Friday, October 5, 2012

Life Is Beautiful?

"Mr Brainwash is an enigma."

The artist in question considers himself a part of the street artist clique. The reality tells a very different tale of severed ties as illustrated in Banksy’s debut film ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’. For anyone unfamiliar with this 2010 Oscar Nominated documentary, what started out as a documentary about street art, soon turned into a documentary about Thierry Guetta, budding filmmaker turned artist.

“Most artists spend years perfecting their craft, finding their style. 
Thierry seems to have missed all those bits. 
I mean there's no one quite like Thierry. 
Even if his art looks quite a lot like everyone else's.” - Banksy

After making waves across the pond through a series of well-publicised marketing techniques promoting his shows, (he bought the cover of LA Weekly prior to his debut solo show), Mr Brainwash headed over for his first UK show, 'Life Is Beautiful', at the Old Sorting Office in Holborn. After hearing about this free show my curiosity got the better of me.

The best way I can describe the show was as a mash-up of Pop-Art from the last 120 years. King Kong made from tyres, Warhol’s Elvis holding a Fisher Price machine gun, Damien Hirst’s famous dots dripping paint, Posh and Becks sat in a David Hockney field, Warhol’s tomato soup as a spray can and many takes on Banksy’s own work. It’s difficult to look at the work subjectively having watched Thierry creating art for the sole reason of being a famous artist. The man has scale, everything was larger than life which suitably provided entertainment, but his intention was never to create art, it was to manipulate the art world into buying his work. I don’t know that I agree with those intentions, but to all intents and purposes, fair play.

Rather than reminding us of Banksy’s humorous charm or Shepard Fairy’s (Obey) beautiful political murals, Guetta’s work has more in common with an A-level student’s latest project attempting earth-shattering statements about global economy and celebrity adornment. One can’t help but picture Mr Brainwash coming up with these short-lived jokes thick and fast whilst hoards of art student assistants swarm around him before scurrying off to birth one of his latest pieces.

Among some circles the entire creation and story of Mr Brainwash is credited to Banksy. A simple search online brings up much hoax speculation, a social experiment of sorts. I can’t say I buy into this school of thought much, my small understanding of the elusive Banksy is that he wouldn't want to humiliate his true fans (who essentially pay his bills too) with such a bizarre stunt as Mr Brainwash. Whatever the truth is it’s all a fascinating study into modern art and the publicity it can create.

To give Thierry a break, the professionalism displayed was of a high caliber and some of the replica artworks that'd be 'Brainwashed' were definitely amusing and clever. However the photographs I've included in this blog are a small proportion of the work and repetition on offer here.

The subjectivity of the art world, in this instance, has become a double-edged sword. I’ll leave you with a quote from Soho gallery owner Steve Lazarides which perfectly summarizes not only the film, ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, but Mr Brainwash’s ‘Life Is Beautiful’ exhibition too..

"I think the joke is on... I don't know who the joke is on, really. I don't even know if there is a joke" - Steve Lazarides

This week I’ve included a track from Alt-J (∆) taken from their debut album 'An Awesome Wave'. Off the back of a host of UK Summer festival performances they were nominated for this year’s esteemed Mercury Music Prize. Their UK tour in December/January has long been sold out, however, they've just announced their biggest tour to date in May 2013, which I know I for one will try and grab a ticket for. This is one of my favourite tracks from the debut album. Feel free to share.
For fans of Wild Beasts, Everything Everything & Hot Chip.