Banksy Meets Bando by Claire Jane


We’re hassled by testy security guards at metal detectors before we catch sight of the main attraction: a decrepit fairytale castle in a moat of murky water and a crashed police van. Surrounding it is an upside down slide fashioned from a battered old truck, an old-school carousel, and a ferris wheel. Inside, Cinderella’s coach has crashed, surrounded by clicking paparazzi. Here it is, the latest exhibition from Banksy, the art world’s favorite agent provocateur. Billed as a “bemusement park” and modeled after Disneyland, it’s a warped vision of the so-called “happiest place on Earth”. Officially opening to the public on Saturday, August 22, 2015, it’s Banksy’s largest exhibition to date and the 4,000 allotted daily tickets, priced at less than $5, are expected to sell out fast. This is, of course, the Banksy who has built a reputation for leaving often political, frequently comical graffiti everywhere from London to Gaza. This street artist known for exploring war, political corruption, hope and revolution with stencils and spray paint; the anonymous figure whose identity remains unconfirmed. What we do know is he was raised in nearby Bristol, and that he’s been planning this for months. There’s been speculation for weeks about what was going on at the site, which is formerly a public pool. Locals were told it was a film set during construction and up until it’s opening. There are terribly dilapidated looking rides, and three galleries featuring pieces from the likes of Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, and Banksy himself, along with lesser-known artists. Many of the over 50 artists from 17 countries exhibiting share a common irreverence toward the political and cultural establishment. The real talking piece lies in the apparent desecration of one of the art pieces on display, before the exhibit has even opened. The words “In my mind I’ve been digitized, Don’t slip away, don’t fall away from me” had been scrawled across Banksy’s own piece, an installation depicting a man with the head of a television. Security has been extremely tight, with video recording and sensors along the fences. Sources state complete confusion at how the graffiti got there, with it mysteriously appearing the night before the park opened. It was not noticed until late on the first day open, and by that time many pictures had been taken of the exhibit. Once authorities found the added art, they immediately closed the exhibit and began to make repairs. Paparazzi jumped on the story, and a frenzy began as the media scurried to find out what the words meant.

As was expected, the artist himself isn’t here to speak to his mission directly, how someone was able to sneak in and add to the art piece or why his themes seem to be focused on Disney, corporatocracy, and anti-technology but the artists on hand were more than happy to theorize. “[Disney] is vulnerable, to me,” says Jeff Gillette, the Orange County-based artist who juxtaposes Disney characters with images of slums and dumps. “They’re such a big presence and such a big part of culture and symbolic of so many things. It’s hard not to f**k with them.” (To add insult to corporate injury, signs at Dismaland say lawyers are banned, along with spray paint, marker pens and knives.) But it’s clearly not just Disney in the spotlight here. One of Banksy’s new works on display, ostensibly a game, has visitors navigating boats of migrants surrounded by floating bodies. Behind the Ferris wheel and the high interest loan shop for kids seeking allowance advances, there’s the activist corner. After taking in the art, visitors can explore a geodome covered in protest posters and the anarchist bookstore, or receive advice about collective bargaining and unions. A girl with cropped hair and a defiant smirk offers tips and kits for hacking bus stop billboard displays. It’s not the kind of thing you expect from a seaside art exhibition, but there’s no doubt an audience for it. And not just the usual art fanatics streaming in from out of town for the Banksy experience and something from the gift shop. Passersby on the way to the aquarium or the beach or home stop to ponder the ominous Dismaland sign and ask about admission without even knowing what’s happening.

While the graffitti’d words are quickly removed, the pictures taken before officials discovered it spread virally, issuing a challenge for who can find their meaning the quickest. Reports officially stated the words were lyrics from a song called “Hold On”. This song is linked to the album “Bando”, the inspired first album of New York based band “Chancius”. Upon further investigation, Chancius is found to be a veteran of the New York music scene, honing his live performance skills busking in the NYC subway system. Fans of his underground music began to recognize him on the street as the musician with the striking vocals and memorable song lyrics. These lyrics describe the story of Bando, a dying man that tries to hold on to life by digitizing and uploading himself. This attempt to thwart death, in order to be with his true love, results in his ultimate technological power and control of the world. As he receives everything he ever wished for, Bando struggles to remember what it was like to be human, and slowly begins to realize that the price for his fame and immortality was in fact, his humanity. Bando struggles to regain his humanity and searches for his new place in the world. This anti-technology new wave sound is echoed in Brooklyn’s “Big Data”, with their song “Dangerous”. Listening to Chancius’ music, it is clear to see why someone defaced Banksy’s artwork with the mesmerizing lyrics. They speak the core theme of Banksy’s artwork, and some speculate that Banksy is the one in fact, who actually defaced his own work. Highlighting the band Chancius might be the artist reaching out to connect with like minded artists. This would not be Banksy’s first appearance in the United States, with multiple art installations being found in San Francisco and New York.

New creations from Bristol’s legendary street artist Banksy have already made their way to New York City. Banksy will be holding a monthlong project, “Better Out Than In,” which attempts to host an entire show on the streets of New York. His first piece was revealed in Chinatown on October 1. The painting features two young boys reaching toward a sign that reads “graffiti is a crime.” Each work is accompanied with a museum-style audio guide: a toll-free phone number will be stenciled beside it, allowing anyone to call. For those who can’t track down his work on foot, Banksy’s website provides photos of his latest pieces and recordings.

Banksy’s art has been discovered on both the East and West coast, with him releasing a statement on how visiting New York had introduced him to the radical new wave of underground music happening there, that challenged outdated mindsets and inspired a lot of his recent artwork. The music of New York City is a diverse and important field in the world of music. It has long been a thriving home for popular genres such as jazz, rock and the blues, as well as classical and art music. It is the birthplace of hip hop, freestyle, doo wop, bebop, disco, punk rock, and new wave. There is no question of the inspiration available to be discovered in the beautiful city of New York, and Chancius seems to be one of the artists Banksy had expressed drawing inspiration from on his visit.

No one ever asks, “Hey, what ever became of Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ at MoMA? Wonder if it’s still there?” Banksy’s art, however, is all about impermanence. Tthe mysterious British street artist turned New York City into his own massive outdoor gallery. Each day in October 2013 (barring those where “police activity” scuttled his plans), Banksy created works at random locations around the city, often in the form of satirical messages stenciled on walls. Each piece drew hundreds of curious onlookers as it was discovered. Now, the question is, what ever happened to all that art? Almost all of it is gone. The majority were defaced by other graffiti artists within a few hours, like a Chelsea image of a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. Others, like the painting of two boys beneath a sign reading “Graffiti is a Crime” at 18 Allen St., were painted over by building owners or the city. And so far, no one’s gotten rich off any of them. Saul Zabar, owner of the eponymous Upper West Side food market, covered with plexiglass, stated a painting appeared on his building at 79th and Broadway. The whimsical image of a boy hammering a fire standpipe like it’s a carnival game remains intact. The owners of the Hustler Club dispatched bouncers to guard the Banksy art piece, showing a dejected stage-door Johnny clutching flowers, that was painted on their roll-down gate. The gate was later removed and might be displayed inside the club one day. Real estate broker Anthony Ruocco had never heard of Banksy when a mural appeared on his building at 1402 Neptune Ave. in Coney Island, Brooklyn. After he was told the value of Banksy’s work, Ruocco decided to protect the stencil of a robot spray-painting a bar code. A roll-down gate now covers the work. “It’s kind of more trouble than it’s worth,” Ruocco says. “We’ve got kids coming around with spray cans trying to get at it. Others seem to be overjoyed at the art presented to them. Michael Sofronski Ruocco says he checked in on his Banksy recently to make sure the summer heat hadn’t destroyed it, but it’s not top of mind. He might sell it one day, but figuring out its value is difficult. It would also be expensive to remove the section of the wall, costing an estimated $20,000. And it might not be worth it. A 7,000-pound chunk cut from a Red Hook, Brooklyn, wall containing a heart-shaped balloon failed to sell at a 2014 auction. It along with a sphinx sculpture made of rubble and bricks was removed from a Queens lot by the owner of a local auto glass shop who happened upon it, and it is now on sale at New York’s Keszler Gallery. So is a metal door painted with a fake Plato quote and removed from a Greenpoint, Brooklyn, building. Selling Banksy’s work can be tricky. The artist discourages it, feeling the works should remain where they are. His representatives refuse to authenticate any street works, which deters buyers. One Bronx work from the New York “show” is being left where it is. The drawing at 651 Elton Ave. depicts a boy painting the slogan “Ghetto 4 Life” as a butler serves him spray cans on a tray. The work is protected by a gate and is currently hidden behind scaffolding as the building undergoes a renovation. Owner David Damaghi says the Banksy will be a “showpiece” on the once-derelict apartment building. “It’s difficult to remove,” Damaghi says. “It’s part of the building.”

Regardless of where Banksy turns up, he brings inspiration with him, provoking deep thought and introspection from his viewers. He holds a mirror up to society and dares us to look into it at ourselves. Artists like Banksy and Chancius, though on separate continents, share art and vision. More and more artists have come forward, provoked by the extremes of the upcoming election and debates. Speaking out against corporatocracy, big businesses evading taxation, and newer generations becoming disconnected with humanity because of extensive exposure to technology. It is clear that our society will not go quietly and without questions! Every time an artist stands up for what they believe and uses their platform to speak on behalf of peace and hope for humanity, we are one step closer to the world we want. It is also clear Bansky is using his platform to spotlight Chancius, an obvious signal to follow the development of this unique new sound. Don’t worry Banksy, we’re listening!

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