Exit Through the Gift Shop and The ‘Real'
In 2009 Madonna commissioned Mr. Brainwash to design the album cover of "Celebration".
We had to negotiate the idea of ‘fake news’ a lot during the Trump years. While Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) might be older it resonates with our strong notion of the ‘real.’
Today people are Covid-deniers - there were protests in Montreal against Quebec’s health regulations, there is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory – about United States Democrat pedophiles conspiring against him etc. 17 percent of Americans believe that “a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media” is true.
The film Exit Through the Gift Shop regards the elusive and mysterious graffiti artist, Banksy. His work can be seen on walls from post-hurricane New Orleans to the separation barrier on the Palestinian West Bank. The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) bestowed its Best Documentary Award on the film in 2010. In late January 2011, Exit Through the Gift Shop was nominated for a 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
This film might be a mockumentary and not a documentary. A very convincing mockumentary is the film I’m Still Here about Joaquin Phoenix and his apparent breakdown. So the ideas of ‘fake’ and ‘real’ are at the very heart of Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Guetta, the main character in the documentary, is obsessed with filming and always has a camera in his hand. He tells all of these graffiti artists he meets that he’s making a documentary – he isn’t. He starts off as the owner of a store filled with vintage clothes. An encounter with his cousin ‘Space Invader’ leads him to the street-art world. He eventually makes stickers or decals and joins the street-art scene. He hears about Banksy and is determined to meet him. I don’t blame him! Banksy decides that Guetta is more interesting than he is and makes a documentary about him, encouraging him to pursue street art. Ostensibly, this is that film.
On Valentine’s Day, he called himself Mr. Brainwash and had a big art exhibit in the
Mr. Brainwash Juxtapose – Red Heart
Meatpacking District in New York with models and actors in the crowd. If the exhibit was intended as a joke about art and authenticity it appears to have far exceeded its maker’s intentions. Banksy ends the documentary wondering if he did the right thing launching Mr. Brainwash on the world. “Andy Warhol was replicating images to show they were “meaningless,” he says. “And now, thanks to Mr. Brainwash, they’re definitely meaningless.”
Many people believe that Guetta is actually the elusive Banksy and are buying Guetta’s artwork just in case. One of the larger works — a giant portrait of Madonna — sold to a private collector for $200,000. Shortly afterwards Madonna asked him to design her album Celebration.
I lived in Paris, France for a few months. At the time, I was really into graffiti, so most of my photos are about these. To me, they were urban works of art. I was able to find a lot near subway stops. The artists were anonymous, so I could reflect on the work without the distraction of personality. I am still glad I did not take any pictures of tourist spots or familiar destinations, like the Eiffel Tower. What I did shoot reminds me of who I was at the time. As usual, it was far from conventional. These pictures are of “my” Paris. My memories are authentic to who I was.
The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews, holding 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. One consistent theme in the reviews was the authenticity of the film: Was the film just an elaborate ruse on Banksy’s part, or did Guetta really evolve into Mr. Brainwash overnight? The New York Times movie reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis wrote that the film could be a new subgenre, a “prankumentary”.
He is obviously very talented and has exhibited all over the world including, England, Germany, France and Seoul. He uses stencil graffiti and silkscreens, motifs from a pop culture similar to Warhol. He uses mixed media with spray paint, painting and collage technique, vivid colours in combination with controversial content.
© 2021 by Romy Shiller. All rights reserved.