Seven Years With Banksy

This post is about the curious case of Banksy allowing people around him to exploit their relationship with him. For example Mr. Brainwash and his part in the film Exit Through the Gift Shop or Robert Clarke’s book Seven Years With Banksy (Michael O’Mara, 2012). I suppose that Banksy has no choice given that he wants to keep his identity anonymous but to tolerate these exploitations rather than face exploitative exposures. Being an anonymous artist clearly has it drawbacks.

Robert Clarke’s Seven Years With Banksy is a terrible read, even with low expectations. Like Mr. Brainwash and Exit Through the Gift Shop there is more of Clarke in the book than Banksy. Clarke spends two or three chapters just meeting Banksy. He actually has very little and sporadic contact with Robin/Banksy. If Clarke were honest the book’s title would be Seven Years of occasionally meeting Banksy.

I stopped reading the book the first time when Clarke started to recount his dreams about Banksy; it was too self-indulgent. In the words of Wm. Burroughs: “Such dreams radiate a special disinterest. They are as boring and commonplace as the average dreamer.” (Burroughs, My Education: a book of dreams, 1995 p.2)

I put the Seven Years With Banksy aside and read a couple of other books but when I came to the end of Daniel Farson’s Gilbert and George – a portrait (Harper Collins, 1999) the author wandered into a dream he had about Gilbert and George. I started both at the same time and enjoyed reading G&G more – G&G are so charming. And Farson’s occasional meanderings were forgivable because they showed his systematic commitment to the project. There is real content in the book about G&G, the people that they worked with and the people who bought their art.

I thought that maybe I was being too harsh on Clarke, so I went back to Seven Years With Banksy but I think that I should stopped reading the first time as it didn’t get any better. My opinion, don’t bother reading it in the first place. I’ve read it so you don’t have to.

About Mark Holsworth

Arts administrator, artist, musician, philosopher and writer. Writes Black Mark - Melbourne Art and Culture Critic. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

9 responses to “Seven Years With Banksy

  • sukiesoriginal

    An English lady who was friend of Banksy’s family came into Ararat Regional Art gallery one day, which I thought was mildly exciting. She only told us that, and that he is thirtyish. My friend whom I was working with hadn’t heard of him at all… I must enlighten her some day!

  • Jeff

    Banksy has an ambiguous relationship to the cult of personality that Farson embraced. It’s an ambiguity that stands apart from the celebrity obsessed world that Farson and his various portait sitters have created. Surprising then that an author could waste such an opportunity. Is the sporadic contact picked up as the central subject matter? This would seem to be a productive approach.

    • Mark Holsworth

      It is a pity that you weren’t Clarke’s editor Jeff, it would have been a much better book. Clarke didn’t waste the opportunity, he just exploited the very limited contact he had with Banksy and wrote the most lazy book I’ve read in years.

  • neastreetartist

    I resisted the temptation to watch “Exit Through the Gift Shop” for some time, despite constantly hearing about how great it was. When I finally watched it last week, I honestly felt embarrassed about calling myself a street artist.

  • Mark Holsworth

    Yes, Braindead. Speaks for itself.

  • tbicklex3

    I usually never post on these things, normally because I don’t have the time but… I’m not sure u people understand that Mr. Brainwash was MADE UP by banksy and Fairey as a socio anthropological study… Exit was A Banksy / Fairey project… not a a Mr. BW project… What Clarke did was no different than what banksy does… make bank ‘sy from minimal work.. u say Clarksb book was lazy.. last I seen… banksy makes stencils.. lol.. I’m not sure where this post originates, but u people have way to much time on your hands. GO DODGERS!

    • Mark Holsworth

      Last I heard Mr. Brainwash had been sued for multiple copyright violation hardly a made-up socio-anthropological study, more of a legal/nutcase. Who are the Dodgers? Who has the time to find out?

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