EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP Documentary Review, Themes & Memes Ep38


This month, we take a change in direction from previous episodes in reviewing the 2010 documentary film 'Exit Through The Gift Shop', which chronicles the misadventures of UK street-artist 'Banksy'.

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Both serious and satirical, the film follows eccentric cameraman Thierry Guetta as he haphazardly makes inroads into the underground street-art scene, eventually taking on the role of Banksy's Documentarian and Personal Assistant. After a high-profile U.S exhibition brings him overnight fame and fortune, Banksy instructs Thierry to start compiling his documentary footage so that the real story behind the media sensation can be told; though he soon learns that Thierry posesses neither creativity nor competence as a filmmaker. 

As Banksy takes over the editing himself, he instructs Thierry to go forth and pursue his own artistic visions on the street, only to find that Thierry has bigger plans in mind, and has hired a large staff of artists to start mass-producing his plagiarised pop-art concepts. After conducting a savvy and elaborate public relations campaign as ‘Mr Brainwash’, Thierry opens his new gallery to public applause and highly lucrative profits, much to the chagrin of Banksy and his colleagues. 

We discuss the synergistic relationship between the world of modern art and public relations, where the currency of an artist is determined by publicity and networking, and the content of the artwork is less important than its perceived social context. The film appears to be critiquing this paradigm in ‘mockumentary’ style, while still advocating the exploitation of these principals - begging the question as to what sentiment is actually being communicated?

We also touch on the history of establishment influences in countercultural art movements, exploring questions of artistic integrity versus commercial opportunity; ultimately interpreting the entire film itself as a cynical exercise in guerrilla marketing. By both exposing and exploiting the frivolous nature of the art world, the film employs a masterful blend of satire, controversy and contradiction to create mystique around the artist. 

Is Banksy really a single individual, or simply the brand name used by an underground clique of artists and spin doctors? Was Thierry Guetta a lucky entrepreneur, or was he the cynical face of an elaborate and lucrative publicity stunt?

Topics discussed include: Banksy, Shepherd Fairey, Obey, Andre the Giant, Art, PR, Public Relations, Thierry Guetta, Mr Brainwash, Street Art, Pop-Art, Andy Warhol, Mockumentary, Hoax, Space Invader, Disneyland, LA, Cynicism, Publicity, Gallery, Exhibition, CIA, Congress for Cultural Freedom, Cold War, International Operations Division, George Soros, Open Society Institute, Tides Foundation, Adbusters, Occupy, Saatchi, Tate, Modern Art, Shock Value, Context, Rockefeller, Brangelina, Counterculture, Celebrity, Barely Legal, Prank, Occult, Alchemical, Secret Society, Initiation, Neophyte, Ritual, Drama, Promotion, Marketing, Publicity Stunt, Funding, Grants, Leftist Critiques, Anti-Establishment, Capitalism, Exploitation, Satire, Punk, Stencils, Installations, Staff, Crew, Guerrilla Marketing, Perception, Meaning, Hidden Clues, Themes, Memes, Contradictions, Profits, Commercialisation, London, Bristol, Logistics, Jackson Pollock, Post-Modernism, Rip-Offs, Production, Branding, Mystery, Subculture, Social Statements, Secrecy, Resources, Compromise, Group Projects.    


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 Musical Accompaniment

 The Streets are Ours Tonight, by Richard Hawley