Directed by the British graffiti artist Banksy, whose appearance in the movie Exit Through The Gift Shop as a hooded figure with a disfigured Hawking-esque voice made him more enigmatic, Exit Through The Gift Shop was screened to a small but captivated audience in Bissell Theater on Tuesday, October 26.
Organized by the Contemporary Art Living Learning House, the screening was a cozy affair with chevre, brie, and sparkling ‘wine.’
Exit Through The Gift Shop was featured at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and is as funny, eccentric, and confounding as the phenomenon of Mr. Brainwash that has taken the Los Angeles art scene by storm.
The film started out innocuously enough with Thierry Guetta who is addicted to filming everything –from documenting his own family to following street artists and catching them in the act on camera. His obsession with documenting street art leads him from filming his cousin, more widely known by his pseudonym “Invader,” to Shepard Fairey, to the elusive Banksy, all the while promising them that he would turn his raw camera footage into a documentary about street art.
When he does come up with a film, however, it is described as “unwatchable” by Banksy, and so the graffiti artist suggests that Thierry makes some art of his own.
This suggestion turns Thierry into an overnight modern art sensation called ‘Mr. Brainwash’ (MBW) and the art world upside down. His success leaves many of his contemporaries confounded, and the film does a good job portraying this phenomenon as part comedy, part artistic statement, and part anthropological and sociological autopsy of our times.
In other words, it is up to the viewer what she takes away from the film. The film raised many questions for us in Bissell Theater this Tuesday, and as Carlos Arellano put it in so few words: “I don’t know how to feel about this.”
Is MBW an invention by Banksy that serves an eponymous role in this bizarre story, a parodied version of Banksy himself, or is he a true phenomenon that defies comprehension and pushes the boundaries of parody?
The main question the film raised for me was about the authenticity of art—whether there is such a thing as that—and who, if anybody, has the right to call himself an artist?