Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) dir. by Banksy
Featuring: Banksy, Space Invader and Thierry Guetta
By Blair Stewart
A good documentary that could well be another elaborate prank from a renowned King amongst pranksters, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" plays the magic trick of exchanging the filmmaker and subject halfway through the story.
Over the past three decades vandalism has wrought street-art, therefore turning exposed public cement into blank canvases. Shepard Fairey of the iconic Barack Obama "Hope" campaign stands at the forefront of the movement alongside the cheeky mosaic work of Space Invader, spackling his work from Perth to Prague that's likely on your own street. But one figure has consistently grabbed headlines while remaining in the shadows, the legendary satirical political-art provocateur Banksy. The English artist who's moved well beyond humble grafitti days in Bristol, an international reputation has grown for Banksy with the following stunts:
1. Sneaking a Guantanomo Bay blow-up doll into Disneyland.
2. Putting his framed work up on the walls of the Louvre...without telling anyone.
3. Turning the Gaza Wall in Palestine into a public gallery under Israeli gun sights.
4. Spraying on the Tate Britain "MIND THE CRAP" with an arrow pointing towards the ceremony for the Turner Art Prize.
Basically, the man has a good sense of humour with a pair of iron-clad nuts.
As Banksy and co. were having their jollies Thierry Guetta was constantly filming them, a Frenchman who purported himself to be a documentarian on street-art and becomes the focal point of "Exit...". Gradually it will be revealed that Thierry is as much a cohesive filmmaker as Peter Sellers in "Being There" was a worthy Presidential candidate: He just happened to show up at the right place.
To the annoyance of Banksy after inheriting the tape back-catalogue, the attention-deficit stricken Guetta's life will take further twists that call into question art appreciation, media hype and the fine line between stupid and clever. The narrative that comes from Thierry's opportunistic life is the result of Banksy and his editors doing enough yeoman's work with the found footage to exhaust an experimental art-film collective.
Using the same self-deprecating wit (with a pint of fist-pumping accomplishment) that has endeared him to fans of his monkey-faced self portraits, Banksy takes a minor subject and shoves in enough human comedy to make it cohesive.
Interestingly, the heights to which the director has gone for socio-political commentary makes me question whether Guetta is genuinely real or a creation of Andy Kaufman proportions. As city councils whitewash their efforts away "Exit Through the Gift Shop" shows the zeitgeist of urban artists laying claim to their environment before the imitators show up.
See it for the art world's Zorro, less so for the crap that trails him.