A. This film doesn’t as much claim anything about street art as it does portray the movement and the artists through the lens of Thierry Guetta, who shot the footage. In other words, the film doesn’t state if street art is right or wrong, but tells the story of why and how Guetta shot the footage streets artists at work. First, it is clear that street art is illegal because the artists speaking on camera are disguised, as are their voices. In particular, the artist Banksy, who ended up taking control of the raw footage to make the film because Guetta had no intention of ever doing so, is heavily disguised when speaking on camera. At one point in the film, one of the artists says, “Graffiti is a criminal offense,” when not wanting to be filmed. The fact that artists are disguised and work mostly at night, sends a message that graffiti is not only illegal, but most likely not accepted by everyone.
The film does show how some artists can become celebrities in their own right and toward the end, we see some of their work, including that of Banksy, being auctioned off at Sotheby’s. There were two things about this film I didn’t think was successful. First, Banksy had center stage and the second half of the film was more about him than it was about the movement of street art. Also, the film did not show the consequences of breaking the law when it comes to street art. How some of the people caught and what are is the punishment?
B. What was successful was the way in which the film showed how some of these artists go to great lengths to create and install their work, including climbing high buildings and taking the risk of getting arrested. One section shows Banksy cutting out detailed stencils to create a piece featuring a large rat. Another criticism is that the camera work is so shaky it’s often hard to watch and hard to understand what some of the artists are saying because of voice disguises.
In addition to the quote about graffiti being illegal, the other quote I thought was impactful is when someone asks an artists if this is his job. He replies, “It is my passion.” This sends a message that the street artists are serious about what they do, just as a traditional artist would be.
C. The artists are motivated in part by being able to express themselves artistically in a way that doesn’t entail hiring an agent or going through a gallery. Their work can be seen by anyone passing by, yet their names go unknown.
D. The question of whether street art is legitimate brings another question to mind — who is to say that some art in galleries is legitimate? It’s subjective because one person thinks mosaics of Pac man on buildings is art and another person could say it’s a criminal offense.
Personally, I think it’s wrong to deface public property. Covering up a sign that a business paid for with something one person thinks is art, just to get his or her message across, doesn’t seem fair. Some of these artists seem genuinely talented. On the flip side, there is value to street art in that many of the people who see it stop and think about what it means. Some of it is offensive. Creating dummies of prisoners and placing them near a ride in Disneyland is a selfish act. The artist may think he or she is making a point, but when it comes to scaring children it’s a different matter. In many ways, the artists portrayed in this film are narcissistic because they think what they’re doing is more important and has more value then what other people do. The thrill of placing their art in public spaces and not getting caught is likely another motivation.