"Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a film directed Banksy, a well known street artist. The film follows Thierry Guetta, a French man living in the United States who gains strong liking for street art and graffiti. The film includes a range of video captured by Guetta during his travels across parts of Europe and The United States. The film shows Guetta's observations and participation as he follows street artists such as Invader, Shepard Fairey, and Banksy. Thierry Guetta's obsession for street art eventually compels him to become a street artist himself, under the name "Mr. Brainwash". Mr. Brainwash later uses his knowledge of street art culture to create a large scale art show in which his works and ideas are displayed and sold for large amounts of money.
Key Concept Edit
The film argues the relevance of street art and how it is perceived differently by individuals. In addition, the film touches on the difference between authenticity and commercialized street art. For years, Banksy has remained anonymous as he has used street art to occupy public space in order to make statements and portray messages. Rather than using his art to make money or gain status, Banksy's goal seems to be more focused on expressing himself through his art and eliciting a moment of reflection from an audience. However, Mr. Brainwash seemed to have a completely different perception of street art is used. Banksy compares Andy Warhol to Thierry Guetta (Mr. Brainwash) by saying, "Warhol repeated iconic images until they became meaningless, but there was still something iconic about them. Thierry really makes them meaningless." In this statement, Banksy is duscussing the way in which Mr. Brainwash's work lacks meaning and has a different purpose than traditional street art. Rather than making statements about issues and encouraging thought and reflection from viewers, Mr. Brainwash used his "art" to establish himself as a mainstreem street artist and to make large profits. Toward the end of the film, Banksy says, "I used to encourage everyone I knew to make street art; I don't do that so much anymore." After seeing the way in which Mr. Brainwash transformed street art into a meaningless art form used to make money, Banksy becomes less enthusiastic about urging others to create street art.
This situation invokes an interesting discussion. If Thierry had set out with the goal to trick the public and make money, you could be angry with him and say he is abusing people and the art world. However, Thierry set out to be an artist and believes he was successful. It's clear to the viewer, that while he's may be slightly closer to an artist than your average person, he is by no means on the same level as Banksy, Invader, or Shepard. Because of this, the take away from the film is somewhat non-existent. If Thierry had negative intentions, you could say the take away is true art is pure, non-commercial, and expressive. And that people like Thierry lesson the significance of true Art. But since Thierry proved all you have to do to become a big time artist is build up hype, and throw a bunch of other people's work on the wall of a gallery, maybe the takeaway is less positive with respect to art. This uncertainty is addressed in the film when Steve Lazarides says "I think the joke is on... I don't know who the joke's on - really. I don't even know if there is a joke."
These two images are examples of street art by Banksy. The first image makes a statement about the importance of pursuing passions and talents and the second image is a display of peace and how it is affected by violence and perhaps war. Both are examples of how Banksy uses his street art to make statements.The following images are pieces of work done by Mr. Brainwash. The first is an image of Elvis Presley holding a toy machine gun. It is an example of a somewhat meaningless concept by Mr. Brainwash that was created by his workers and printed in mass amounts. The second is another Mr. Brainwash image that he seemed quite proud of in the video: He thought of the idea of making a big can of spray paint with the Campbells Tomato label on it. He got the idea for it, told his workers to make it, and then also make the pictures of the soup spray and once again print in mass amounts. These both really show that while artists like Banksy were actually trying to accomplish something with their art, Mr. Brainwash kind of just made meaningless pieces of art he thought seemed cool and made them his.
Key Words Edit
Resources and Further Readings Edit
- Riddle? Yes. Enigma? Sure. Documentary? by Melena Ryzik
- This New York Times article provides a brief summary of the documentary and questions the credibility of the narrators Mr. Guetta and Banksy stating that they're "unreliable." It poses the question whether the documentary was a complete hoax or that is in fact a real documentary. This article is great to read because it presents various ideas on the validity of the film. Banksy even addresses his work as vandalism in this article.
- Banksy's "Exit Through the Gift Shop": Street Art and Our Quest for Authenticity by Ethan DuBois
- DuBois discusses and defines the key term of authenticity in relation to this film. He especially elaborates on Banksy's perspective on his own graffiti. DuBois juxtaposes the authenticity of Banksy's art in relation to all street artists like himself, not including Guetta. Great article to read to differentiate authenticity versus entertainment, or in other words Banksy versus Guetta.
- On the Street, at the Corner of Art and Trash by Jeannette Catsoulis
- Another New York Times article, this article specifically scrutinizes Mr. Guetta calling him a "tagger tag-along to would-be artist." This article really makes you question Guetta and ultimately detest him in a way; a very biased piece in favor of Bansky and good to read if someone wants a different perspective of the movie.
- Banksy Revealed? by Shelley Leopold
- This LA Weekyl article is a great read because it discusses the focus of the film. It describes it as a "savvy testament to the concept of DIY filmmaking," and additionally talks about the filmmakers and how Bansky kept his anonymity. This article quotes Banksy on the validity of the film and discusses Guetta's obsession and stalking nature to fame.
- Exit Through the Gift Shop Discussion Guide from www.influencefilmforum.com (pdf version)
- This PDF is great because it is straight forward. It presents an easy-to-follow film summary, different film themes (such as The Commercialization of Art and Political Satire), Discussion Questions, Film Fact, and Ways to Influence. This PDF is effective to use alongside watching the movie or to use within a classroom setting; it's helpful because it gives a structure to the film and helps direct the viewers attention to different themes that may go initially unnoticed.