Why are so many curious about tagging a name on Banksy? You know, like, “who is Banksy really?” Isn’t “Banksy” good enough? all the identity the artwork needs? Other than satisfying a cat’s curiosity, what’s the need to know more? What if “more” were “less”? Isn’t it possible that tagging Banksy with another name or material identity might deflect attention from the artwork to the artist … and thus seriously reshape our experience?
Have you ever asked yourself, “why does Banksy wish to remain anonymous”? The pragmatic answer is obvious: as a graffiti artist he’s constantly under threat of arrest for vandalism. So maybe Banksy is just a way to dodge the law? Frankly, if that’s the only reason for anonymity … he needs to be arrested. I rather believe that his anonymity is in concert with his art, art that eschews the cult of personality in favor of the being of art itself. What if “Banksy” was not one person? What if “Banksy” acknowledges that no artwork that means deeply stands alone? Is any art the product of a solo mind/heart? Does any artist create in such a way as to be somehow removed from the currents that flow through culture, history, and the crucible of one’s experiences? No. Still, we seldom think of art in that enlarged sort of way … either as audience or as artist. We invariably want to pin things down into neat categories — who made it, when, where, etc.? “Unknown” undermines the tools of the critic and commerce bent toward commodification and control. By contrast, it opens the window on mystery and compels one to see what’s there in the moment, directly and immediately, impeded only by the notions in one’s own mind.
“Banksy” is enough to make Balloon Girl, painted on the wall of a London shop in 2002, the UK’s “most favorite artwork” in a recent poll (as reported by The Guardian, July 25, 2017). Banksy beat out Constable (who was #2) and J.M.W. Turner (who came in at #4). And some people want to pin it on this guy: