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Copy of Visual Ethics in Banksy's Graffiti Art

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Virushi Shah

on 2 February 2014

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Transcript of Copy of Visual Ethics in Banksy's Graffiti Art

Visual Ethics in Banksy's Graffiti Art
"Designated Graffiti Area"
Photographed in Shoreditch, London, this stencil is now one of Banksy most iconic images. "Designated Graffiti Area," replicates the text of an "official order" from Britain's National Highway Agency. The ethical boundary Banksy challenges in this image is his metaphor for the lack of control government possesses over the future of street artists. This is succeeded by stripping the male police officer of his intimidating role and ideal masculinity by walking a poodle with bows in it's hair. This piece, along with many of its replications throughout London is now covered in plexiglass with pride on the streets, and many walls are "tagged" by the marks of amateur street artists.
Localized Social Commentary
As with the London police officer, Banksy's work exhibits a localized commentary in each of the places he chooses to create. Although some of these pieces can be perceived as satirical, they become less ethical as the issue becomes more controversial and sensitive to the given audience.
Political Commentary
"Crazy Horses Riding Through the Lower East Side"
"Guantanamo Bay"
Introduction: How do we judge the ethical implications in graffiti?
Defamation and vandalism of public property is no longer the common perception of graffiti, as the linguistic movement from “graffiti” to “street art” has pursued. In the past two decades, famed artists such as Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, Keith Haring and Banksy challenged the walls of museums and created works on streets across the globe, contributing to the enduring controversy; is graffiti art?

Arguably, this movement of graffiti as art is aided by an extremely hyper-media culture and its capability to circulate street images, thus creating permanence in graffiti that has never existed before.

For this analysis of visual ethics, I will study one of the most famous and influential graffiti artists, Banksy, through the images of both grafitti and installation pieces taken by his audience. This visual analysis will explore the ethical implications of Banksy’s street art from least problematic to most problematic through a contextualized lens. With each image we will ask; first, how was the art accepted? Second, how controversial was the work in the scope of its political or social issue reference?

In 2006, this appeared on the side of Brooke Young People's Sexual Health Clinic in Banksy's hometown of Bristol, UK. The piece suggests an affair as a husband searches the streets for his wife's lover as he dangles naked from the window, humorous in it's convenient location. The ethical implication is Banksy's commentary on unfaithful marriages, a timeless and unfortunately universal matter. Citizens of Bristol are very proud to call Banksy their own, and this painting was rumored to be given a "public vote" and succeeded at "97% approval." The work was defaced with blue paint and quickly refurbished.
"Well-hung Lover"
This stenciled image, equipped with the installation of Union flag bunting appeared on the side of a Poundland convenient store in London July 2012. The image is a social criticism of child labor allegations on the Poundland company in 2010, in which inquires were made about a 7 year old boy working 100 hours a week in one of their factories in India. Banksy's commentary also brought to light the financially strenuous preparation for the Olympics and the rumored unethical use of slave labor in creating memorabilia. This has also become one of Banksy most valuable pieces, when it was cut out from the wall and found during an auction in Miami, FL. The piece was later returned to it's rightful neighborhood.
"Slave Labour"
This 2006 installation interrupted the magical environment of Disneyland in Arnheim, California. Banksy's Oscar-nominated film "Exit Through the Giftshop" highlighted the step by step installment and consequences of this highly controversial work. The blow up doll, dressed as a Guantanamo Bay prisoner impeded violence on the otherwise entertaining atmosphere of the Disney Theme Park.The viewpoint of the photograph by local tourists is significant in understanding the ethical implications. Again, Banksy highlights the consumerist nature of Americans with a horrific and violent reminder of a very current event. This currency is what places the Guantanamo Bay installation as one of Banksy's most ethically problematic images. His deliberative rhetoric reminded visitors that distracting oneself from reality is simply tolerance for violence in the world.
This print has been featured in Banksy Street Art Exhibitions in museums across the world . Banksy utilizes iconic imagery to suggest the ethical implication of historical perspective. Featured on the right is the violently famous Vietnam War photograph of a nine year old girl running from an American attack in Napalm. By reinventing this image with two American icons, Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse, Banksy creates an ideograph bringing perspective to audience, and commentating on how American's view themselves, and how the world views America. The use of such commercial icons also criticizes American consumerism. This stands as more than a social commentary, but highlights a harsh voyeuristic mentality of American culture.
Banksy provided a new piece of work daily throughout New York City during a month-long event in October 2013. The images to the right confess the modified image above, where the oil barrel was removed because of the provided phone number which played a brutal and violent recording of a United States air strike on Baghdad in 2007. The 39-minute clip ends with the air crew crudely discussing the murder of two children during the air strike. This image depicts the chaos and destruction of war through multiple symbols and interpretations. Combined with the sounds of such horror, this visual image is the most unethical because of the currency, symbolism and audience relevance. More so, it is the most unethical because of what was removed by police, further supporting Banksy's political message that history is not written in truths.
Work Cited
***Many of the photos and information was originally sourced from Banksy's official website (www.banksy.co.uk). Unfortunately, it was put under construction during the completion of the project.

Photo Sources:
1. Andrews, Lucy. "Street Art by LA." Web log post. Street Art by LA. N.p., Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.

2. Iqbal, Zain. "Tagged: Epic Murals, Graffiti, and Street Art Around the World." NileGuide Travel Blog RSS. N.p., 10 July 2010. Web. 01 Dec. 2013.

3. Enoch, Nick. "'Banksy' Jubilee Graffiti of Sweatshop Boy with Sewing Machine Appears Overnight at London Bargain Store... but Who Stole the Bunting?" Mail Online. N.p., 15 May 2012. Web. 01 Dec. 2013.

4. "Never Not Nothing." Never Not Nothing. N.p., 15 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

5. "The Story Disneyland Doesn’t Want You To Know." Wooster Collective. N.p., 8 Sept. 2006. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

6. Evans, Becky. "Banksy Gets Political in New York." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers LTD, 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
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