Imagine buying an artwork by one of the world’s most controversial street artist for over $1 million at an auction and seeing the piece being shredded seconds after the gavel came down.
The previous weekend was a buzz over the shocking prank planned by the notoriously unknown (not because he is not popular, but it’s because of his unattainable identity) Banksy whose work has spanned over 20 years of different types of street art media. The display at Sotheby’s in London of a young girl in all black and a red heart shaped balloon went through 38 razor blades set by the artist inside the heavy frame with a battery for the shredder that will last over 10 years.
The legitimacy of the stunt was confirmed after Banksy posted a video of the preparation on Instagram with a caption quoting Picasso, “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,” and his sole reason for the destruction of his creation was to avoid the artwork from being auctioned off. In the early 2000s, Banksy’s artwork of stenciled images on the Bethlehem Wall during his travel to Palestine and the West Bank pushed him into the spotlight when it went viral over the internet and thus began a surge of his name rising in pop culture infused with the question of his identity and the genuineness of the artwork that is claimed to be his. The concealment of Banksy’s real name had also been manipulated that the artist himself had to clarify on his website whether a show or a gallery of his works are merely forged especially ones that demand expensive ticket prices.
Not only did the clever prank caught the attention of all on social media, it’s also used as a medium to convey a message especially by artists like the graphic designer and street artist, Fahmi Reza who made a name for himself for creating the infamous caricature of former Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak in clown-makeup and prided his movement with the tagline, ‘Kami semua penghasut‘ (‘We are all seditious’). The artist who is also an activist and a filmmaker, had won the “Most Outstanding Human Rights Film” at Freedom Film Fest 2007, for his documentary, Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka (Ten Years Before Independence), that presents a story about Malaysians’ struggle for independence, and the contributions of the political left.
Fahmi recreated the stupendous moment during the shredding of the artwork with an image of Pakatan Harapan’s Manifesto which was framed but because of the understanding that some of the promises made during the campaign for the General Election were not executed; the manifesto also went through the shredder. The tribute to Banksy was further justified as Fahmi had mentioned his name alongside his artwork on Instagram and this also placed Fahmi during this political climate as not being a complacent artist even after the declaration of ‘Malaysia Baru’.
Fahmi clarified, “I’m simply appropriating popular culture (Banksy’s stunt) as a metaphor for my political commentary against the present ruling party and government. Similar to the way Banksy and other political artists would use different forms of appropriation in their own commentary work.”
What is great about the art community is the invisible rules of sharing with and inspiring other artists that allow every creator to expand their work and to cement a message that is different to each scene and society; what Fahmi intends with his work may not be easily comprehended by Banksy himself but then again art can transcend borders and even start a conversation between these artists.
Featured Image source: eNCA.