Exit Through the Gift Shop, British street artist Banksy’s recent film, lacks the clean, high-definition crispness and the color popping magnificence of modern documentaries. It isn’t beautiful at all. It more closely resembles the ugliness of a garbage dump than an open-air countryside. Yet that’s where its magic lies. It has no qualms about being patchy and discordant, with constantly shifting exposures, cumbersome, handheld camcorder-ing, and uncoordinated interviews. The narration is cheesy and sounds like some English books-on-tapes-for-kids bloke who’s been told to feign a bit of enthusiasm without trying to laugh. The entire time, I couldn’t help but think that I was being laughed at, that the whole idea of me watching a film about street art rather than seeing it in person was a joke in itself.
Which is why it’s so good. It brought me right into its trap. It got me thinking that I could go out and paint a huge piece on a wall or make a couple hundred stickers or some stencils and post them all over a city. Or start a blog of street art photography and create an exhibit and sell prints, or, whatever…If I wanted to, I could.
At one point Banksy says that he doesn’t know what art is, doesn’t know if one way to artistic fame or freedom is as valid as another. And he’s right.
Coming out of the theater I felt like I was given a new pair of eyes. Exit Through the Gift Shop made me not only want to take in everything around me as if I’d been told I only had 24 hours to live but also made me want to get on my feet and go discover a whole new world separate from the one I’d obliviously fallen into as an observer. I was treated with a reminder of how much my surroundings affect my sense of being and what and how I think and I wanted to change.
Jeremy Dossetter is a first time Intern for Splinter Generation straight out of his first year at Kenyon College in rural Ohio where he studies English. He enjoys riding bikes long distances and photographing with film. His favorite poem is “If” by Rudyard Kipling. He currently lives in San Francisco.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’).appendChild(s);