Thursday, June 10, 2010
Photo appropriation of Banksy's "Exit Through the Gift Shop" at Sundance 608
I confess. I may be an intellectual property criminal. I photographed the screen at Madison's Sundance 608 during their showing of street artist Banksy's movie Exit Through the Gift Shop. Call it a mockumentary, call it a documentary -- seeing the movie is a genre-bending experience in which nothing is what it seems. The hooded figure here with the electronically altered voice may or may not actually be Banksy. Even the title is a satiric reference to the typical museum-going experience, in which art lovers are "monetized" right down to the last dime in their wallets -- a process of commercialization that hasn't exactly stopped now that the work of supposedly free-spirited street and graffiti artists has moved into galleries and museums.
I never take pictures in theaters. It's not allowed. Besides, you can normally get better stills on the web. But in an outpouring of sudden Banksy-worship, I felt compelled to honor him in my own way, through an act of spontaneous photographic appropriation. I took the Coolpix out of my pocket and snapped a photo. T watched in bemused embarrassment as her companion violated accepted norms of movie theater behavior -- fully prepared, as she noted later, to deny having anything to do with me if it came to that. Was my behavior inappropriate? Probably.
Did I violate anybody's intellectual property rights? Who knows. (Although I would argue fair use in my defense.) I just felt it was in the spirit of the film -- and the anarchic street art ethos in general. After all, Shepard Fairey -- who adapted a Manny Garcia photo for his Obama poster and was sued by AP as a result -- was a co-producer of the film and featured prominently in it (without a hood). How could he or Banksy possibly object to my friendly bit of appropriation?
Go see the movie if you have a chance -- it's a lot of fun and thought-provoking at the same time. And who knows, maybe you could take a photo and turn it into a stencil. That would really complete the circle.