The Enemy Within
Bristol’s Banksy bucks the system…
By Boyd Hill
Graf culture often just plods along, writers painting piece after piece of meaningless crap. That said, there’s always a subversive waiting in the wings to really tear shit up. Bristol artist Banksy does things differently, often to devastating effect. HHC went along to ART 2000 at the upmarket Islington Design Centre to talk strategies with the nation’s most wanted.
Hip-Hop Connection What influenced you to start using stencils?
Banksy About five years ago I saw an image in a newspaper, cut it out as a stencil, then painted it in half a dozen places. Purely from the reaction I got I realised it’s all about efficiency these days. A tight image in 30 seconds is the way to go.
HHC What was the idea behind the piece in Poland Street, W1?
Banksy The Poland Street piece was about the fact that artists don’t matter. You’re made to feel very aware that in this country doctors and entrepreneurs are at the top, then estate agents and plumbers, then the unemployed and slightly below them are your artists. You know, we don’t fucking matter.
A lot of what I do is about taking the control back. The riot image is about throwing colour but in a dark way. It’s difficult to describe in words but having a balaclava on and chucking paint around is very similar to wearing a mask and throwing flowers. It’s all pest control, but it’s pests controlling them, not them controlling the pests.
HHC How do you view the British art scene?
Banksy I’m not part of that scene. I never went to art college and I’m not from a family of artistic people – I never even had the connections to be part of the art world. You’ve got to be fine about it and not bitter and twisted, but I use it to my advantage and operate on a different level. Like if you put up a stencil, more people will see that as opposed to a painting in a gallery and it costs nothing to see.
HHC What’s the public’s reaction to your work?
Banksy I try to get as little feedback as possible because that involves talking to people. Everyone has their own interpretation of my work. When I did the clown stencil holding handguns some people hated it and thought it scared their kids, whereas others thought it was the funniest thing out. You have to be careful who you listen to.
HHC How different is painting in London from Bristol?
Banksy Well, it takes ages to get anywhere and the anti-terrorist police are a bit more edgy than in Avon & Somerset. I’d say 70 percent of the stuff I’ve done has been cleaned. I paint for about 25 people and if anyone else likes it then cool, but if they don’t then ‘fuck you’.
HHC You’ve scored a few ‘hits’ in clubs. Do you find door security a problem these days?
Banksy I did a couple of hits in Bar Rhumba and this prick comes up to me and says, ‘My brother owns this club, what are you doing?’ So I said, ‘Yeah I spoke to him about it and he was safe,’ so the guy just fucked off and nodded. It’s like if you’re going to front, I’ll front because we can talk all about it. Clubs are good because it’s always nice to get past security, no matter who it is.
HHC What was it like painting in New York?
Banksy I’ve lived in New York on and off for about two years, and last year I was asked to do a series of paintings. I did a picture of a guy sitting on a subway train, then Mickey and Minnie Mouse get on and start mugging the guy and painting graffiti all over the train. It was a comic strip and was put onto the side of the Carlton Arms Hotel as four pieces. Some people got really shitty about it, especially they found out I was English. These two women who happened to be the wives of lawyers started a campaign to have it taken down. The New York Post ran a story on it but thankfully it stayed.
HHC Your canvas paintings have a very anarchic feel. Is rioting a big passion?
Banksy I’ve been to a few and I like it when the world’s turned on its head. It’s something that taking drugs will never give you. I was in London for the Poll Tax riot in 1990 and someone put through the window of a music store and all these saxophones which cost two grand were suddenly free. It’s your graffiti writer’s dream when you run things and the police are shit scared. I’ve got a passion for rioting and it makes good pictures.
Canvases are for losers really. You’re looking to sell to people who are on your level and I don’t like the fact that you’re selling to people you don’t know. I like to think there’s a side of me that wants to smash the system, fuck shit up and drag the city to its knees as it screams my name. And then there’s the other, darker side.
Catch Banksy’s work on the streets of Bristol, London and New York City.
(out and about with Banksy in Bristol)
June 07, 2001
An art activist from Bristol has been causing a right ol' stir with his brazen approach to conscious graffiti. Recent hits on the checklist include Regents Park Zoo and the Tate Gallery. Si Mitchell holds the ladder and manages to grab some chats with the elusive but awesomely prolific Banksy.
"The only problem was the penguins. I didn't realise it, but they're kinda vicious really."
It's the middle of a starry Sunday night, and Britain's most maverick painter and decorator, Banksy, is up a ladder in downtown Bristol. A ten foot monkey has leapt from the spray can in his hand and has started to trash a particularly insidious looking CCTV camera.
Whilst I'm standing their at the base of the ladder he's recalling his last bit of natural history graffiti work, in Regent Park Penguin enclosure just a few days earlier.
"It's deathly quiet in the zoo at 3am. Then the penguins all started jumping in the water. I'm going: 'Shh... for fucks sake.' And they're splashing about, making a right racket. I'm writing things, that I assume a penguin would write if it was writing graffiti, right close to the floor. About a dozen of them all got out of the water and start edging towards me in a little gang making this 'aaaaarr', Mars Attacks sort of noise."
Despite Banksy's animal antics, you won't have read in the BBC's Wildlife magazine how a flock of renegade Emperor Penguins managed to daub 'Laugh now, but one day we'll be in charge' and 'I'm bored with fish' on the walls of their Regents Park enclosure.
The zoo caper was what Banksy would describe as a "well executed" piece of graffiti. Like Fume's thirty foot Westway tag, or his own stencilling of a London Underground style 'Mind the Crap' on every step leading up to the Tate gallery on the night before last year's Turner Prize.
Banksy came to his art form pretty late. He left his native Bristol in 1993, to hang out with Nottingham's DIY free party posse, after a baptism by repetitive beats at the now legendary Castlemorton Common free festival. He got into drawing when asked to do a flyer, and from there into graffiti. "Spray paint's actually quite hard to use, and I found myself painting embarrassingly bad pictures, illegally on a wall, at 21 years old. That's not acceptable."
He pauses while a police car idles at some lights not fifteen feet from where we're painting. A van partially conceals us, some of the monkey and the huge sack of paint cans. The weekend's in its death throes and the streets seem to be populated solely by cops and pissed up unlicensed taxi drivers.
"Fifteen years ago there weren't 24 hour supermarkets and boozers open round the clock. You could paint for 40 minutes on a main road without a car going past. Now you're lucky to get fifty seconds."
To overcome both his own incompetence and the need to work fast, Banksy began using stencils. Five years on, there aren't many grey walls in Bristol that don't attract the odd passing smile with an inimitable Banksy stencil. From the 'Heavy weaponry' missile-bearing elephant, to the little boy ominously nursing a sickle behind his back, as a policemen bends to talk to him. With the artist now in residence in the capital, London's walls are quickly following suit - as are a legion of cardboard-and-can handed imitators. Like every other half decent subculture idea, the marketing people are starting to tag along too, (Day One's latest album promotion being a prime example).
Apart from getting grief from the Bristol stalwarts he left behind (his reply to them was to tag a monkey riding a bomb towards Big Ben all over the city on his return), Banksy found London offered its own pitfalls.
"I don't have a motor and the nightbus to Brixton is not the speediest of getaways. Also, I got lost after doing the Tate and ended up in front of Buckingham Palace. 4am with twelve cans of paint and a bunch of stencils in the most heavily policed part of Britain - I was lucky to get out of that one." Back in Bristol, the monkey has developed an evil glint to his eye. "It's kinda my logo at the minute. I love animals, they don't have any malice. But you can make a monkey fucking malicious... if you want." He tags tonight's picture and we pack up and go.
"Its amazing the way people take different meanings out of things. I did this piece in Soho, with a masked man throwing a bunch of flowers over a giant barcode. I put 'Pest Control' on it, meaning 'the pests control the city', as opposed to the pests being controlled. This mate of mine rings me up and says: 'Are you homophobic?' I'm like, no not at all. But coz it was in Soho, and had a geezer throwing flowers, that's what they thought. Its fantastic in a lot of ways. You don't want to explain yourself too well. I guess, if I could explain it in words, I wouldn't need to do the picture. Its being fluffy in a militant way - something about going round in a balaclava and splashing colour onto buildings, its all tied in there."
Despite the infamy he's created, Banksy dismisses accusations about being any real threat to the state. "It's only a bit of painting and decorating," he says. "The real villains I know, think I'm a fucking idiot attracting so much attention." But he's openly agitated by what he calls: "Blair's castration of the politics in this country," and when asked about who inspires him, he cites the women who trashed the Hawk Jet bound for East Timor, before he names any artists.
"I got politicised during the poll tax, the Criminal Justice Act and the Hartcliffe Riots - that was Bristol's Rodney King [sparked by the death of two local lads whose motorcycle was chased into a wall by the police]. I can also remember my old man taking me down to see the Lloyds bank - what was left of it - after the 1980 St Pauls riots. It's mad to see how the whole thing of having to do what you're told can be turned on its head, and how few people it takes to grab it back."
By now, we've stopped walking and are standing on a corner, outside Bristol's Central Police Station. "Now the police," says Banksy whipping a stencil out of his bag. "They are the bane of my profession. I have to think about the old bill all the time." He gaffer tapes the cardboard to the station wall, and proceeds to spray on a stencil of two running officers. "So much about my images is governed by the police: where I put them, how quickly I can slap them up. But maybe it gives them an edge they wouldn't otherwise have." He finishes the stencil and draws in a chunky little stick man hot footing it from the cops. "You know, sitting in a studio in Cornwall where the light is beautiful. What good does that do you?" The plan was to paint the same stencil flipped round twenty yards down the wall, with a bunch of tooled up stick men chasing the cops back, but two policemen choose that moment to bundle out of the main doors. Banksy white's the eyes of the stick man and we leg it "I've never actually been nicked for graffiti," Banksy admits half an hour later, over a beer in a St Pauls blues bar. "But we've had some scrapes. We were painting 'Late Again' in eight foot letters on this passenger train and they came over the tracks in a transit. They were making a right racket, it must've ripped the bottom out of the van. But there was these high steel railings that ran as far as you could see, we had this one loose strut, that you could move and then move back. So by the time they got round the train, we were on the other side and all they could see was an unbroken fence." 'Late Again' was gone by daybreak. As Banksy points out, the more politically uncomfortable the message, the quicker it disappears.
"We did this painting on the waterfront, and this geezer turned up who actually owned the wall. I told him we worked for a mural company, gave him a blag number, and told him to go and ring my boss. He fucks off and we stick the lyrics on it, tag it and wheelspin off round the corner. It was a TV with: 'All this noise, but you aint saying nothing." One of the speech bubbles said: 'HTV makes me want to smoke crack.' The piece is still there, but someone has carefully edited that bit out.
It's not just the law and the landowners who are in pursuit of Banksy either. Wall of Sound records have signed Banksy up as an artist after he inadvertently painted the front of their building. Damien Hirst has given him an endorsement, he's been flown out to New York to paint hotel rooms and to the Costa del Sol to jazz up a lap dancing complex. "These gangsters had bought up the old set of [failed TV series] El Dorado. True to form they tried to make me pay for it by buying the paint upfront. I'm not a remarkably clever bloke, but I understood the rip-off that was going off, and instead spent the week with this stripper going to work around various different bars. It was interesting." No doubt. A week later and we're at the launch of Banksy's first exhibition of canvasses in an arty Bristol wine bar. Like the street pieces, the pictures are big and bold and anarchic. A world away from the beautiful young things moving and shaking around The Severnshed trying not to spill their Chablis. Banksy's not there. I ring him up. He's in a bar in South London, killing time before heading off to liven up a track siding. His curiosity extends to: "Any fit birds? Any filth turned up?" As far as the art set are concerned, his absence just adds to his mystery. Portishead's Adrian Utley and members Massive Attack are there reportedly buying four figure pics.
Cops, monkeys, burning buildings. They're all represented. Some of the influences are even more discernible here - though maybe not to this crowd. One riot scene, 'People Di Every Day' (inspired by "the mob sentimentality that swept Britain when Princes Di died"), includes two figures from that ubiquitous Paris '68 brick throwers photograph. Another character is modelled on the girl, who was snapped belting a riot cop with a scaffold bar during the 1990 Poll Tax riots in Trafalgar Square. ("That was the girl I wanted to marry," says Banksy). But instead of bars and bricks, Banksy's figures throw flowers. Fluffy meets Spiky again.
A week later we meet at his studio. He's cutting out stencils to the strains of a Radio 4 phone in.
"Occasionally you get images that speak to you, from people who don't have a voice. That's what I want to do. It's not about making money," he says in reference to flogging every picture in the exhibition on that opening night. "But it's a means to an end for me, not a hobby. If you go into it for any other reason than wanting to get up and put a bit of power back, then you're fucked up and you won't do well."
"I just want to make one fucking great image that goes out real cheap to every mothafucker," he says. But there's more to it than that. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the message imbedded in Banksy's paintings isn't 'look at me', but 'look around you'. They are a wake up call to the unwittingly oppressed. "To make a piece of art that actually provoked something serious to happen? I couldn't even dream of that... but yeah...I guess that's the aim." Though he empathises with direct activists, the enigmatic Bristolian feels what he does is less easily defined. "There have been times when I've wondered about what I do," he says reciting an incident when some paint bomb balloons ended up covering everything in a twenty yard radius, including a few parked cars. For similar reasons, he rarely just drops his name these days. If he does it's "the really big one and in a funny place (check out the front of Centrepoint), otherwise its subtracting and not adding to the world".
"Part of it is I'm fighting boredom," he says. "But what I perceive as boredom, other people perceive as beautiful grey buildings."
At the minute Banksy needs a chemist. "The plan is to stencil lacquer, then remove the stencil and spray on acid which would eat into the limestone. That should give you a relief image an inch deep. It's unbuffable. You just can't paint over that shit." Despite loosing a few fingertips he's yet to find an agent that will do the trick.
Until that day, his career spirals upwards. A website, http://www.banksy.co.uk, has been launched. He's begun what he describes as "a high profile campaign of guerilla art" in London (watch this space), and he's involved in the Burner Prize - a graffiti competition, reminiscent of 2000AD's Chopper from Oz storyline, timed to coincide with this year's Turner prize. The winner will be chosen by an all-star panel at a bash at the International Contemporary Arts Centre, on "style, skill and the ability to avoid security systems." They hope to get it banned before judgement day.
The last time I saw Banksy he told me a story about the fall of Ceausescu. In November '89, in response to a small uprising in Timisoara, Romania, the country's corrupt and brutal dictator was persuaded to address a public rally in Bucharest. A lone man in the crowd, Nica Leon, sick of Ceausescu's dreadful regime started shouting in favour of the Timisoara revolutionaries. The crowd around him, obedient to the last, thought 'Long live Timisoara!' was a new political slogan and started chanting it to. It was only when he began shouting 'Down with Ceaucescu!' that they realised all was not right. They tried to get away from him, banners were getting dropped and broken in the crush and women started screaming. On the balcony, the panic sounded like booing. Ceausescu stood there ludicrously frozen, mouth opening and shutting. Then the head of Romania's security walked over to him and whispered 'they're getting in'. It was clearly audible on the President's microphone and was broadcast live across the whole country. The revolution had begun. Within a week Ceausescu was dead. Somewhere in a bar in Romania sits Nica Leon, a solitary man who changed the course of history. Somewhere in a bar in England sits Banksy, plotting his next assault of renegade colour. Power to the pair of them - may they one day meet.
by Fiona McClymont
May 27, 2000
It all started in Bristol six years ago. Strange and slightly sinister images began appearing on city-centre walls. They've now spread, via New York and various British cities, to London. Take a walk around Soho and you can't miss them. It's all the work of one 26- year-old graffiti artist known only by his tag, "Banksy". His work has been attracting a lot of attention, not least from the police, but despite this he's about to stage a retrospective next week, at a secret location in London. Naturally, this won't be at your average art gallery, but outside, on an enormous wall, on which a back- catalogue of his images will be sprayed, using his trademark stencils.
Banksy is the first to admit, "I'm doing it with a smile on my face. On the wall will be my `greatest hits'. I'll also put some on canvases and then burn the limited-edition stencils". Which means that something which started its life being hastily sprayed on to a wall in the middle of the night can now hang in your living room. A strange path for a graffiti artist? Not really, says Banksy. "If you want to eat and make pictures then you don't have a lot of routes open to you." Besides which, "The more you paint on walls, the bigger the risk, and the bigger the catalogue of criminal damage you've got to deal with."
So, will the man who once graffiti'd the inside of the elephant cage at London Zoo - "I wrote, `I want out. This place is too cold. Keeper smells. Boring, boring, boring'" - be giving up street painting for a life inside the studio? He thinks not: "There's absolutely nothing better than painting something illegally on a wall and getting away with it. Because, you've won."
On the street "I use monkeys in my pictures for a lot of reasons - guerrilla tactics, cheeky monkeys, the fact that we share 98.5 per cent of our DNA with them. If I want to say something about people I use a monkey. If you use a person in an image, then you have to use a specific type, so you're either picking on someone young, old, or whatever. I painted the clown with a gun (above left) near a roundabout in Bristol, where two lanes of traffic had to slow down. It's at such a height on the wall that it appears 3-D to the cars in the outside lane - it looks like it's coming over the bonnets towards them. That's what it's all about, impact. The rats (left) are just tiny, mischievous hits. I've called them `electronic tagging' - they're electronically controlled and `tagging' is the graffiti term to describe writing your name all over the place. They're on walls all over London at ground level, as if they're running along the floor."
In the studio "When I get lit up by an image or an idea, I make it straightaway and then go out and paint it. Taking time on something is not necessarily helpful. The days of wandering around casually with a spray can in your bag are over - the more sophisticated the police get, the quicker and more ruthlessly you have to work. One of the reasons I use stencils is that they're very efficient - you have to split everything into black or white and eliminate all grey areas, it's a very good way to live your entire life by, in fact. I've burnt most of the ones I've made, because they are extremely incriminating evidence. The whole process you have to go through to paint - building yourself up to it, the paranoias, the tricks, the waiting - is dark and twisted and it's hard; it's a lot of stress just to put colour on a wall."
You can view Banksy's work at his website www.banksy.co.uk and for details of the forthcoming show contact email@example.com
Banksy and Shok 1 Chatting
A chat with Banksy.
Big Daddy Magazine
I should count myself lucky I wasn’t blindfolded like the reporter from The Face magazine on the way to the secret HQ of Banksy [apparently he enjoyed it. Each to his own!]
Not easily categorised, the man is an unusual blend of aerosol attitude and fine art. Some narrow-minded purists have found his stencil based work hard to swallow, but the establishment can’t seem to get enough.
Sitting amongst huge piles of street level photos and crisp canvases alike we caned
caffeine and talked shop. This is not an interview but just a conversation with a
normal bloke with big dreams…
Shok-1 [looking at a photo of a plastic Mickey Mouse face full of bullet holes]
Hahaha! You got a gun off someone to shoot holes in Mickey?
Banksy Yeah, it’s that gun there.
Shok-1 Pooor Mickey! Hahaha! I like these lumps of wall too.
I saw a couple of your canvases up in a shop in Bristol last year but I haven’t seen
all that many really. You think they transfer well to canvas?
Banksy I just did a show in Glasgow that taught me a lot. I had a lot of these canvases up.
What I realized is, these are just like your tea towels & mugs really, of what I do.
The art is the stuff in the street, and then if there are canvases, people who have a bit
of money who want a souvenir, they can take one home and put them on their wall!
I’m lucky that I can rattle these off, they don’t take long, and I can sell them for 500.
Shok-1 It’s good, because your stuff is about repetition being that it’s a stencil thing anyway
so it’s not counterproductive to use the same image on a canvas as well.
Banksy I mean it’s part printing, part screen-printing innit? Even if you do twenty of an image, no two are going to look the same. So it’s an original piece of artwork whichever way you look at it.
Shok-1 The last thing I sold in Germany were laser jet prints and I’m much happier selling
things like that. One-offs, I’m loathe to part with them at all to be honest.
Banksy I’ve got over that bit now.
Shok-1 Obviously if people keep crossing your palm with silver that helps too!
Banksy I sold a canvas in Bristol and I wanted to get it back to put it up in Glasgow.
I asked the geezer and he said, “Nah, it’s staying where it is” and I realized, it’s like
selling a car – you can’t sell someone a car and then ask to borrow it back.
Shok-1 [Looking at the canvas] That’s not a stencil is it, you painted that with a brush right?
Shok-1 I was looking through some of your older photos there. They were much more like,
normal graffiti. [i.e. colourful New York graffiti]… I like to see an artist’s progression,
one of the things that appeals to me about what you’ve been doing is that we’re on the
same kind of wavelength in that I’m becoming more and more minimal as well. I’ve never
been greatly into using millions of colours anyway. I like the fact your canvases are really
plain, I can imagine people must really get into that.
Banksy You do it in a different way when you do stuff to put in people’s houses, you have to think about things like colours and making pictures that will fit through the door… [getting out a matching set of canvases] also how you space them out is interesting. You have one on one wall … then you have the other on another wall next to it [the second canvas shows that they have been bowling bombs].
Shok-1 Hahaha’ I like it! So looking back at when you were doing the big walls with lots of colours, how did you progress onto the stencilling and leaving out the extra colours and detail?
Banksy I got into this mindset that using colours is a sign of weakness, if you’ve got the fucking idea and you can lay it down, you don’t need lots of colours……
Shok-1 It’s funny, because I think what we do is really different, but in a lot of ways we’re heading in the same direction. The reason why I started doing really stripped down characters with just one colour and an outline was to make the same point. You see these kids with with these incredible multi colored 3D shading techniques, but you strip away all the flashy stuff and the drawing is wack.
Banksy There’s a beauty in simplicity. I think it’s a bit like maths, in that you have a right answer and every other answer is wrong. If you’ve got an idea about a picture you want to make there is a perfect picture for it and every other picture is wrong. I haven’t got there yet, but I want all my pictures to be like. bang on. No unnecessary colour, not a single unnecessary line on the whole thing. Just perfect. Like with this cop thing here [a painting of a group of policemen looking hopelessly for the culprit]. I was trying to say, “I got away with it” in as few lines as possible, even if you think you’re being really obvious, it doesn’t always work out like that. The funny thing is I sold one of these to this bird, I had a couple of drinks with her afterwards and she said, “I’m really pleased with that picture, because you don’t see policemen getting drunk do you?” She thought it was two people drinking beer. But I already had the cash in my pocket, like, so I just went, “Yeah, yeah sure”. I thought, is someone going to tell her that they’re looking through binoculars not drinking beer?
Shok-1 When we were on the phone a while back and I was trying to guess the symbolisms in your images and I got them all completely different to what you meant them to mean.
Banksy But then I am fond of changing them halfway through myself!
Shok-1 I think it’s quite nice in a way if art is a little bit open-ended. That way the onlooker can have more of a personal involvement. If it’s too regimented and directed in its meaning then it almost excludes the onlooker, like you’re just showing your idea at them. Maybe it’s good to let them come to their own conclusions… Especially if the art is at street level.
When did you do that Mona Lisa near Poland Street?
Banksy Oh that’s new. I’ve still got to go and put the lyrics on that.
Shok-1 That’s a big fucking stencil man!
Banksy Did it look right? I painted it and fucked off so I haven’t even looked at it yet. I put “Boom or bust” on it but then I scrubbed it off because it didn’t read very well. I did another one in Leicester Square on the same day. You know, after a while you think, fuck it, I’m in London, let’s take it to the fucking art of London. Doing Leicester Square was satisfying, you can’t get much more central than that.
Shok-1 My other favourite hit I saw of yours was the Centre Point one. I tell you what I like about when you use the lettering on its own is that it almost slips past you. Because you get bombarded with so much typography in adverts and stuff…. I saw that hit from the car and I had to double-take because it almost looks like it’s meant to be there, like some official thing. Do people say that to you? Do people think the logo’s like… well I guess branding in a way.
Banksy It’s funny because sometimes it goes up so quick and so nice that it’s almost too close to regular signwriting. I did one on the side of this building in Bristol, their sign was really shitty and it was on one end of the wall and my name was right across the middle looking crisp. It was only there for five days, I assume because the owner was like, “Why is someone else’s name across my building better than my own name?!” You could just tell by the way that it was painted over someone had got really pissy about it and that’s an ironic thing – people always complain graffiti is untidy, but if you do something very tight, it pisses them off even more.
Shok-1 We noticed when we were in Ireland that sign writing is still like an artform there.
Everywhere you go, you see this beautiful hand painted lettering. We got approached by this sign-writer in Limerick while we were painting, he told us that laser-cut lettering had only just started to come over there in the last year… and they paint the pubs. Every English writer must look at the side of pubs; they nearly always have great white walls. Well over there they paint these murals on them or they cut the painting out of wood and put it up there, these incredible hand-painted pieces of artwork. You don’t see that over here. It’s like all those walls that writers are doing in Germany.
You don’t get public art jobs like that being given to graffiti people over here, because the country is just too conservative and not open to it. That’s one thing that disappoints me about a lot of graffiti.
I mean, there’s all this meaning attached to the fact of where things get placed and the political and sociological meanings, but I kind of get to the point where I wonder if we’re creating all this dialogue to cover up the fact that a lot of it really isn’t saying very much, I mean it does, in fact there’s a story behind every hit, but beyond that…
Banksy It’s like the Fume piece over at Royal Oak [25 foot high dub at Paddington mainline]. It’s got to the point now where if you’re going to just write your name, you’re going to have to do it like that to give it a meaning. The funny thing about that piece is that it says loads because it’s huge and the audaciousness of it. Although it says, “Fume” it also says, “fuck you, I can do what I want, where I want, I run this part of London…” Purely because of the size. If it was 5 foot high, it would mean nothing.
Shok-1 Another thing I’ve been wondering about your work is that it obviously has this dissident element to it but at the same time it’s also very tongue-in-cheek, so where does it fit? I suppose if someone very conservative saw it then they would think you’re a total anarchist. I don’t know how it’s been received by the graffiti community over here?
Banksy I try very hard not to wonder what the graffiti community makes of it. You know the scene, if you want to have a productive life; you’re best off not listening to the average kid with a spraycan in his bag. I think not listening to people is one of the main things you need to make good pictures.
Shok-1 I can think of one or two people who’ve had their heads a bit fucked up from listening too much.
Banksy I’m aware that I’m your non-graffiti writer’s writer. When I was in Bristol people would say to me, “You’re the only bloke doing graffiti in this town” and I would tell them, no, I can name 25 other people who are up, but because they tag, people just don’t see it.
Shok-1 So many people are street bombing now and it’s been going around for so long that the public are desensitised to it I think. It’s like constant background noise, it doesn’t get their attention like it used to. I was really into street bombing for around six years. Then I thought, OK, I’ve been up for years, who gives a shit about seeing my name? So What? I thought, What am I doing now that I haven’t already done? I mean, obviously you do it for other writers to see, but I want more people to pay attention to it than that.
Banksy If you want to get up in a major way today, you need to be original rather than prolific, like most things it’s quality over quantity. This “Graffiti Area” stencil is without a doubt the best thing I’ve done, because it’s introducing the X-Factor – a load of shit you have no control over. I put the stencil up and a week later kids have written everywhere all over the wall. I spoke to this Lawyer and he reckoned in his experience that it would be enough of a defence if you were a kid and got picked up by the old bill writing on one of these walls. That would give you enough, ‘reasonable doubt’ to beat the case. The National Highways Agency doesn’t exist and the official crest on it is off a packet of Benson & Hedges. It’s a complete Mickey Mouse thing.
Shok-1 But it’s enough for them to say they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong.
Banksy And the amazing thing is, if one kid gets off like that, it sets a precedent. That’s what I’m up for now. I’m going to put up 500 of those fuckers and then wait until it ends up in court and see what happens. It’s quite political, because it means you have the right to go out into your community and say how you think it should look, and that you can potentially bypass parliament and change laws.
I mean, you could sit there and say that you think it would be better if we allowed more public art in this country. Then you could complain about it. Then you could try and get the council involved.
Or you could just put up notices in the middle of the night saying, “You are allowed to paint this wall” and bypass the system. Get a test case and you can potentially get into the statute books.
Shok-1 I just read an interview with Dean from Brighton. He’s been using standard graffiti format, just straight letter “Dean” pieces but the difference is that he has really well thought out ideas about where to put them and why. He’s using it to oppose the gentrification going on in Brighton by preventing them from making it into a sanitized, untouched environment.
Shok-1 I’ve got a copy of Big Daddy #6 for you here…
Banksy Who did this cover?
Shok-1 I did.
Banksy Bit different for you isn’t it?
Shok-1 Well what’s the point of just doing things you know you can do? You have to keep moving on… What’s this stencil made out of card?
Banksy Yeah, it was funny the other day, I was putting up that Mona Lisa and this guy keeping lookout was in hysterics because it was really papery card and part of the bazooka kept falling off.
He thought I would have cut them out of resin and all kinds of things. A big part of the thing for me is the fact that I’ve only ever used card that was free. I can get a can for 60p, that’s good for 30 stencils and then the cost of a couple of disposable blades and that’s it. It’s really important to me that you can have a huge street campaign that could get you famous in a month if you went nuts, and it would cost you about a tenner, the money factor is what turns me off the gallery circuit, that it costs so much to mount a show. Still, you can have a show that costs you next to nothing, like London, under the bridge. Our deal with that was that we nicked all the materials except for about four pounds worth of black paint.
Shok-1 How many people showed up?
Banksy On the opening night, about 500 people. We let people know in advance when it was going to happen, told them that they would have to email this address to find out where it was going to be at the last minute because it was all illegal. Six months later Cargo opened their club next to it and the artwork is still up. People have written on it, but the people from the club took a brush and carefully whited all the tags and left the stencils.
Shok-1 I see quite a lot of commercially orientated stencils around London. Was that here when you moved in?
Banksy Nah. Have you seen the [name removed to avoid undue promotion] ones? They’re everywhere.
I saw them in Glasgow and I was lining them out, because they approached me when I first came to London and asked me to do stuff for them for free, even though they’ve got backing.
Shok-1 You seem quite solitary in the way you do things…
Banksy If there was someone on the same wavelength I would maybe join up and do some things. When I used to do big pieces, I would always do them on my own. One time I went out, I had a friend who was looking out for me. I just started painting a big piece and he goes, “I’ve got a really bad feeling about this”. That ruined the whole mission from the word go. I have a project planned with Dane, but I’m going to carry on doing this mostly by myself.
(out and about with Banksy in London)
By Jim Carey
May 30, 2002
Original, thought provoking and hilarious. British graffiti artist, Banksy, cuts his own unique line in the world of spray-can wallscapes. Jim Carey takes a stroll round town with the UK's most prolific stencilist.
"Oh yeah?" sneers the girl on the door of an exclusive West End club. "So what colour is your membership card then?"
She's wearing a figure hugging dress and a well practiced look of deep disapproval. "Light blue," replies Banksy with casual confidence.....and we're in....just like that.
Not that Banksy ever had a membership card of course. It's just that the conversation we've been having in a nearby pub isn't over by closing time and the only convenient place to lubricate our continuing chats is a discrete members-only bar for West End luvies. So Banksy strolls up, gives it the "I've been a member for years, just forgotten my card" blag, and open sesame.
"Well," says Banksy, by way of explaining his miraculous guesswork, "membership cards are usually either pink or light blue."
If gaining access to forbidden places is a skill graffiti artists share with secret agents, then Banksy has 007 credentials. How else do you explain how he managed to evade a park full of armed guards and drop a tag inside the giraffe cage at Barcelona Zoo. Or how he got away with painting 'Mind the Crap' on all the steps leading up to the Tate Gallery on the night before the Turner Prize ceremony.
It takes a certain gall to paint a 300 sq ft graffiti piece in central London and then, within a few hours, stand up to speak at a Greater London Authority meeting on "The problem of graffiti"; slipping away into the shadows just as the delegates began to realise they'd had the UK's most prolific graffiti 'writer' in their midst. And all because the lady loves......
Celebs may line up to buy his paintings (he calls them "souvenirs"), whilst his last book sold 22,000 copies. But very few people will ever get to know who he is. One of the most talked about artists of the moment is not to be found hanging in the Saatchi gallery, nor is he staring from the front cover of the Guardian Weekend magazine. He operates underground, knocking out extravagant works of graffiti like there's no tomorrow, and riding his wits to remain out of police custody.
"I guess galleries are just boring at the end of the day. They're like a big signpost to the joke before the joke has actually happened," he muses supping his pint of cider in the luvvies Club. "It's only ever funny if it creeps up on you by surprise and, suddenly, there's a punchline you weren't expecting. Going in somewhere where its white, pristine with nice floodlights is never gonna be funny."
It was, of course, a great artistic irony when the Tate Gallery spent hundreds of pounds hiring emergency graffiti removers to erase 'Mind the Crap' from all its front entrance steps, just in time to pronounce an unmade bed as Turner Prize artwork of the year. Particularly as the Tate's bookshop have sold 500 copies of Banksy's book. But then there's something about good quality graffiti that really irks the authorities.
"The best bit of graffiti you do will be gone by midday the next day. That's the rule of graffiti. The shitier it is, the greater the chance it will stay around for fucking years. If you write 'Dave sucks cocks for rocks' you can guarantee it will still be there long after you're dust. But if you paint something peachy, right place right time, someone will get rid of it by dawn."
Staff at Bristol Zoo even hung a dirty plastic sheet in their elephant cage to cover a recent Banksy hit.
"Wendy the elephant has been in that cage for seventeen years," says Banksy. "I got into her cage and wrote 'Keeper smells - Boring Boring Boring' on the wall. A fair guess of what she might feel I reckon. But they wouldn't have it. Not even for a day. They just hung a plastic sheet over it.
"You get the impression they'd rather not open the zoo than allow someone to see those words."
Earlier that evening we found ourselves leaning on an atomic bomb quaffing free rioja. We'd wangled our way into the opening night of a new exhibition on the Spanish Civil War at the Imperial War Museum. And, having wondered through a hall of tanks, bazooka's and Exocet missiles, we reach the bulbous grey weapon of mass destruction, and conversation turns to terrorism and art.
"September 11 was an amazing spectacle, very symbolic. In terms of terrorism nothing has ever come close. No amount of bombing people in little holes in Afghanistan will ever compare to that.
"In terms of painting graffiti about the event, it was a nightmare. All pictures were useless, Any remotely artistic response to it would have been too contrived. Any statement about it just needed to be scrawled on the wall in bad handwriting. So I just wrote 'Bury the dead not the truth' and 'There are no innocent bystanders' in a few places. It was the only honest response. Six months after the event something else can be done now. It was the end of innocence for Charlie Brown."
Banksy's been honing his approach to graffiti art for nearly ten years, starting in his native Bristol area with ol' skool coloured lettering and moving on through sheer prolific application to his remarkable and speedily evolving stencil images.
"I started writing graffiti like every kid did that I was hanging around with. If you couldn't talk over a record very well then it was the other thing you did. There's a beauty in stencils, especially if you paint somewhere like London or a 24 hour city because you can get a great image up in 30-40 seconds."
Favourite "reaches" include railway lines, public squares, bridges, police stations and of course zoo's. Besides his work in Barcelona and Bristol Zoo, Banksy's also known for breaking into the penguin enclosure at London Zoo and painting 'We're bored of fish- We wanna go home'.
"When graffiti artists began painting trains they were people who had no voice in a New York ghetto. Painting zoo's is similar in that it's painting for creatures who can't express themselves in any other way."
These days those images are appearing on walls all over the world. Berlin, San Francisco, Barcelona, London and even, whilst visiting the Zapatista rebels in Mexico, under the noses of the less than genteel Mexican policemen.
Despite his increasing profile and the audacity of his works, Banksy's only ever been caught once, having been spotted doctoring a billboard advert on a tower block in New York.
"You'd imagine that certain folk would kinda be on your side. But I was grassed up by some transvestite hooker looking to score brownie points with the NYPD. The cops stormed the roof and I got done."
Ironically the hotel where he stayed whilst completing his community service preferred having its walls painted with Banksy's images rather than money for the room.
"Some people do say that graffiti is ugly. Well a lot of graffiti is ugly....it's a product of society so it's bound to be pretty ugly. Some people want to make the world a better place I just wanna make the world a better looking place. If you don't like it you can paint over it."
Many of the world's major cities have inherited a new colony of industrious rats subsequent to a Banksy spree. Sometimes working in groups and sometimes alone, all busy dismantling street furniture with drills, screwdrivers, crow bars and hammers. These are Banksy's ever proliferating army of super vermin.
"It's about underground culture...the things come up from the sewers. I like the idea of nicely tooled up vermin. They're not quite as stupid as you think and they have the equipment to deal with things.
"When you got three rats round a radiator grill, one on look out, one with a screwdriver and one with a crowbar trying to prize the grill open, it's like all the little powerless losers grouping together, having a little think and coming back at you better than before."
"You can go out every night with a rat stencil and a can of paint in your handbag and find a spot or not find a spot."
Two other animal species making their faces known via Banksy's work are monkeys and the royal family. On the wall beside the Great Western line just outside Paddington Station a huge crown-wearing chimpanzee pronounces "Only the ridiculous survive". A range of monkey queens and other suitably irreverent royal family stencils are working their way round the UK in time for the queen's golden jubilee.
"They're too ugly to rule us anymore but I almost feel bad every time I have a bash at them cos it's so easy. I do them because they're iconic and the ultimate symbol of what's wrong with the whole idea of inheritance. But it's like hitting a puppy. Their little double chins and frumpy little faces. I mean look at a five pound note...what is that?"
Ask Banksy about his favourite artist and he's off and running about the man he thinks had it all. Harry Houdini: "A true cross over between art and real life. Everytime he performed he was always on the edge of either drowning or suffocating. Never afraid to fuck up in public. Apparently annoying to speak to, a nightmare to deal with but utterly compulsive and, in terms of art, the greatest all round artist of the last hundred years. He had timing and art's all about timing. The mark of true genius is timing."
A point not lost on me later that night when I'm lying on the floor of a police cell with black paint all over my hands, having been caught having a go so to speak.
Spraying a wall in central London with two bored coppers sitting in a car beside me was not the way to begin a sustainable career in graffiti writing. Evidently unable to contain their disbelief at the audacity, the bored coppers were all over me like I was a terrorist in their midst. Twelve hours in a police cell was their way of retribution and, as I lay there my thoughts turned to Harry Houdini and Banksy's words about fucking up blatantly in public.
"A while a go I got over the thing about fucking up in public," he'd said to me the night before. "Sometimes the bigger the lessons you learn in public - whether you fuck up with the picture or get nicked - the more useful it is for other people. It's slapstick. This is the entertainment business."
Midday the next day I'm turfed out into the rain, the cops having kept my coat "for forensics". The phone rings almost the moment I'm out. "Yo," says Banksy. "How's it going?"
"Not so bad I suppose," says I. "But give me that stuff about timing one more time."
For a selection of Banksy's images check out SQUALL's picture gallery.
The second book in Banksy's pocket book vandalism series, 'Existencilism', is published this month by Weapons of Mass Distraction. Price £4
Design is Kinky
Design is Kinky Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Banksy Bristol. Butchery. Booze
DK How did you get into Graffiti?
Banksy Without thinking about it. Now I think about it I realise what a great fucking deal it is. The only thing that depresses me about graffiti is that pretty much any other art form short of making a feature film, is a step down from here. I don't ever want to stop.
DK What prompted you to begin to use stencils rather than the traditional style spray painting?
Banksy All the stylistic developments I've ever made have been as a result of trying to evade security systems. The tools, the colours, the message.
Also I met my girlfriend at a police roadblock and the police got me my best ever piece of press. So you can't complain really.
DK The imagery is almost always very subversive.... what message are you trying to put across to people?
Banksy I try and deal with lots of different ideas but I guess the underlying message is always the same - You say the city belongs to you and your laws? Well then how come its got MY name written all over it.
DK What kind of political and social power do you think your images have?
Banksy I'm here to find out how much power they have. On happier days I think I can change the world, topple corrupt governments and feed the children, but I have a sneaky suspicion that they actually mean fuck all.
DK Have you been arrested or in major trouble because of your work?
Banksy I have been arrested. But I re-offend. I think that if being arrested stops you then you should never have started in the first place. The beauty of my profession is that I spend so much time worrying about the police I hardly ever get time to think about death.
DK Are all of your images hand drawn or do you use found material to make them up before stenciling?
Banksy I use whatever it takes. Sometimes that just means drawing a moustache on a girls face on some billboard, sometimes that means sweating for days over an intricate drawing. The efficiency is the key.
DK Do you do any other illustration or graphic design work?
Banksy Only if I have to. Or it provides an opportunity to meet models.
DK Do you have any new projects coming up soon that you can tell us about?
Banksy I'm buying a new ladder, which should make for some good new pieces in central London.
DK What do you know about Australian graffiti artists/designers?
Banksy From what I've seen Australian graffiti is like the classic New York stuff after its had the colour and contrast turned up a notch. (that means I like it )
DK Any final comments?
Banksy A wall is just as good a place to publish as anywhere else.
Everyone’s talking about Banksy! His recent exhibition, Brandalism has placed him in the spotlight of his peers, fans and critics alike. No other graffiti artist has ventured this far into the mainstream and retained their art without selling out. The jury's out on whether Banksy will retain this stance or disappear from whence he came, but in the meantime he continues to fill our streets with provocative images that put a smile on your face. Forever aloof with an air of mystery, we caught up with him to see how he likes his new found fame and to ask him about his work, politics and painted cows.
Steal-Life Walls, canvas, cows, website… does the platform matter?
Banksy They each have their own special merits. I guess in an ideal world you would paint a picture of a cow, spray it on a wall and then post pictures of it on the internet so people can mount it on canvas at home.
SL Stencilled cows? Inspired! Tell us the story?
Banksy Branding the old fashioned way.
SL Your stencils are very photographic; do you take a lot of pictures?
Banksy The vandalism is only half the job. If you want to succeed at graffiti you need to take good pictures.
SL Are underlying social issues something important in your work?
Banksy The fundamental inequalities inherent in the capitalist system that relies on paying below minimum wage rates to key workers both here and across the world is a source of frustration to me. So is the amount of low cut tops I see wandering round west London in the sun.
SL How did the exhibition go?
Banksy I didn't go myself. About six thousand people did though, so they would be the ones to ask.
SL Are there plans for commercial more work?
Banksy No more commercial work for at least a year.
SL Is it a compromise having to take into account other opinions when doing commercial work?
Banksy I’m very good at not taking other people's feelings into account. It makes commercial work easy. It makes girlfriends kind of hard.
SL So what's next then?
Banksy Illegal street sculptures commemorating.
Something to Spray
By Simon Hattenstone
July 17, 2003
You may not have heard of him, but you've probably seen his work. From policemen with smiley faces to the Pulp Fiction killers firing bananas, Banksy's subversive images are daubed on walls everywhere - and now he's putting on an exhibition. Simon Hattenstone meets Britain's No 1 graffiti artist.
Banksy is due any minute. The only trouble is I don't know what he looks like. Nobody here seems to know what he looks like. But they all know him. That is, they know of him. That is, if he is a he. The barman in the pub in Shoreditch, a trendy part of London with a whiff of the old East End, flushes when I mention Banksy and talks in a hushed voice. "Yes, I know Bansky. Well I used to, sort of. See, I'm from Bristol, and I was also involved in graffiti."
Is he in the pub at the moment? He shakes his head diffidently. He is not sure he would recognise him and if he did manage to point him out, thinks he could get into trouble. I tell him that I'm here to interview him. He doesn't believe me - Banksy doesn't do interviews. But he has agreed to one this time, though he laughs when we suggest a photograph.
Banksy is Britain's most celebrated graffiti artist, but anonymity is vital to him because graffiti is illegal. The day he goes public is the day the graffiti ends.
His black and white stencils are beautiful, witty and gently subversive: policemen with smiley faces, rats with drills, monkeys with weapons of mass destruction (or, when the mood takes him, mass disruption) little girls cuddling up to missiles, police officers walking great flossy poodles, Samuel Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction firing bananas instead of guns, a beefeater daubing "Anarchy" on the walls. He signs his pieces in a chunky, swirling typeface. Sometimes there are just words, in the same chunky typeface - puns and ironies, statements and incitements. At traditional landmarks, he often signs "This is not a photo opportunity". On establishment buildings he may sign "By Order National Highways Agency This Wall Is A Designated Graffiti Area". (Come back a few days later, and people will have obediently tagged the wall.)
Banksy has branched out recently - he designed the cover of the Blur album, Think Tank, and tomorrow is the opening night of Turf War, his first gallery show in Britain. He is somehow managing to straddle the commercial, artistic and street worlds.
It is easy to become addicted to his work. Since spotting my first few Banksies, I have been desperately seeking out more. When I do come across them, surreptitiously peeping out of an alley or boldy emblazoned on a wall, I find it hard to contain myself. They feel personal, as if they are just for me, and they feel public as if they are a gift for everyone. They make me smile and feel optimistic about the possibilities of shared dreams and common ownership.
On the Banksy trail I meet lots of devotees. They tell me how he comes by stealth in the night, how he has look-outs posted while he works, how his first exhibition will be in a warehouse though only the number of the road (475) is known and not the road itself. They say that Banksy has customised the city, reclaimed it, made it theirs.
There is still no sign of him. I walk into the street to phone Steve, his "agent". "Ah, I'll bring him over right now," he says in his Bristol burr. I have the strange sensation of hearing him in stereo. I look up the road, and see a man 40 yards away talking into the phone. Steve doesn't look like an agent. Actually, he says, he is Banksy's friend and takes photos for him.
Two minutes later they arrive in the pub. Bansky is white, 28, scruffy casual - jeans, T-shirt, a silver tooth, silver chain and silver earring. He looks like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets. He asks if he can nab a cigarette and orders a pint of Guinness. There is something on his mind. He tells me how he noticed that a piece of his graffiti has been papered over by a poster advertising Michael Moore's Stupid White Men - a bestselling book about how to subvert the system. "So Michael Moore was the corporate who fucked me over and ruined my picture. It's a weird world, a sick world." But he seems to quite like the idea.
Banksy started doing graffiti when he was a miserable 14-year-old schoolboy. School never made sense to him - he had problems, was expelled, did some time in prison for petty crime, but he doesn't want to go into details.
Graffiti, he says, made him feel better about himself, gave him a voice. And Bristol had a thriving graffiti culture. "But because I was quite crap with a spray can, I started cutting out stencils instead." I tell him about the time I graffito'd someone's name across the road. He nods, approvingly. "Ah, that's the key to graffiti, the positioning." I tell him that I felt guilty - not because I had broken the law but because I had used a can of paint to get revenge and the boy had to live with his name Duluxed across the road.
"Yeah, it's all about retribution really," he says. "Just doing a tag is about retribution. If you don't own a train company then you go and paint on one instead. It all comes from that thing at school when you had to have name tags in the back of something - that makes it belong to you. You can own half the city by scribbling your name over it."
As he talks, it strikes me that he may not be who he says he is. How do I know you are Banksy? "You have no guarantee of that whatsoever." But he seems too passionate about his work not to be. What is his real name? "Pass! You must be kidding."
Does he consider himself an artist? "I don't know. We were talking about this the other day. I'm using the word vandalism a lot with the show. You know what hip-hop has done with the word 'nigger' - I'm trying to do that with the word vandalism, bring it back." He also likes the word brandalism.
Banksy's attitude to brands is ambivalent - like Naomi Klein, he opposes corporate branding and has become his own brand in the process. Now, people are selling forged Banksies on the black market or stencil kits so we can produce our own Banksies. Does he mind being ripped off? "No," he says. "The thing is, I was a bootlegger for three years so I don't really have a leg to stand on."
That was what was so strange about working with Blur, he says. "It was weird because I must have worked a good dozen Blur shows in the past." Did he tell them? "Not until well into the job. I said I've never been inside a Blur gig, because I was with five scallies in the car park banging out posters and T-shirts of you lot. So I did the job, and basically I spunked all the money on the new thing that I'm doing - BOGOF sculpture. It's based on Tesco's Buy One, Get One Free. I'm making sculptures, two of each. One I sell and the other one I give away free to the city. The first one, which is going to be unveiled today, is like a huge The Thinker by Rodin, in bronze, with the traffic cone on his head also cast out of bronze."
That is another aspect of art he says interests him - efficiency. Why spend years on a sculpture when you can simply plonk a traffic cone on the head of a classic sculpture and create a whole new work? "If you have a statue in the city centre you could go past it every day on your way to school and never even notice it, right, but as soon as someone puts a traffic cone on its head, and you've made your own sculpture and it's taken seconds. The holy grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it." He smiles. I'm not sure that he really believes this.
Is it true that his prints sell for upwards of £10,000? He is not sure because he doesn't flog them directly but yes, they go for a high price. What about the story that he designed a swish New York hotel? "Well, I did paint a hotel in New York City once. But it's a dive hotel - $68 a night. Every room is painted by a different artist and if you paint it you stay there rent free."
Over the past couple of years the very brands he despises have approached him to do advertising campaigns for them. Is there work he would turn down on principle? "Yeah, I've turned down four Nike jobs now. Every new campaign they email me to ask me to do something about it. I haven't done any of those jobs. The list of jobs I haven't done now is so much bigger than the list of jobs I have done. It's like a reverse CV, kinda weird. Nike have offered me mad money for doing stuff." What's mad money? "A lot of money!" he says bashfully.
Why did he turn it down? "Because I don't need the money and I don't like children working their fingers to the bone for nothing. I like that Jeremy Hardy line: 'My 11-year-old daughter asked me for a pair of trainers the other day. I said, 'Well, you're 11, make 'em yourself.' I want to avoid that shit if at all possible."
I ask him if you need to be nimble to be a good graffiti artist. "Yeah, it's all part of the job description. Any idiot can get caught. The art to it is not getting picked up for it, and that's the biggest buzz at the end of the day because you could stick all my shit in Tate Modern and have an opening with Tony Blair and Kate Moss on roller blades handing out vol-au-vents and it wouldn't be as exciting as it is when you go out and you paint something big where you shouldn't do. The feeling you get when you sit home on the sofa at the end of that, having a fag and thinking there's no way they're going to rumble me, it's amazing... better than sex, better than drugs, the buzz."
He talks about the fun he had at Glastonbury this year. "The police seemed to feel very relaxed, and they were driving Land Rovers. We found two parked up with the cops out chatting to girls on the main drag and I nearly always carry a can of paint, so I just walked up and did a random swiggle on the side of one, and then handed the can of paint to my friend who wrote 'Hash for cash' on the side of another. By the end of that night, we had done seven police vehicles with aerosol." He says he has been arrested for graffiti in the past, but not in recent years, and never as Banksy.
Was it a tough decision to exhibit in a gallery? No, he says - first of all, this is hardly a posh gallery, it's an old warehouse. Second, without a formal space, how could he possibly display his live sheep, pigs and cows? Actually, he says, graffiti is by definition rather proscriptive. "Most councils are committed to removing offensive graffiti within 24 hours, anything racist, sexist or homophobic, they will send out a team within 24 hours." But somehow if it's "art" in a gallery, the boundaries of taste aren't so rigidly defined.
He talks about his stencils of Jewish women at Belsen, daubed in fluorescent lipstick - an image as poignant as it is grotesque. "Now I could never do that on the street because it's just blatantly offensive." But in a gallery he can show it in context. "It's actually based on a diary entry from a colonel who liberated Bergen-Belsen. He described how they liberated this women-only camp, and a box of supplies turned up containing 400 sticks of lipstick, and he went nuts - 'Why are you sending me lipstick?' But he sent it out to the women, and they put it on each other, they did their hair; and because it gave them the will to live it was probably the best thing the soldiers did when they liberated that camp." He tells the story beautifully. "See, that's talking about how the application of paint can make a difference."
Does he ever see himself becoming part of the art establishment? "I don't know. I wouldn't sell shit to Charles Saatchi. If I sell 55,000 books [he has published two, Existencilism and Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall] and however many screen prints, I don't need one man to tell me I'm an artist. It's hugely different if people buy it, rather than one fucking Tory punter does. No, I'd never knowingly sell anything to him."
He returns to the subject of the opening night, and talks about it with such excitement. "A part of me wishes I could go because I've put together a really nice setup."
But, he says, it would be too risky. Will his parents be there? He shakes his head. "No. They still don't know what I do." Really, I say, they have no sense of how much you've achieved? "No," he says tenderly. "They think I'm a painter and decorator."
All Things Considered Interview
All Things Considered
Transcript of audio interview
March 24, 2005
Host So we’re on the line with the artist who goes by the name of Banksy. And Banksy we assume you are who you say you are, but how can we be sure?
Banksy Oh you have no guarantee of that at all.
H So you could be pulling another prank?
Banksy This could be a better prankster than I was when I went and did that, definitely.
H So I’m interested in how you might see yourself. Do you see yourself as an artist? As a bandit? As a prankster? Or all of the above?
Banksy Painter and decorator.
H A painter and decorator who happens to hang his work in the Louvre?
Banksy Yea, well you don’t want to get stuck in the same line of work your whole lifelong now.
H Well there’s so many questions. In recent weeks you’ve managed to hang artwork in at least four major New York institutions: The Museum of Modern Art, the Met, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Museum. How do you do this? How do get into the building, hang your artwork on the wall, without being noticed?
Banksy Well um, I’ve been reading all these biographies about Harry Houdini recently - like him you don’t really go into the details but he’s got some good tips to offer to artists coming up I would say.
H That may explain how you can get in the building and blend in with the crowd but how it is that you manage to hang artwork without being noticed? And these are not always small pieces.
Banksy No I mean some of them are quite big. I think it’s kind of a testament to the frame of mind most people are in when they’re in a museum really. You know most people let the world go pass them and they’re not really paying a lot of attention to most things. Not even apparently to people with big beards, wielding around pieces of art, and gluing them up. For instance in the Met I was hoping it would last for longer than it did cause the Met’s famous for um, they hung up a Henri Matisse painting upside down for forty two days I believe it was until someone told them it was ran the wrong way. So I am aiming for at least forty two days but unfortunately I didn’t get that far.
H Tell us about the piece you hung in the met.
Banksy The piece in the Met was a beautiful, old oil painting of a society lady that I got hold of and then I just painted a gas mask over the top of her face and stuck her up.
H Now do you work alone when you actually hang the installations?
Banksy I do yea you don’t want to bring other people into that really.
H So it’s all your own artwork?
Banksy Yea, I mean I think - I thought some of them were quite good. So that’s why I thought, you know, put them in a gallery. Otherwise they’d just sit at home and no one would see them right? If you wait for other people to like what you’re doing you’d be waiting forever you might as well cut out the middleman and just go stick it in yourself.
H But what you’re doing is illegal.
Banksy Mmm hmm.
H Mmm hmm?
Banksy That’s what makes it good fun, right?
H Now when you plan this and I assume that there’s a lot of planning that goes into this are you careful about how far you’ll go to skirt the law or make sure you don’t cross a line?
Banksy Well you can’t make an omelette can you but… I’m kind of a career graffiti writer so it’s not in my interest to get arrested very often. It’s all about keeping going as long as you can. So yea you have to think about these things. I mean that’s the thing, mindless vandalism takes a lot more thought than most people would imagine.
H Banksy it’s been great talking to you.
Banksy Hey, thank you very much.
By Jeff Howe
August 01, 2005
First he turned back alleys into galleries. Then he hacked the MoMA and the Met. Meet Banksy, the most wanted man in the art world.
It's noon in London, and self-described "art terrorist" Banksy is preparing for his next installation. "I've created a cave painting," he says. "It's a bit of rock with a stick man chasing a wildebeest and pushing a shopping cart." The next day, Banksy carefully hangs his work - called Early Man Goes to Market and credited to "Banksymus Maximus" -in Gallery 49 of the venerable British Museum, accompanied by a few sentences of explanatory text. He does this without the knowledge or consent of museum officials; they learn about the latest addition to the collection only after Banksy announces it on his Web site.
Over the past few years, Banksy has emerged as an ingenious and dexterous culture jammer, adept at hacking the art world and rewriting its rules to suit his own purposes. He once closed a tunnel in London while he and his friends, disguised as overall-clad painters, whitewashed the walls. Then Banksy applied his own distinctive black stencils on the newly cleaned surface. "We called our friends, bought some beer, and staged a 'gallery show,'" he says with a chuckle. Last March, Banksy achieved a sort of art world quadruple crown when he snuck his works into four New York City museums - the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Museum - in a single day. Such feats have earned him worldwide media attention and the kind of rewards traditional artists would kill for, including an offer from Nike to work on an ad campaign (he declined) and an invitation to do a public painting for the 2004 Liverpool biennial (he accepted). The British Museum even added Early Man Goes to Market to its permanent collection.
Brits have come to expect daring stunts from Banksy, who uses a pseudonym to avoid arrest for past escapades. But critics see him as nothing more than an overhyped vandal. Peter Gibson, a spokesperson for the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, says graffiti has become an epidemic: "How would he feel if someone sprayed graffiti all over his house?" Banksy says his work is merely "cheeky." And it's true, the pieces are long on humor: The one Banksy smuggled into the MoMA was a painting of a cheap brand of British tomato soup, a send-up of Andy Warhol's iconic can of Campbell's. But his arsenic-tinged wit has a purpose: By hijacking the established system of art exhibition, Banksy is drawing attention to its shortcomings. "Art's the last of the great cartels," he contends. "A handful of people make it, a handful buy it, and a handful show it. But the millions of people who go look at it don't have a say." Most of Banksy's work isn't found inside any building at all. "I don't do proper gallery shows," he says. "I have a much more direct communication with the public."
Born in Bristol in 1974, Banksy started his career at 14 as a standard-issue spray-paint vandal before switching to stencils. "I wasn't good at freehand graffiti," he says. "I was too slow." Soon Banksy had made a (fake) name for himself with wry images like schoolgirls cradling atom bombs, British bobbies caught snogging, and Mona Lisa shouldering a rocket launcher. These paintings contrast sharply with the usual all-but-unreadable scrawls. "Most graffiti is like modern art, isn't it?" he says. "People are like, What does it mean?"
Banksy's messages are far more accessible. He once painted a thought bubble on the wall of the elephant pen at the London Zoo: "I want out. This place is too cold. Keeper smells. Boring, boring, boring." The difficulty of that job gained the respect of the graffiti community but, more than that, it caught the imagination of the public, which was happy to empathize with the elephants.
Banksy has a thing for animals. In much of his graffiti they serve as thinly veiled stand-ins for humans. Rats, that other species struggling to subsist in our dirty, dangerous cities, show up a lot. Armed with radio transmitters, personal flying devices, and, natch, paintbrushes, many seem to be waging a covert war against some unidentified authority. One image depicts a rat swept up in the melody of its own violin-playing, trying, it seems, to carve a bit of art out of a sterile environment.
Which is pretty much Banksy's mission, too. Noting that he's not without altruistic impulses - "I always wanted to be a fireman, do something good for the world" - Banksy says he wants to "show that money hasn't crushed the humanity out of everything."
Banksy The Naked Truth
By Shepard Fairey
One of the most inappropriate nicknames of all time, at least in my opinion, belonged to Ronald Reagan: “The Great Communicator,” who we’ve come to learn did a pretty shitty job of communicating the government’s problems and indiscretions. A nickname like that deserves a more righteous, honest owner—someone like Banksy.
Most people think of art as a way of conveying emotions, as opposed to language, the means by which we express ideas. Whatever line there is distinguishing art and language, Banksy paints over it to make it disappear, then stealthily repaints it in the unlikeliness of places. His works, whether he puts them on the streets, sells them in galleries, or hangs them in museums on the sly, are filled with imagery tweaked into metaphors that cross all language barriers. The images are brilliant and funny, yet so simple and accessible that even children can find the meaning in them: even if six-year-olds don’t know the first thing about culture wars, they have no trouble recognizing that something is amiss when they see a picture of the Mona Lisa holding a rocket launcher. A lot of artists can be neurotic, self-indulgent snobs using art for their own catharsis, but Banksy distances himself from his work, using art to plant the feelings of discontent and distrust of authority that anyone can experience when he prompts them to ask themselves one gigantic question: Why is this wrong? If it makes people feel and think, he’s accomplished his goal.
Banksy’s work embodies everything I like about art and nothing I dislike about it. His art is accessible rather than elitist, since he does it on the street; it has a powerful political message that’s conveyed with a sense of humor, which certainly makes the bitter pill easier to swallow; it’s pleasing to look at, because it’s technically very strong but not overly complex and intimidating; and he pulls it off in such a way that its presence in its context communicates not only his message but his dedication to effecting the change he promotes in that message, whether he’s defying Israeli hegemony by painting the separation wall in Palestine or bypassing the elitist review board of a museum by hanging his work himself. He definitely has his share of critics, who say that he burns too many bridges by rejecting countless opportunities to gain money or fame, but he simply has no interest in doing anything that falls outside his goal of making provocative, powerful artwork. He’s a good friend and a tremendous source of inspiration; he’s The Great Communicator of our time, and the most important living artist in the world.
Shepard Fairey How long are you going to remain anonymous, working through the medium itself and through your agent as a voice for you?
Banksy I have no interest in ever coming out. I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is. You ask a lot of kids today what they want to be when they grow up, and they say, “I want to be famous.” You ask them for what reason and they don’t know or care. I think Andy Warhol got it wrong: in the future, so many people are going to become famous that one day everybody will end up being anonymous for 15 minutes. I’m just trying to make the pictures look good; I’m not into trying to make myself look good. I’m not into fashion. The pictures generally look better than I do when we’re out on the street together. Plus, I obviously have issues with the cops. And besides, it’s a pretty safe bet that the reality of me would be a crushing disappointment to a couple of 15-year-old kids out there.
SF What got you into graffiti? I know that you did more traditional graffiti at one point.
Banksy I come from a relatively small city in southern England. When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D was painting the streets hard. I think he’d been to New York and was the first to bring spray painting back to Bristol. I grew up seeing spray paint on the streets way before I ever saw it in a magazine or on a computer. 3D quit painting and formed the band Massive Attack, which may have been good for him but was a big loss for the city. Graffiti was the thing we all loved at school – we all did it on the bus on the way home from school. Everyone was doing it.
SF What’s your definition of the word “graffiti”?
Banksy I love graffiti. I love the word. Some people get hung up over it, but I think they’re fighting a losing battle. Graffiti equals amazing to me. Every other type of art compared to graffiti is a step down—no two ways about it. If you operate outside of graffiti, you operate at a lower level. Other art has less to offer people, it means less, and it’s weaker. I make normal paintings if I have ideas that are too complex or offensive to go out on the street, but if I ever stopped being a graffiti writer I would be gutted. It would feel like being a basket weaver rather than being a proper artist.
SF Who are some of your favorite graffiti artists?
Banksy My favorite graffiti is done by people that aren’t in books. I’m really into the amateurs, the people who just come out of nowhere with a marker pen and write one funny thing for one night and then disappear.
SF “Street art” has been the cool buzzword, and artists have obtained instant credibility from these new fly-by-night galleries, skate companies wanting to do a new street art t-shirt series, whatever. All these people are picking artists that deserve to be picked and have really done work on the streets for 10 to 15 years, but then they also pick a lot of artists that have been doing something for four to six months and built themselves a nice little website. Where do you see yourself fit into that? If the pedestrians at these companies don’t really know who’s done what, how do you separate yourself from that?
Banksy Most graffiti writers arrive at a style by the need to work fast and quiet. If you arrived at a style by painstakingly drawing in your bedroom and touching up on Photoshop, then people can smell the difference from about five miles away.
SF How do you decide what commercial projects to work on?
Banksy I’ve done a few things to pay the bills, and I did the Blur album. It was a good record and it was quite a lot of money. I think that’s a really important distinction to make. If it’s something you actually believe in, doing something commercial doesn’t turn it to shit just because it’s commercial. Otherwise you’ve got to be a socialist rejecting capitalism altogether, because the idea that you can marry a quality product with a quality visual and be a part of that even though it’s capitalistic is sometimes a contradiction you can’t live with. But sometimes it’s perfectly symbiotic, like the Blur situation.
SF I’m sure you get offered jobs left and right. Are there things that you think about doing that you don’t do, or things that you wish you would’ve done?
Banksy I don’t do anything for anybody anymore, and I will never do a commercial job again. In some ways it’s a shame, cuz I’m sure I’d have had a good time doing posters for that frozen yogurt company in Hawaii and now I’d have friends I could go visit on the other side of the world. But it’s part of the job to shut the fuck up and not meet people. I never go to the openings of my shows, and I don’t read chat rooms or go on MySpace. All I know about what people think of my gear is what a couple of my friends tell me, and one of them always wants to borrow money, so I’m not sure how reliable he is.
I think there’s a lot to be said for the fine line between second guessing yourself and respecting a dialogue with people whose opinions you trust, or even people that are great because they don’t know shit about art and you get the most honest reaction from them. Because so many artists, they worry about what trends are happening in art and design and street art, they read too many magazines, and they are too wrapped up in everything; they’re paralyzed.
SF What’s the most perfect non-traditional piece of art that you’ve seen that’s not currently hanging in a museum?
Banksy The most perfect piece of art I saw in recent times was during an anarchist demonstration in London a couple of years ago. Someone cut a strip of turf from the grass in front of Big Ben and put it on the head of the statue of Winston Churchill. Later, the demo turned into a riot, and photos of Winston with a grass Mohican were on the cover of every single British newspaper the next day. It was the most amazing bit of vandalism, because it was the perfect logo for this eco-punk movement that was trying to reclaim the streets, bring an end to global capitalism, and defend the right to sit in a park all day getting wasted on discount lager.
SF Your art is still free on the streets but costly in the galleries. What dictates that?
Banksy What I find is I don’t have much say in what things cost. Every time I sell things at a discount rate, most people put them on eBay and make more money than I charged them in the first place. The novelty with that soon wears off.
SF You were talking about how you want your books to be cheap because they show the work in the context of the street, as well as the installations in museums and other pranks, which are actually honest representations of your work. But then people want objects, so they’re going to want the canvases and things like that, and you’re just kind of accepting that people fetishize objects and are willing to pay a lot for the status of owning something that they can hang up.
Banksy I stenciled the door of an electrical block in south London and recently someone sawed it off and sold it at a famous auction house for £24,000, but in that same week Islington council power sprayed off eight of my new stencils on one road. What I’m finding is art is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it, or willing to pay to not have to look at it.
SF The redistribution of the wealth then allows you to have that freedom to put work on the street without the pressure of having to sell a thousand cheap canvases – work that’s free and accessible. It really means that the art objects, the canvases, only really play into the people that think in an elitist way and have the money. So really, it kind of balances out. That’s an issue that a lot of artists have. They believe that their work should be accessible to a lot of people, and that actually is the opposite of the way the art world works.
Banksy The art world is the biggest joke going. It’s a rest home for the overprivileged, the pretentious, and the weak. And modern art is a disgrace – never have so many people used so much stuff and taken so long to say so little. Still, the plus side is it’s probably the easiest business in the world to walk into with no talent and make a few bucks.
SF The murals you did in Palestine, I would assume, involved personal risk. You’re there, and you could definitely get some people pissed off and put yourself in jeopardy.
Banksy Every graffiti writer should go there. They’re building the biggest wall in the world. I painted on the Palestinian side, and a lot of them weren’t sure about what I was doing. They didn’t understand why I wasn’t just writing “down with Israel” in big letters and painting pictures of the Israeli prime minister hanging from a rope. And maybe they had a point. The guy that I stayed with got five days with the “dirty bag” for waving a Palestinian flag out a window. The dirty bag is when Israeli security services get a sack, wipe their shit on it, and put the bag over your head while your hands are tied behind your back. I spat out my falafel as he was explaining that to me, but he just goes, “That’s nothing. My cousin got it for two weeks without a break.” It’s difficult to come home and hear people complaining about reruns on TV after that. It’s very hard for the locals to paint illegally over there. We certainly weren’t doing it under the cloak of darkness; you’d get shot. We were out in the middle of the day, making it very clear we were tourists. Twice, we had serious trouble with the army, but one time the Palestinian border patrol pulled up in an armored truck. The Israeli government makes a big fuss about how they own the wall, despite building it right through the farmland of Palestinians who have been there for generations, so the Palestinian border police don’t give a shit if you paint it or not. They parked between the road and us, gave us water, and just watched. It’s probably the only time I’m ever going to paint whilst being covered by a cop from a roof-mounted submachine gun.
SF Did they realize that it favored the Palestinian perspective?
Banksy I have sympathy for both sides in that conflict, and I did receive quite a bit of support from regular Israelis, but if the Israeli government had known we were going over there to do a sustained painting attack on their wall, there’s no way that we’d have been tolerated. They’re very paranoid. They don’t want the wall to be an issue in the West. On the Israeli side of the wall they bank it up with soil and plant flowers so you don’t even know its there. On the Palestinian side it’s just a fucking huge mass of concrete.
SF You’ve never really been busted to the point of potentially not being able to do street art, but that’s always a possibility. I could be wrong – you could be incredible and never get caught, but everybody gets caught at some point. What would you do if you were put in that position? Would you rent walls? Would you try to find legal walls? Would you still try to find ways to have work on the street and still maintain your anonymity to a degree, but keep it out there through more legal means? Would you move to another country? What would you do?
Banksy I’m always trying to move on. You’re not supposed to get dumber as you get older. You’re not supposed to just do the same old thing. You’re supposed to find a new way through and carry on. I invest back into the street bombing from selling shit. Recently, I’ve been pretending to be a construction manager and paying cash to get scaffolding put up against buildings, then I cover the scaffolding with plastic sheeting and stand behind it making large paintings in the middle of the city. I could never have done that a few years ago. Plus, I’m always interested in finding new places to hit up; it’s easier to break into zoos and museums than train lay-ups, because they haven’t had so much of a graffiti problem in the past. Ultimately, I just want to make the right piece at the right time in the right place. Anything that stands in the way of achieving that piece is the enemy, whether it’s your mum, the cops, someone telling you that you sold out, or someone saying, “Let’s just stay in tonight and get pizza.”
Banksy will be showing some of his work in Los Angeles from September 15-18, 2006. For exact location and other details, check out www.banksy.co.uk
Village Voice Exclusive: An Interview With Banksy, Street Art Cult Hero, International Man of Mystery
by Keegan Hamilton
October 9, 2013
That was the beguiling subject of an e-mail seemingly randomly addressed to the Village Voice in mid-September.
“I represent the artist Banksy,” the message began, “and I would like to talk to you at your earliest convenience.” The name and phone number of a British publicist followed. There were no further details or explanation. It was mysterious and intriguing. The secretive graffiti artist had been silent since last year, when his distinctive stencils appeared in London during the Olympics. Because Banksy rarely grants interviews, the cryptic message also felt like the prelude to an elaborate practical joke.
A few minutes of sleuthing confirmed the identity of the publicist, Jo Brooks, who represents several British artists (not to mention Fatboy Slim), and turned up evidence of her professional relationship with the elusive stencil master. A subsequent message from Brooks revealed more: a draft of a press release announcing that Banksy was on the verge of unveiling an audacious new project: The artist intended to create one new piece on the streets of New York each day in October, a “unique kind of art show” titled “Better Out Than In.” Billed with the tagline “an artists [sic] residency on the streets of New York,” the show was to include “elaborate graffiti, large scale street sculpture, video installations, and substandard performance art.”
Brooks promised the Voice an exclusive interview with Banksy, who “feels an affinity with people who provide quality content for free on street corners.”
But, as others have found over the nearly two decades since Banksy’s aerosol first decorated urban landscapes from Britain to the West Bank, New York, and Los Angeles, communicating with the undercover art icon is no simple feat. Through Brooks, he declined requests to speak on the phone or via Skype, presumably on the grounds that anything approaching direct contact risks blowing his meticulously maintained cover. (For the unacquainted, Banksy’s real name has never been confirmed, despite his pop culture stardom; he has said previously that the illegal nature of graffiti demands secrecy and likened unmasking himself to leaving “a signed confession” for his art crimes.) The publicist requested a list of questions to ask Banksy via e-mail—with the caveat that her client would likely ignore several topics entirely.
Several days later, Banksy’s website was scrubbed and replaced with a teaser for “Better Out Than In”: a stenciled image depicting a graffiti tagger placed to look like he’s vomiting a torrent of pink flowers and green foliage sprouting from between two concrete walls. (The title itself is a British colloquialism, a “Gesundheit”-like response to an audible eructation.) When the image began making the rounds on street art forums, commenters pointed out that the silhouette looked similar to an image in the music video for the song “Yonkers” by Tyler, The Creator, leader of the Los Angeles–based hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.
Ignoring the New York reference, Banksyphiles assumed the piece was somewhere in Los Angeles (its actual location has yet to be disclosed) and speculated that Banksy was plotting a sequel to his 2006 exhibit at an L.A. warehouse, in which he famously displayed a live elephant painted to look like pink wallpaper.
Then, on October 1, just as the publicist foretold, Banksy debuted his first work on the streets of New York: a stencil on a building in Chinatown, titled prophetically The Street Is in Play. The work shows two old-fashioned paperboys in overalls and flat caps reaching for a can of spray paint contained in a “Graffiti Is a Crime ” warning sign that had previously been affixed to the wall.
The sign was promptly stolen and the piece painted over—defaced, then erased in less than 24 hours.
How does Banksy feel about his work disappearing almost instantly? Who owns the pieces from “Better Out Than In” once they’re on the street? Does the artist stand to profit from his New York “residency”? The Voice asked those questions and many more in a series of e-mails relayed through Brooks. After more than a week of silence, he wrote back, ignoring (as Brooks predicted) many of the questions we’d posed, including the one that asked, “How do we know this is really Banksy responding to these questions and not some Nigerian prince or a teenage hacker in the Syrian Electronic Army?”
On other topics, he was more forthcoming. In answer to our inquiry about his vision for “Better Out Than In,” and how and why the project was conceived, he writes, “There is absolutely no reason for doing this show at all. I know street art can feel increasingly like the marketing wing of an art career, so I wanted to make some art without the price tag attached. There’s no gallery show or book or film. It’s pointless. Which hopefully means something.”
Asked what he has been doing since his Oscar-nominated documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, was released in 2010, Banksy says he has “been learning to make big sculptures out of clay—partly because it’s a challenge and partly because after a year in an editing studio I wanted to do something standing up.”
Banksy says he visited New York “a couple of months ago” to scout locations for the October show, but he “returned to find most of the empty lots I planned to use have got condos built on them already.” He is now living in the city—not surprisingly, he won’t reveal where he’s holed up or how long he plans to stay—and he hints at a lack of a formal plan for when and where new pieces will be installed this month.
“The plan is to live here, react to things, see the sights—and paint on them,” he writes. “Some of it will be pretty elaborate, and some will just be a scrawl on a toilet wall.”
Early pieces were scattered across Lower Manhattan. Following The Street Is in Play, he scrawled a squiggly white tag on a steel shutter door in Chelsea that read, “This is my New York accent,” with the words “. . . Normally I write like this” underneath in plainer text. On October 3 in midtown, he stenciled a dog pissing on a fire hydrant, the latter emitting a thought balloon reading, “You complete me . . .” The following day saw a triptych of sorts: existing tags in Brooklyn that read “Playground Mob,” “Occupy,” and “Dirty Underwear,” to which Banksy added the identical script-stenciled tagline “The Musical.”
The Chelsea piece was defaced within hours, and the hydrant stencil painted over with a small silver tag. “Occupy” didn’t eclipse the 90-minute mark before it was eclipsed.
Conspiracy theorists have speculated that Banksy himself is intentionally spoiling the pieces after the fact. The artist flatly dismisses the rumor. “I’m not defacing my own pictures, no,” he says. “I used to think other graffiti writers hated me because I used stencils, but they just hate me.”
The fleeting nature of Banksy’s art is part of its appeal. Brooks says a new piece each day in New York “turns the city into a giant game of treasure hunt.” Each work is a precious commodity that can disappear overnight. He wants them to be discovered in alleys next to dumpsters, not displayed in a sterile museum.
The more permanent element of the works—and the part that helps to confirm their authenticity—is an accompanying toll-free phone number that dials an “audio guide” created by Banksy. The first recording features cheesy elevator music and a stoned-sounding narrator welcoming listeners to Lower Manhattan. The male voice casually warns that the work has “probably been painted over,” and informs listeners, “You’re looking at a type of picture called ‘graffiti,’ from the Latin ‘graffito,’ which means ‘graffiti’ with an O.”
“What exactly is the artist trying to say here?” Banksy’s narrator asks. “Is this a response to the primal urge to take the tools of our oppression and turn them into mere playthings? Or perhaps it is a postmodern comment on how the signifiers of objects have become as real as the objects themselves. Are you kidding me? Who writes this stuff? Anyway . . . you decide. Please do. I have no idea.”
The audio clip continues Banksy’s tradition of wagging a playful middle finger at the mainstream art world, in this case even slyly mocking fans who care to track down his work. Listeners are presumably hearing the spiel while standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk, rather than a wing of MOMA or the Met.
“The audio guide started as a cheap joke, and to be honest that’s how it’s continued, but I’m starting to see more potential in it now,” Banksy explains. “I like how it controls the time you spend looking at an image. I read that researchers at a big museum in London found the average person looked at a painting for eight seconds. So if you put your art at a stoplight you’re already getting better numbers than Rembrandt.”
Asked to elaborate on the two paintings reproduced on this week’s Voice cover—specifically, about how he intends to display the works, both collaborations with the Brazilian graffiti twosome Os Gêmeos (aka identical twins Otávio and Gustavo Pandolfo)—Banksy responds, “To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m figuring a lot of this out as I go along. Which is one way to keep it fresh, I suppose. The idea to make a stencil saying ‘The Musical’ only came up when I saw the ‘Occupy’ graffiti.”
Banksy’s repertoire is not limited to graffiti in the traditional sense of the term. On October 5 in the East Village, he rolled out a grimy, tagged-up 1992 GMC delivery truck with a sculpture installed inside. A virtual paradise, the piece included (as the audio guide describes over the tinkling sound of Hawaiian steel guitar) “a digitally remastered sunset that never sets, a waterfall pumping over 22 gallons of water a minute, and some plastic butterflies duct-taped over a fan that move around a bit.”
The following day, Sunday, Banksy posted a video to his website that shows a pair of insurgents wearing turbans firing a surface-to-air missile from a bazooka-like tube. Their rocket launches into the sky with a streak of gray smoke. The fighters shout, “Allahu Akbar!” as their target plummets toward the ground: Dumbo the flying elephant. The animated Disney character crumples into a smoking heap. A child appears, approaches the dying cartoon, contemplates the scene, then turns and kicks the man with the rocket launcher in the shin.
Banksy typically shuns galleries and traditional venues, displaying his work instead in skid row alleys and various off-the-map locales. He has, however, profited handsomely from his art in the past. Celebrities—most notably Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie—have paid millions for it, a fact that’s at odds with the creator’s guerrilla ethos. (Before launching “Better Out Than In,” Banksy’s website featured an FAQ with the question “Why are you such a sell out?” followed by the answer “I wish I had a pound for every time someone asked me that.”) His works are generally intended for public display, but they have occasionally been carved out of entire concrete walls and sold at auction.
The disconnect isn’t lost on the artist. He says he “made a mistake” during his last show in New York, a 2008 installation at a storefront in the West Village that featured a variety of satirical animal creations, including hot dogs lounging under heat lamps in glass cages near a phony cash register. He hired a billboard company to paint four murals to promote the fake store.
“I totally overlooked how important it was to do it myself,” the artist says. “Graffiti is an art form where the gesture is at least as important as the result, if not more so. I read how a critic described Jackson Pollock as a performance artist who happened to use paint, and the same could be said for graffiti writers—performance artists who happen to use paint. And trespass.”
Banksy also reveals concerns about his ongoing struggle to strike a balance between commercial success and artistic integrity. He hints at the possibility of abandoning galleries entirely and permanently returning to his roots as a street artist.
“I started painting on the street because it was the only venue that would give me a show,” he writes. “Now I have to keep painting on the street to prove to myself it wasn’t a cynical plan. Plus it saves money on having to buy canvases.
“But there’s no way round it—commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist. We’re not supposed to be embraced in that way. When you look at how society rewards so many of the wrong people, it’s hard not to view financial reimbursement as a badge of self-serving mediocrity.”
He realizes, though, that his early triumphs and the resulting bounty put him in a unique position to dictate how his work is displayed. Starving artists aren’t afforded the same luxury.
“Obviously people need to get paid—otherwise you’d only get vandalism made by part-timers and trust-fund kids,” Banksy says. “But it’s complicated, it feels like as soon as you profit from an image you’ve put on the street, it magically transforms that piece into advertising. When graffiti isn’t criminal, it loses most of its innocence.”
“It seems to me the best way to make money out of art is not to even try,” he adds in a subsequent exchange. “It doesn’t take much to be a successful artist—all you need to do is dedicate your entire life to it. The thing people most admired about Picasso wasn’t his work/life balance.”
Of course, for Banksy, the concept of devoting one’s entire life to his art takes on an added layer of meaning.
Does the burden of all the cloak-and-dagger shit ever seem like too much to carry?
Did you ever envision it going on this long without cracking somewhere?
Has it gotten easier to operate this way, or harder?
How many people can you trust?
How do you decide?
At press time, the Voice was still waiting for answers to those questions (to name just a few).
A secretive persona and self-perpetuated anonymity are now part of the package—an element that has become increasingly improbable with the passage of time, especially in light of recent National Security Administration spying revelations and the ongoing debate over online privacy. Trumpeting his presence in New York and producing new works daily on the streets poses a daunting challenge to Banksy’s incognito act, but, he says, the prospect of cementing his legacy in the city proved too tempting to resist.
“New York calls to graffiti writers like a dirty old lighthouse. We all want to prove ourselves here,” Banksy writes. “I chose it for the high foot traffic and the amount of hiding places. Maybe I should be somewhere more relevant, like Beijing or Moscow, but the pizza isn’t as good.”
Banksy meets Run The Jewels
‘The bravest artists have always been graf artists’
August 22, 2015
As they prepare for a headline at his pop-up theme park, the New York hip-hop duo of El-P and Killer Mike get a grilling from the master of subversion
Banksy Thanks for agreeing to play my theme park. Have you ever played in a theme park before?
EL-P I have not yet had the pleasure of playing in a theme park, or enjoying one for that matter.
Killer Mike I have not played a theme park. My dream is to play [US theme park] Six Flags Over Georgia before I check out of life. Mostly because they used to have a teen nightclub called Graffiti’s; I was there when I was a kid and that’s where I heard dope music and danced with girls from the suburbs after we snuck in.
Banksy The clip of your speech at Ferguson after the verdict [when the jury decided not to charge officer Darren Wilson for the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown] made me cry. When did you last cry watching YouTube?
KM The last time YouTube made me cry was watching Dr John Henrik Clarke speak about Marcus Garvey. I was overwhelmed with pain for a great man that was abused and mistreated because he wanted to better the state of blacks globally. It is scary to think a system exists that wishes not to see all people live with human dignity and respect. I did, however, finish feeling encouraged that day will come.
EP When the two guys raised the lion and then set the lion free but they missed the lion and they visited it in Africa and the lion was now king of his tribe and had a wife and children but he recognised the two guys and ran up and hugged them and licked their faces. I wept like a baby.
BANKSY When Kanye came to the UK recently, he played on a dairy farm and declared himself the greatest rock star in the world. Does he have any competition for that?
EP Absolutely not.
KM Kanye is amazing and may be the greatest rock star in the world but Rihanna is the new Tupac (in feminist form), and as much as I love rock, ain’t nobody do it like Pac! Ri-Ri rules in my book.
Banksy The magazine publishing this interview suggested the following conversation topics: pressure to conform, creative expression and corporate sponsorship, who are the bravest artists you know, what’s the future going to look like in your respective art forms? So yeah… what they said.
KM I’m a Banksy fan. I’m also a fan of Chris Hobe, Mister Totem, Drew Wootten, Mad Clout, Hense and Sever, in visual and street art. And Jonathan Mannion and Shane Nash in photography.
EP The bravest artists I’ve ever known have always been graf artists. Risking your life and your freedom is no joke. Whoever made Mount Rushmore was probably brave as well, assuming that rock-climbing equipment was not at its zenith at the time.
Banksy I like to ask artists this question: if you could choose only one, would you rather be thought of as a great artist or a nice person?
EP Interesting question. We all want recognition and validation to an extent for our art, but greatness as a trade for decency is a risky proposition. In my life I try to leave the people I encounter with the feeling that they have been respected and treated with warmth and appreciation. Being known as honorable is way more important to me. But being that my career is in the public and my personal relationships are ultimately private, I suppose, for the sake of the question, being considered a great artist publicly means a bit more than being considered a nice guy publicly. Although I like to think I am thought of in that way. Point being, I don’t get paid to be a nice guy, I just try to be one.
KM I don’t know what the hell the future brings. If I did, I would play the lotto and win the mega millions and buy toy cars, real muscle cars, sneakers and art. I cannot lie: as good as it feels to get my deserved props, the best part of reading social media after I meet folks is reading: “Mike was a nice guy”. I believe being honourable lasts longer than rapping good.
Run The Jewels appear at Dismaland, Weston-super-Mare, on 4 September
OTHER AMUSEMENTS AT DISMALAND
28 August DJ night with DJ Yoda, Peanut Butter Wolf and Breakbeat Lou
11 September Comedy night with MC Roger Monkhouse, Simon Munnery, Mick Ferry, Adam Bloom, Katherine Ryan, Michael Fabbri and Jarred Christmas
18 September Sleaford Mods, Savages and a local band
25 September Kate Tempest, Pussy Riot and Massive Attack
By Evan Pricco
Introduction by Banksy
For the October, 2015 issue of Juxtapoz Magazine, Banksy contributed not only the cover story and interview, but a statement about Dismaland and his first foray into theme park management. We get firsthand insight into how the project came about, how the artists were chosen, and why the destination is so pertinent...
Introduction by Banksy
Dismaland is the latest innovation in family light entertainment by the graffiti artist Banksy. Installed in the centre of an unfashionable British seaside town frequented by low-income families, Banksy describes it as “the perfect art audience.” The location is a former lido comprising four acres of walled seafront compound, which in recent years has come to more closely resemble a neglected prison yard, an atmosphere Banksy has endeavoured to preserve by declaring that none of the installation crew were allowed to bring a broom.
This is an art show for the 99% who would rather not be at an art show. It features a fairytale castle, a boat pond, arcade games and extensive water gardens, all given a distinctly modern twist. But beyond the Mickey-taking is a deadly serious attempt to assemble a show that takes stock of its generation. “It's scrappy, incoherent and self-obsessed, so maybe we're halfway there,” says Banksy.
This is certainly not a “street art” show—an art form Banksy describes as “just as reassuringly white, middle class and lacking in women as any other art movement.” The roster of artists ranges from Jenny Holzer, winner of the gold medal at the Venice Biennale, to Ed Hall, a pensioner who has spent forty years producing every major trade union banner from his garden shed.
Visitors are taken on an unflinching journey of art “made in the shadow of gathering clouds,” literally in the main gallery, as Dietrich Wegner's Playhouse towers above the centre of the room. Truly global in scope and scale, you will find art from Israel and Palestine hanging side by side.
Does it represent any distinct art movement? Banksy has come up with the term “post modem-ism” and is valiantly trying to make it fit. This is art with high “click potential,” something achieved by containing more than one strand of thought or technique. “It’s flower embroidery, but done with a power drill into car bonnets,” or, “It’s a greenhouse, but all the seedlings are sprouting from ready meals.” This is art that thrives and is shared in the online environment—art that has an “and” or a “but.” The digital world demands more than the humble portrait or landscape, and these artists serve it wholeheartedly.
As ever, Banksy has constructed a show that essentially speaks to his fifteen-year-old self. It shouts “another world is possible” at every turn. And this event actually provides some tools to achieve it. Visit “Guerilla Island,” an activist’s area where you're able to buy the specialist keys that unlock bus shelter advertising hoardings alongside workshops in how to replace their posters with your own.
One end of the site is dominated by a windmill, Banksy's attempt to power the entire site using a giant copy of a child's pinwheel, only to find the results seriously under-powering. “I guess it’s become a monument to how much further we've still got to go,” he says. —Banksy
Evan Pricco What, in particular, was the genesis of this project? Were you surfing the web and grabbed by some insights on how you wanted to present Dismaland and the artists you wanted to work with? Was it a way for you to gather together a bunch of people you admired to create one thing? Is it a little bit like the chicken or the egg? Was curating a group show something you wanted to do with these artists, or did seeing all this art make you think up Dismaland?
Banksy Like so many projects, it started with a gap in the fence. Eight months ago, I came to Weston on a windy day, and one of the boards on the gate had blown down. From the first glimpse through the gap, I was smitten. I used to come here swimming as a kid, but no one’s been inside for fifteen years.
The best thing is the wall. It means you get to have a show outside, but within a heavily fortified beach-front compound. That’s quite unusual.
I first thought it would be a solo show. But then, after the city council agreed to lend me the building, I immediately sobered up and went looking for help. A lot of the art is as much a surprise to me as it will be to other people. I only came across Neta Harare Navon three weeks ago when I was online shopping for sheds. And what do you know, she’s quietly over there in Tel Aviv making the perfect model of how to paint. You mail her and she comes over—incredible.
It’s a good project because it keeps surprising me. And this is what I’ve learnt over the years: no amount of PR or hype can sell the world something if it’s not exciting you.
EP Did you ask each artist to make new work? Or was there an opportunity to show past works you liked?
Banksy A bit of both.
EP So was there anyone you chose to be in the show that brought out ideas which changed the course of Dismaland?
Banksy It’s been enriched by a lot of people and grown. It’s pretty unusual to find a children’s playground with a payday loan shop attached. But it’s always been quite a broad brief, to embrace or attack any part of the light entertainment industry you’ve ever been sold or let down by. Essentially, the big theme is that theme parks should have bigger themes. Although I did institute a site-wide ban on images of Mickey Mouse.
EP Some works that I’ve seen so far have obvious political impact, but there are a lot of artists who are subversive and just plain funny. Was that a balance that you appreciated and wanted to see living side-by-side? Obviously having Zaria Forman's beautiful natural landscape paintings next to Jessica Harrison's porcelain pieces has two narratives, although together they can create an interesting storyline and visual experience.
Banksy Yes, I should make it very clear: this is not a street art show. There are women in it.
EP Tell us about your role here. Has it been an interesting process being a curator? Is it a role that you enjoyed?
Banksy It turns out curating can be surprisingly creative. For instance, I asked Jenny Holzer for one of her electronic signs, but she didn’t have anything in stock. She said she was happy to supply the text, but I’d have to find some signs. I asked a lighting guy to get a big LED screen and he came back with a system that cost £8000 a week to rent. I couldn’t afford that, so I suggested we record Jenny’s slogans and play them over the Tannoy system. She liked the idea and said she’d never done anything like it in forty years. So now we have a totally original Jenny Holzer that cost fuck all.
EP Did you do a lot of editing? Were there things you liked at first that got cut out and other things that grew because you liked the direction they were heading?
Banksy A lot of the decisions have been made by neglect. I put together a whole list of artists and pieces I wanted, and then, a month later, if I hadn’t done anything about it, I knew it probably wasn’t worth pursuing. When you’re busy, the most important things have a way of asserting themselves. I discovered “not now” is as valid a reaction as anything else.
EP How much does the reaction matter to you? I know it matters to us, the critics and audience, but fuck us for a second. Does it matter to you?
Banksy I’m at a point with art where I only really care if the piece is more than the sum of its parts. I’m lucky because what I make either succeeds or fails. Some people undoubtedly would tell you that’s why it’s crap art, but that’s the way it is. I feel sorry for Abstract Expressionists—how do they know when to go home?
All I need is to make my point and get something more out of it than what I put in. If something extra has happened between the idea and realizing it, that’s a win. This week I surrounded my Cinderella’s carriage with a ring of paparazzi, and the flash bulbs made the shadows leap around the room, and the pumpkin looked like it was lit by flickering candles, so I’m good. I never saw that coming.
My satisfaction level is independent of your opinion. If I feel a piece has worked, there’s nothing you can say that will take that away. And the flip side is, if I know it’s failed, there’s nothing you can say that would make it OK.
EP This project, in particular, is so destination-based that you will really rely on audience reaction. You have always been good at controlling your message, but did joining social media teach you anything that you liked? Or disliked?
Banksy The last show I did was at the Bristol Museum and a lot of people came. In fact, the queue was the most interesting thing about it. I don’t know if people will show up this time, but I made a few pieces with the audience in mind: the Cinderella sculpture is only complete when surrounded by a gawping crowd snapping photos. The audience is the punchline. Likewise, the killer whale is crap in real life. It’s only good when you pose behind it pulling a face and send a picture to your mate.
EP What are you hoping visitors take away from Dismaland?
Banksy A souvenir programme, three T-shirts and a mug. Each. This project isn’t sponsored or government aided; it’s self-financing.
For more information, visit dismaland.co.uk
60 Seconds with… Banksy
by Rachel Corcoran
December 14, 2017
In a rare interview with London’s Metro the elusive street artist Banksy has let the drawbridge down and gone public. We reported yesterday that The Oscar-winning Director Danny Boyle has joined with the anonymous Street Artist Banksy to produce an alternative nativity play at the artist’s Walled Off Hotel in the occupied West Bank. Thanks to the Metro for allowing us to link the interview to our audience at Artlyst.
Metro.news Why did you want to put on a nativity? And in the car park of your Walled Off Hotel?
Banksy My hotel is less than a mile from the manger where Jesus was born, so I felt obliged to get into the Christmas spirit. I wanted to reach out to the neighbourhood and bring everyone together for a party, so I announced plans for a nativity play starring kids from the local refugee camp. It turns out most of them are Muslim.
M You’re filming it. What were the biggest challenges?
Banksy The TV programme shows normal people living in a very un-normal situation. Usually, the only time you see Palestinian children on TV is when they’re being pulled from a pile of rubble. The film has been shot over the past few weeks and edited in days. Sometimes a huge task and a tight deadline can bring out the best in people. This time not so much.
M What sort of reaction have you had from the locals?
Banksy The wall [built by Israel through the West Bank] dominates the area. It snakes for hundreds of miles right across the landscape. Although it turns out most of the local children didn’t know it existed. They live right near it, some only a couple of streets away, but their parents had kept it from them in an effort to preserve their innocence. I’d been making plans for an ironic, modern play about their situation but when the kids arrived at the wall they said: ‘What the hell is that?’
M How easy was it to find people who wanted to be involved?
Banksy It’s hard to attract young Israelis because their government tells them if they cross the wall they’ll be killed. But many do visit, quietly. And they’re very welcome. And on the plus side we got a delightful lighting effect from the army sweeping the crowd with their searchlight.
M Danny Boyle is directing it. Why did you choose him?
Banksy I just remembered Danny made Britain look cool at the Olympics, so I figured he can do pretty much anything. I was staggered when he mailed back and agreed to do it. I never met him and I’m not sure he’d speak to me now if I did. I slightly oversold the gig. I think I used words like ‘prime location’ and ‘natural amphitheatre’, whereas in reality it was unmistakably a patch of waste ground surrounded by graffiti under an army watchtower.
M What was he like to work with?
Banksy Brilliant. He’s clever, thoughtful, laughs a lot. We had a few artistic disagreements. Danny is very community-minded, diplomatic and sensitive to people’s views, whereas I’m a w***er.
M How did your hotel come about?
Banksy Bethlehem is famous for not having enough rooms — it seemed the obvious place to start a hotel chain.
M How do you feel about the wall?
Banksy I think it’s one of the great man-made injustices of our time. That wall is a weapon. It declares an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. It defines you as being on the inside or the out. It crassly simplifies an enormously complex situation into black and white. And normally that’s my job.
M What are the biggest misconceptions about Palestine?
Banksy The political situation in Israel and Palestine is a mess but it’s important to remember we helped create it. I liked something Salman Rushdie said recently: ‘The British don’t understand much about their history — because so much of it happened abroad.’
M How did you feel about Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?
Banksy That’s going to create a lot of problems. As a hotelier in the Arab world, the last words you want to hear are ‘they’ve called for another uprising’. I’m starting to think Torquay would have been easier. Although there’s absolutely no guarantee Trump won’t be starting a war there next.
M How challenging is it to maintain your anonymity?
Banksy It feels like we’re living at a time when the supporting characters are being asked to play the lead. The last thing we need is the guy who paints the scenery coming out and taking centre stage.
M The recent picture doing the rounds of a street artist at work in Bethlehem — is that you?
Banksy I haven’t seen the photo but I can categorically tell you it’s not me. Especially if it is.
Alternativity is on BBC2, 9pm, Sunday.
Extra: A beginners guide to painting with stencils
Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall
Draw or copy your image on a piece of paper.
Glue the paper onto a bit of card using good glue.
Cut straight through drawing and card at the same time using a very sharp knife. Snap off blades are best. The sharper your knife the better the stencil looks. As the Grim Reaper said to his new apprentice: “You must learn the compassion suitable to your trade - a fucking sharp edge.”
Ideal card should be about 1.5mm thick - much fatter and it’s too difficult and boring to cut through. Any thinner and it gets sloppy too quick.
Find an unassuming piece of card as a folder to hold your stencil and leave the house before you think of something more comfortable you could be doing.
Get a small roll of gaffa tape and pre-tear small strips ready to attach stencil to the wall.
Shake and test can of paint before you leave. Cheap Bristish paint is fine but some brands bleed more than others. Matte finish comes out better and dries quicker.
Apply paint sparingly.
Wear a hat.
Move around the city quickly. Acting like a sad old drunk if you attract attention.
Pace yourself and repeat as often as you feel inadequate and no-one listens to a word you say.
Extra: Advice on Making Stencils
Wall and Piece
Mindless vandalism can take a bit of thought.
Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful people with talent, leave the house before you find something worth staying in for.
Think outside the box, collapse the box and take a fucking sharp knife to it.
A regular 400ml can of paint will give you up to 50 A4 sized stencils. This means you can become incredibly famous/unpopular in a small town virtually overnight for approximately ten pounds.
Try to avoid painting in places where they still point at aeroplanes.
Spray the paint sparingly onto the stencil from a distance of 8 inches.
When explaining yourself to the Police its worth being as reasonable as possible. Graffiti writers are not real villains. I’m always reminded of this by real villains who consider the idea of breaking in someplace, not stealing anything and then leaving behind a painting of your name in four foot high letters the most retarded thing they ever heard of.
Be aware that going on a major mission totally drunk out of your head will result in some truly spectacular artwork and at least one night in the cells.
The easiest way to become invisible is to wear a day-glo vest and carry a tiny transistor radio playing Heart FM very loudly. If questioned about the legitimacy of your panting simply complain about the hourly rate.
Crime against property is not real crime. People look at an oil painting and admire the use of brushstrokes to convey meaning. People look at a graffiti painting and admire the use of a drainpipe to gain access.
The time for getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.