the stupid snorking girl and continuing to contemplate the piece. One thing that Banksy is right about for sure; seeing a work of art in context is much more thought provoking than seeing it on a wall in a highly secured building, or in a book. I imagined that there was a reason he chose to paint that particular piece in a town where the rich and famous gather in obnoxious droves every year to celebrate themselves. I eventually decided that perhaps it was a comment on art and celebrity in the media, how in the race to put something under the microscope and on film for exploitative purposes, you destroy what may or may not make it valuable. Then I saw some photographs of aspens in the shop window of a gallery. I "ooohhhed" and "ahhhed" in the privacy of my hypocritical head, and went in to see. Inside is where I learned about aspens, and also that the reason that Banksy had been in town was for the opening of his film "Exit Through The Gift Shop". He street arted the place up, and then later on the locals framed it with pride for him. I'm not exactly sure what Banksy's current stance on permanently framing his work and hanging his name on it is, but I suspect he has complicated emotions about it. The gallery attendant told me of another small piece that Banksy had left behind (and also locally framed), and where to find it.
He's famous for his rats. They're a bit of a trademark; better than a tag, really. At any rate, by the time that I left town, I'd decided that the main piece could probably mean any or none or all of the things that I went through thinking it might, which is the great thing about seeing it live. Though the Banksy book that Julie has will always be one of my most treasured rat books, isolated on the page I got much less highly dignified contemplation out of his hundreds of great pieces than I did from seeing that one where it was meant to be seen.
The only other thing in town that tickled my fancy was an advert for a certain beer in a bar window. Normally I wouldn't have cared much, but being in Utah, with the Mormons and all, I was compelled.