Thursday, July 15, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop and some ravings on representation

On a whim, more because I felt like going out to a particular theater than I felt like seeing a particular film, I saw Exit Through the Gift Shop. It was actually a really rewarding experience, and a unique one. As someone who doesn't generally gravitate towards documentaries, I can say that they are refreshing every one in a while. And just like any film I sit down to, except on rare occasions, I end up being relatively engrossed, traditional narrative or no.

This documentary may or not be authentic, and while I can't say that's a question I've ceased to care about, it is one that I have grown tired of. Regardless of how much of this movie is true, it provides an excellent opportunity to look at some amazing street art, and it initiates a great discussion on art as a commodity. There's plenty of other ideas to ruminate over! But despite my reluctance to address the question of its authenticity, I still found myself arguing back and forth. Because this movie encourages you to do that. And I asked myself, how is it that the question of representation, especially in documentaries, is still a big deal to me? The peevishness of representation might have a lot to do with the reason I tend to avoid documentary, unless it avoids the question of objectivity all together. But because its a genre that is, supposedly, based in fact, it's never a question you can really escape. My feeling often is, since no documentary will ever be "real" anyway, you might as well steep yourself in fiction. Documentary will never give you true, unbiased information, and that's apt, since such a thing is impossible to come by, anyway. The other problem is that this has all been discussed to death, by me and by everyone else.

That being said, I'm still going to talk about it some more: The narrative trajectory of Thierry Guetta is a bit too convenient to be believed. On the other hand, if Google is to be believed, Guetta is all too real, as is his art. Regardless of whether Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta's street art alter ego) is real, the film is still about the nature of art, and subculture, too. Like any subculture that has its roots in protest, street art, which began as a sort of outsider art, slowly became a commodity that the likes of MBW were able to capitalize on in the most grotesque way.

It's hard to say how much this really upsets Banksy, since he turned the whole enterprise into a film. It's a very labyrinthine thought process that goes into dissecting this film. But, if nothing else, there's a lot of shaky images of renegades with spray cans out-running the police, and some witticisms escaping the slouching hooded phantasm that is Banksy.

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