Tag Archives: Banksy

Exit Through the Gift Shop – a movie by Banksy, starring Thierry Guetta

by Margaux Williamson

(I rented this movie recently and didn’t watch it. Then I saw it lying on my friend Carl Wilson’s coffee table and asked to take it home. I managed to not watch it again but did pay some more overdue movie money. More recently, I ended up watching it one night as it came through my television from the internet while I sat on my bed with three friends. We all liked it more than we thought we would. I think. )


We start out in Exit through the Gift Shop with a lot of amateurish, rough and beautiful video footage. It has supposedly been shot by the star of the movie, a mustachioed and side-burned Frenchman living in California. The Frenchman is named Thierry. He is obsessed first with videotaping everything in his daily life and then with taping famous street artists at work. His obsession does not come with discipline but the years of it has lead to a hoard of unwatched videotapes, the casual neglect of his wife and children, and an introduction to the elusive British artist Banksy. Banksy is an artist who works anonymously and has an unconfirmed identity. In the movie we meet him but do not see his face.

Banksy (the more disciplined and purposeful obsessive) encourages Thierry to make a movie out of the videotapes. Thierry comes up with an old-fashioned avant-garde mess. After Banksy see the video, he encourages Thierry to leave the tapes with him and let him see what he could do with them. He encourages Thierry to take a break and maybe have an art show. As Thierry initiates a giant art show of his creation under the name Mr. Brainwash, Banksy makes Exit through the Gift Shop.

Exit through the Gift Shop is presented as a documentary. We see bits of Thierry’s sweet private life as shot by him. We are told stories about the narrative by Thierry and Banksy and also by the American street artist Shepard Fairey. We watch the pretty remarkable collected footage of street artists in action. When Banksy takes over the movie, we watch Thierry try to be an artist, to put his tag over other artists work, to put on his art show. We watch the public line up and buy his work.

I have read one movie critic who saw Exit through the Gift Shop as a straight up documentary and another, as a complete hoax. My default viewing position for most movies involves being comfortable being “a sucker” who is often mesmerized by story and flashing lights, as well as taking pleasure in my subjective position that often has no access (or admittedly, curiosity) about the “authentic” origin or intention of the work that I’m watching.

What helps even more in the case of Exit through the Gift Shop is that in all conceivable possibilities for how this movie was made, it is pretty easy to see that someone with a talented and thoughtful hand was making the most of their resources.

Imagine if the movie began with a room full of videotapes with the creator explaining that they had gathered hundreds of hours of footage of street art, shot by a mess of street-artist and their friends, and was now going to try to make something that the world should see.

Sometimes a lie wastes our time less and gives us more. Even if the movie is 100 percent true, Banksy’s nudging of Thierry to create an art show and leave him with the footage is a construction. A way of making art in the world from real things in the world. Pretty similar to what Banksy got himself famous for.

In Exit through the Gift Shop, we see a room full of videotapes, shot by one man, a man obsessed but, unfortunately, also overwhelmed. Here we demand order or crave it. Please, we think, make some sense of this man’s obsession. Free the disciplined artists caught by this fool.

I should mention that this fool has true gifts. In one scene as he sits in a backyard, looking at the camera and grasping for words to explain the feelings he had when he met Banksy for the first time – the performance is beautiful. Whether he is an actual street-art obsessive fan, or an amiable friend improvising, or France’s great actor – he nailed it.

The movie is accessible, clear, humorous, thought-provoking and entertaining. Or, to say it another way as one critic did, nothing new! But that is the wonderful thing about some great art – especially great street art. Communicating pain, politics and playfulness with clarity, lightness and charm should never be discounted as old-hat. It is always the hardest trick.

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Filed under margaux williamson, movies, visual art

Tea With Chris: A Flash of Muddy Light

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Carl: The best thing I saw in 2008 may well have been Double Double Land Land, a play that really played, a romp, an absurdity, an entertainment, a flash of muddy light, by Jon McCurley. (It also gave Toronto art-performance space Double Double Land its name). Theatre notoriously films badly, and this is no exception, but now that it’s on YouTube you can at least get a glimpse. I’m so excited that Jon’s finally putting together a new play this year.

And one thing to brighten up the dark days of January is that Darren Hayman, the adenoidal voice of one of my favourite late-’90s bands, Hefner, has decided to spend the month writing & recording a song a day. He’s not the first to do that, but he’s the best songwriter to do it – and did any of the others also make a video for every song? For the January 9 video, he solicited the help of his audience to film themselves dancing to the song, then edited all their fan videos together, which reminds me of the best video of ever, Margaux’s much-loved Dancing to The End of Poverty film for Tomboyfriend.

Chris: A few months of shows at the Hacienda in 1983:

“Annie Lennox, ex-Tourists.” (Via Douglas Wolk.)

Like Geoff Manaugh, I love the premise of the Drift Deck, a kind of I Ching for indeterminate metropolitan wandering. I also love these phrases he employed in critiquing it: “a human behavior manual for urban residents suffering from Aspergers Syndrome,” “twee Instabuddhism.”

Margaux: I had heard about the Bansky movie, Exit Through the Gift Shop, for awhile but pictured it being a bit like the documentary Beautiful Losers (the surprisingly straight-up documentary about 12 or so artists who were pioneers in the American street art movement) but more cool and more aloof – I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. But then saw the trailer for Exit Through the Gift Shop and was won over. The trailer opens with typical movie trailer pomp (like film festival laurel leaves and delayed pronouncements of grandeur) but here the delayed pronouncements are only jokes at the expense of both the laurel-leaf granting institutions and the movie itself. A refreshing move that promised both a decent lack of hypocrisy (specifically here in relation to the anti-authority subject matter) and a good amount of pleasure.

I don’t think about Toronto-as-a-city too much, but reading Eye Weekly’s year end review 2010: WTF? The year in pictures made me feel like I lived in a really…specific place – full of good and bad things.

Amer Diab from Toronto’s Communist’s Daughter opened his own bar on Bloor Street west (south side by Dufferin). It’s been open for a year and feels pretty great inside – warm, quiet and dark with white string lights hung up. I believe that Trish from the Communist’s Daughter helped with the décor (it could fairly be described as the communist’s daughter’s really good friend) and that Ted from Ted’s Wrecking Yard helped with the creation of a giant fireplace in the snowy backyard. It’s officially called The Three Speed and unofficially called Amer’s Place.

After watching a season of Project Runway backwards ( I thought seeing the end of the reality show would deter me from watching the whole thing but, no), I looked up the the fashion duo Rodarte on the internet and got a site for sore eyes.

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson