Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday Movie Miscellany - Exit Through the Gift Shop

The tagline for the flick is 'The world's first Street Art disaster movie,' and indeed it is. It is also happens to be really well done and an excellent film all-around.

Living in San Francisco's Mission District has made me appreciate street art even more, as there's an awesome something on every other block. While some would label street art as vandalism, I think it really makes a neighborhood more beautiful and provides a fun way to engage with your surroundings.

Exit Through the Gift Shop gives a 'behind-the-scenes' look into the world of street art while documenting Thierry Guetta's transformation from eccentric shop owner who films everything that happens to clingy street art groupie to hubristic street artist running a Kincadian street art studio.

The movie is a provocative piece on what is art and who are artists. Is art something that just anyone can create? Does it require a natural ability, honed and developed through the years, or can anyone with basic Photoshop knowledge make a work of art? Does anything and/or everything you make count as art? How much is art based on our own interpretations of a piece, rather than what the artist intended? Did the artist even make the piece with a purpose or intention? If you have an idea but the idea's implemented by someone else, which one of you is the artist? Where do we draw the line between paying money to artists for work so they can live, and throwing down exorbitant amounts of money for their work?

This discussion introduced to anyone taking Art 101 can be debated forever, and there are a multitude of arbitrary concepts for what art is, whether one defines art as something beautiful, something that makes a statement, or something finely crafted, etc. I tend to believe that art requires purpose or vision on the part of the artist, and I like to think of art as being a voice of criticism, whether it's a piece of writing or music, a film, a painting, a play, etc.

The extension of this is that what separates Banksy from Mr. Brainwash is said purpose or vision and the lack thereof. (See Banksy's pieces on the West Bank wall in Israel and his other work). However, the movie does a good job of pointing out that we (the public) have no sure way of discerning whether the artist created a piece with intention, and all works of art are subject to our own interpretations. Of course, since this is a Banksy film, you're totally welcome to assume that this is nothing more than unabashed self-promotion, and I'll politely disagree.

But I'll stop there, because as much as I love art, good lord do I hate talking about it. It seems like every time I hear someone talk about art they sound completely pretentious, and I hope I haven't come off as so. In any case, if Exit Through the Gift Shop is showing near you, see it!

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