After class I was telling my boyfriend about some of our class discussions, and he brought up a great example of questionable “authorship” that had totally slipped my mind. Many of you may be familiar with the street artist Banksy (if you’re not–familiarize yourself, NOW!). Banksy recently released a documentary titled “Exit Through the Gift Shop” that presents an interesting take on the timeless question “what is art?” which inevitably turns in “who should be considered an artist?” If you want to be broad and say that anyone who ‘creates’ is an artist, it can become problematic. If you try to make a tighter definition, you begin to exclude creations and creators who seem validated in their craft. It is a tricky territory to navigate.
I won’t go into great detail about the documentary here, because I think it most effectively presented in its form. I strongly urge any of you who are interested in this topic to add it to your Netflix queue though (I think you can instant-stream it). In a nutshell, it tells the story of a self-proclaimed avant-garde artist nicknamed “Mr. Brainwash.” Mr. Brainwash hires freelance designers and sculptors to hang out in a warehouse with him all day, while he gives them orders about what to paint and what to build. Then, he has the nerve to take credit for it in his own art gallery (which turns out to be an ironically huge success). The guy is a little crazy, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is a documentary so it is presumably real…and quite terrifying. I just thought that the “morals” of the story can be applied to what we’ve been studying–to what extent is someone an author if they’re simply assembling someone else’s words and presenting them for the world to see? If you’d consider Jonathan Harris to be an author, shouldn’t you consider Mr. Brainwash an artist?
If anyone has already seen this documentary, please comment and discuss! If you haven’t–get to it! I think all of you will be able to appreciate/enjoy it.