For me, the most remarkable thing about this image is no longer the casual cruelty of Pike, but the field of cameras in the group of spectators. Observing, recording - “the access to the means of media production thrown open to the public at large” indeed.
You see it over and over in image from the protests, and you hear it in the reporting - the best of which is coming from blogs and citizen journalists. Everyone is armed with everything they need to be their own publisher.
There is no documentation in the documentary, there is no real in reality TV.
“Reality TV’s mockery of the poor and elevation of the branded super-rich has coincided with an increasing dearth of opportunity in the United States. Add to that the genre’s glorification of spending for spending’s sake, and the result is a strain of pop culture that contrubtes to a superficial mindset and a misrepresentation of public life that does not serve America, or it’s people, well.”
- Jenn Pozner, Reality Bites Back
Lemming Suicide is Fiction
Disney won an Academy Award for this documentary, purporting to show lemmings throwing themselves to their deaths. Everything about this movie was faked - lemmings are not native to Alberta Canada, where this was filmed. The lemmings were purchased from Inuit children, then the filmed “migration” of the lemmings was created with footage of the lemmings on a snow-covered turntable. The lemmings were moved by the filmmaker to a cliff and pushed over the edge into a river.
WON. AN. OSCAR.
Canonization of the Image
When you Google the word “prostitution”, these are the first three images that come up:
This is the common image of the prostitute, yet in no way reflects the reality of prostitution. Since the early 1980’s, sociologists have tracked trends in prostitution, showing that the majority - over 80% - of all sex work happens indoors. Escort agencies, the rise of the internet and migration have all acted to make the street prostitute a thing of the past.
But ask anyone and they will tell you - this is what prostitution looks like. Repeat an image enough - throw enough lemmings off enough cliffs - and everyone will swear to you that it’s the truth.
You walk for days among trees and among stones. Rarely does the eye light on a thing, and then only when it has recognized that thing as the sign of another thing: a print in the sand indicates the tiger’s passage; a marsh announces a vein of water; the hibiscus flower, the end of winter. All the rest is silent and interchangeable; trees and stones are only what they are.
Finally the journey leads to the city of Tamara. You penetrate it along streets thick with signboards jutting from the walls. The eye does not see things but images of things that mean other things: pincers point out the tooth-drawer’s house; a tankard, the tavern; halberds, the barracks; scales, the grocer’s. Statues and shields depict lions, dolphins, towers, stars: a sign that something—who knows what?—has as its sign a lion or a dolphin or a tower or a star. Other signals warn of what is forbidden in a given place (to enter the alley with wagons, to urinate behind the kiosk, to fish with your pole from the bridge) and what is allowed (watering zebras, playing bowls, burning relatives’ corpses).
From the doors of the temples the gods’ statues are seen, each portrayed with his attributes—the cornucopia, the hourglass, the medusa—so that the worshiper can recognize them and address his prayers correctly. If a building has no signboard or figure, its very form and the position it occupies in the city’s order suffice to indicate its function: the palace, the prison, the mint, the Pythagorean school, the brothel. The wares, too, which the vendors display on their stalls are valuable not in themselves but as signs of other things: the embroidered headband stands for elegance; the gilded palanquin, power; the volumes of Averroes, learning; the ankle bracelet, voluptuousness. Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages: the city says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara you are only recording the names with which she defines herself and all her parts. However the city may really be, beneath this thick coating of signs, whatever it may contain or conceal, you leave Tamara without having discovered it.
Outside, the land stretches, empty, to the horizon; the sky opens, with speeding clouds. In the shape that chance and wind give the clouds, you are already intent on recognizing figures: a sailing ship, a hand, an elephant…
You can’t say that Banksy doesn’t understand détournement. He is constantly turning the signals and symbols of the capitalist system against itself:
However, as daring and outre as Banksy may be, he is in danger of being appropriated by the very system he mocks. His work is stolen off the street and sold almost as fast as he can create it, which Banksy seems to recognize:
Since Banksy is an anonymous figure, there’s not much chance of figuring out if he is in on his own exploitation. He has an agent (his second - he fired his first) that does see that the artist profits from his work. That is is not, of course, sinful - no one ever accused Banksy of being a Marxist, and I firmly believe that artists should profit from their work. There is, however, the idea of the “genuine” - does Banksy lose street cred because his success stretches beyond the underground? Only someone naive would put much stock in that idea.
The great trouble with art in this country at the present, and apparently in France also, is that there is no spirit of revolt - no new ideas appearing among the younger artists. They are following along the paths beaten out by their predecessors, trying to do better what their predecessors have already done.
Marcel Duchamp, 1946.
Jerry Saltz on Generation Blank at the 2011 Venice Biennial - “Yet many times over — too many times for comfort — I saw the same thing, a highly recognizable generic institutional style whose manifestations are by now extremely familiar. Neo-Structuralist film with overlapping geometric colors, photographs about photographs, projectors screening loops of grainy black-and-white archival footage, abstraction that’s supposed to be referencing other abstraction — it was all there, all straight out of the 1970s, all dead in the water. It’s work stuck in a cul-de-sac of esthetic regress, where everyone is deconstructing the same elements.”
Eye slice. Still gross, no matter how many times I have seen the Pixies video.
(I understand the metaphor. You are going to fuck up my eyes with your crazy art.)
Dude on bike, looking upset. Maybe it’s because he is dressed like a nun. Wearing a stripy box around his neck.
I can never tell - is this girl pleased to see him, or pissed? Man, silent film acting sure sucked.
Angry girl is now kissy girl. Like ladies are.
Laying out the outfit without the dude in it - is she willing him to show up?
ANT STIGMATA. Always a good time.
Underarm hair - sea urchin - mannish woman finds a hand in the street.
It’s a tiny riot!
Cops take the hand - there is that box again…
Bike dude is getting REALLY into mannish woman in the street. Seems to want her to get hit by a car.
He gets his wish.
Menacing! Brutal boob grabbing! Drooling! Wait, now it’s a butt!
Piano with horse carcass - hey, Dali painting - plus with priests. NERVOUS priests.
ANT STIGMATA IS BACK.
oh hey - the dude showed up in her bed, like she wanted.
Dude at door - we don’t see his face. Totally bike dude’s dad, right?
Nun costume? OUT THE WINDOW! Stripy box? OUT THE WINDOW
Here are some books. Now go stand in a corner.
DUDE IN IS SUIT IS BIKE DUDE. (dun dunnnnn)
Bike dude has gun hands! Phallic!
Shoots self/dad figure!
Who falls in… a forest. Like y’do.
“Hey, do you wanna see a dead guy?” “Nah” (what is this, Rivers Edge?)
Death’s head moth!
I have no mouth and I must scream! (Thank you Harlan Ellison)
I think she is fed up with his shenangans. Also, she is showing off the fact that she has a tongue. By using it on the beach with a different dude.
Oh hey, broken stripy box!
“Want your old nun costume back?” “Nah, it got all muddy”
And then, in Spring (yet another nonsense title card)… there were people buried up to their chests in the sand. Probably dead. THE END.
This is all about the shock, yeah? Shake the bourgeois up. I like how, reading over my notes, I REALLY wanted to to attach a narrative. I don’t think that we like having non-narrative work thrown at us - it’s like finding shapes in clouds. We always want a story, preferably with a bunny and a happy ending. Buneuel keeps trying to make us think there is a narrative as well, repeating themes, images and characters. But in the end, none of it relates to anything, and there is no bunny.