About Me

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. Shel Silverstein

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bansky Hunt: London

I have almost fully recovered from my post-fall break cold and have been extremely productive homework wise, so... I decided to indulge myself in a little blogging :) Over my fall break, I went with two friends to Dublin and London. On our last day of the entire trip (and the only sunny one), we decided to go on a Banksy hunt. Scouring London for just a handful of his street art was one of the most emotional and thought-provoking days of my entire trip. This is where I would usually give an overview about Banksy for those of you who may not know who he is, but honestly, all I know about him is how his art affects me personally and I cannot take away from your own experience by trying to sum him up from my own perspective. But, basically, he is a street/graffiti artist that has a political agenda.

I have loved Banksy's work for a while now, but I had yet to experience the other half of his meaning: the locations he chooses. Banksy showed me a side of London that I would have never seen. He showed me a side of London that is overlooked; forgotten. I picked three pieces to go find that were located in places easily accessible on the Tube: Camden Town, Warren Street, and Seven Sisters.

Upon first step out of the Underground Station, Camden Town is an awesome, hip, young, fun part of town. It actually reminded me a lot of my hometown of Austin.

But, as we wandered passed the colorful, populated, facade of the main street, we found ourselves in a lower class neighborhood. We were surrounded by those who work hard for little pay and live in a rough part of town. And then, as I am wondering why Banksy chose this area, we find it on a very unsuspecting wall. We frankly felt a little silly taking pictures of something that is just a wall to everyone who lives there.
This piece is a tribute to one of London's regulars in the graffiti world who recently was convicted of criminal damage. The technical meaning of the piece, though, isn't what struck me. What struck me about this piece was its foreshadowing of the emotional ride Banksy was about to take me on. 

So, then we hopped back on the Tube to Warren Street to see one of Banksy's more infamous pieces. 
Now, Warren Street was totally different from Camden Town. It was a lower-average middle class area. And that is exactly what it was, average and a bit lackluster. We saw lots of people around our age, some families, and some of the more artsy types. The thing that stood out the most to me about Warren Street was the GIANT tower visible from all angles of the area. It was the CCTV main tower. For those who don't know, CCTV is the 24/7 omnipresent surveillance system in London. It's extremely similar to the book 1984 except it is London, not America. Traveling through London, it's easy to miss the cameras following your every move. But, for the locals, 90% of their lives are constantly being documented for the government. Right to privacy, anyone?

It was about this point in the hunt that the pieces were becoming the supplementary piece to the bigger puzzle of Banksy's message. Onward to greater social awareness location number 3: Seven Sisters. 

Now, let me first start off by telling you that the Tube ride north to Seven Sisters was enlightening in and of itself. Each stop further from central London weeded out the businessmen, the students, the fashionable, the intellects, until all that was left were tired men and women taking the long Underground commute back home.

Walking out of the Underground station, I realized that this was definitely the roughest neighborhood of the three. I guess a good way of putting it is that Seven Sisters was the kind of place you are probably better off keeping your eyes to yourself. Stuck between wanting to turn around and realizing that turning around is exactly what Banksy is fighting against, I kept walking. 

Those next couple hundred steps between the Underground Station and the painting is when the lightbulb went off in my head. 

Banksy knows he is famous and that people will come to see his work. Example, me. He uses this as one of his artistic mediums. He pulls you into the political/social statement he is making.  He makes you experience for yourself the injustice he is protesting against. It is way too easy to "appreciate" artwork, poetry, literature, music, etc.. that has social and political agendas while still keeping yourself separated and untouched by the subject of the artwork. I got to ride the Tube with the forgotten and disregarded population of London, I got to see where they live, how they live. Bansky successfully made it impossible for me to be detached from the subject of the art that I was "appreciating."

It left me thinking long and hard (and uncomfortably on an 8 hour bus ride from London to Paris) about my own art and how I want it to be perceived and the power it has the potential to hold. I have spent so much time wanting to make the viewer experience the emotions of the subjects of my photography. My ultimate goal in life is to take the poverty, the hunger, the pain, the dehumanization and slam it down smack in the faces of the rest of the world until something substantial is done about it.

Bansky successfully brought me to the lower/middle classes of London, and I want to take others to those suffering around the world. I don't want you to ignore them, to pity them, to offer them your excess change; I want you to sit next to them in a subway, to share a meal with them, to walk through where they live, to feel the utter roughness of their lives so intimately that it's etched in your brain and in your heart.  When I grow up, I want my photography to do that.