Friday, February 25, 2011

Banksy at the Oscars: Anonymity and Fame Collide

“The last time there was a naked man covered in gold paint in my house it was me.” Banksy

Britain’s enigmatic street artist Bansky is up for an academy award for the film, Exit Through The Gift Shop, a documentary featuring among others, street art stars Banksy and Shepard Fairey.

If we are to accept the premise of the film (and with a prankster like Banksy we are not  entirely certain that we can) it came about when the obsessive filming of street artists by eccentric Frenchman Thierry Guetta looked destined to remain in the form of stockpiled unlabeled video in unmarked tubs.

Banksy as he appears in the film concealing his identity with a dark hoodie.

Banksy took over the film project encouraging Guetta to have his own art show. Changing his name to “Mr. Brainwash” Guette then attempts to mimic Banksy’s successful crossover into the highly lucrative art world of Los Angeles. Guette becomes an overnight sensation with a wildly successful massive show featuring dubious Warhol/Banksy style works. Says Banksy, the resulting film documents “the story of how one man set out to film the unfilmable - and failed”. The Los Angeles Times calls the film, "subversive, provocative and unexpected... a hall of mirrors as unsettling as anything Lewis Carroll's Alice ever experienced".

Girl Shooting Crayons, Banksy, Los Angeles, 2011

How does Bansky, an artist who insists on anonymity even attend the Academy Awards, the epitome of glitz and celebrity? The Academy has refused his request to attend in disguise. Says the Academy’s executive director Bruce Davis, “The fun but disquieting scenario is that if the film wins and five guys in monkey masks come to the stage all saying, ‘I’m Banksy,’ who the hell do we give it to?” None the less Banksy seems to be lobbying for his film by doing what he does best, paying nighttime visitations to the blank walls and billboards of Hollywood.

References: The Guardian UK, New York Times
Previous posts featuring Banksy and Shepard Fairey:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Portraits of Egypt's Martyred Activists

 They Died To See Egpyt Soar:
A Cairo Artist's Portraits of the Revolution's Martyred Activists 

The Cairo artist known as Ganzeer contributed to the uprising by designing anti- Mubarak signs, stickers and stencils. In the aftermath he has turned to creating portraits of the fallen. These portraits strike a distinctly Egyptian tone in a powerful medium that shares a linage with the political portraits of Shepard Fairey and has roots in street art. About the portraits Gazneer says, "Dirty politics and power struggles aside, there are innocent people who died over the course of Egypt's current revolution. These people died because they could see something most of us could not see. They died because they could see Egypt soaring high in a place of dignity and respect. They could see Egypt become something none of us thought possible. They died for me, they died for you, for our grandparents and for our children. True heroes, ready to fight a corrupt regime with all its soldiers, guns, and ammo with nothing more than their voices and willpower."

"These heroes are the Golden Eagles of the Egyptian Revolution."

Amhed Basiouny, Ganzeer
Christine, Ganzeer
Islam Bakir, Ganzeer

To see more work by this artist link to: Blog Ganzeer

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Art of the Revolution

Tahrir Square ~ Cairo
Heart of the Revolution ~ Heart of Egypt

 Egypt's Heart

If the Egyptian Museum in Cairo houses the legacy of Egypt's thousands of years old past, in the last two weeks the Egyptian people have actively begun creating their future. The artwork above was created by anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square, who with their passion and creativity non-violently defeated a regime that has silenced and brutalized them for thirty years. Egypt's Heart was created out of the same paving stones that protesters used to defend themselves when brutally attacked by the the regime's henchmen.

The Heart of the Revolution, Tahrir Square, Cairo, 2011
The Egyptian Museum Cairo is the pink building in the upper right.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Antiquities at the Heart of the Revolution.

As the battle for the soul of Egypt continues in a tense standoff in Tahrir Square, Cairo, here at the very heart of the revolution the Egyptian Museum remains intact. 

The Egyptian Museum, Cairo

"The most important thing everyone needs to know is that the people in the streets defended the museums, monuments, and sites. When I came into work today, I had to pass through a checkpoint. When the men in the Popular Committees running the checkpoint saw me, they asked, “Sir, how is the museum?” These men may not know how to read or write, but they are worried about their cultural heritage."

Dr. Hawass also said, "The monuments of Egypt are the heritage of everyone around the world." Here are just a few artifacts from the museum's collections representing various periods in Egypt's long past.

 Necklace, Faience and schist, 
Pre-Dynastic Period (Late 4th Millennium BC)

Receptacle in the Form of a Shell, Gold, 
Third Dynasty, Reign of Sekhemkhet, (2611-2603 BC) Old Kingdom

Necklace of Neferuptah, Gold, carnelian, feldspar, glass paste,
12th Dynasty, Reign of Amenemhet III (1844-1797 BC) Middle Kingdom

Bracelets of Ramesses II, Gold, lapis lazuli,
Nineteenth Dynasty, Reign of Ramesses II (1290-1224 BC) New Kingdom

Scarab, Glass and gold,
Ptolemaic era (Greek 332-30 BC)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Perils of Photojournalism

 Cairo February 2nd, 2011Andrew Burton

Freelance photojournalist Andrew Burton experienced first-hand the risks of his career yesterday when he was violently attacked by pro-Mubarak supporters. He told his story to The Picture Show, (photos from around the world, as well as commentary from NPR's multimedia team).

Burton describes his attack, “It took about 15 minutes to walk from my hotel to the square. As I moved through the thickening crowd, things seemed slightly more tense than earlier in the day. Before I got to where the fighting was taking place, I noticed a pro-Mubarak supporter painting slogans over anti-Mubarak graffiti. I started to photograph him, but was suddenly grabbed from behind by a young man who also slapped his hand over my camera – he was very angry.

A pro-Mubarak supporter paints slogans over anti-Mubarak graffiti. February 2, 2011. 
These were the last photographs Burton took before he was grabbed from behind and beaten by pro-Mubarak supporters. 

Burton tried to walk away but instead became a catylst between pro and anti Mubarak factions. Pro-Mubarak supporters grabbed Burton beating him while anti-Mubarak protesters encircled him trying to move while being beaten “Five or six guys surrounded me and took many more blows than I did”. Slowly they moved toward an Army Tank.

We were headed towards an Egyptian army tank and when we hit it, the men positioned me with my back to the tank, squatting down. At this point, I was pinned. People continued to kick, punch and grab at cameras. Soldiers standing on top of the tank were waving pistols and screaming. My shirt was ripped from my back, hands went into my pockets, the men protecting me were screaming, "You are safe, we are here for you, we will get you out of this."

Anti-Mubarak Protesters on an Army Tank Earlier That Day. Andrew Burton

I only escaped when the soldiers on top of the tank literally ripped me out of the crowd, lifting me by the armpits. I was dumped head-first inside the tank. I found myself surrounded by 14 Egyptian soldiers – young men my age, smiling at me.”

Burton stayed inside the tank until evening when a general escorted him out of the tank getting him a cab to his hotel.

I don't know what happened to the men that protected me. I owe them my life, or something close to it, and I don't know what would have happened to me without them. This is my first time in a situation like this. I was incredibly lucky.

Defending The Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum ~ Cairo*
*link currently unavailable

Last night the city of Cairo was a battlefield. All week thousands of Egyptians have been streaming into Tahir Square in the heart of Cairo to protest the oppressive regime of Egypt's president Honsi Mubarak. Their demand is for him to step down. Last night armed gangs of Molotov cocktail hurling pro-Mubarak plain clothes forces moved into the square in a bloody yet  ultimately unsuccessful attempt to break up the protest. Right in the middle of all this, the Egyptian Museum* houses the treasured legacy of Egypt's long cultural history.
 Human chain protecting the Egyptian Museum, Cairo
photo: Khaled Desouki/Agence/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images, NYT

Throughout the current turmoil Egyptians have risen to the challenge of protecting their cultural legacy. Initially, after a brief but destructive looting spree in the museum the army (so far acting in a peace keeping role) apprehended the vandals and placed tanks strategically near the museum until local Egyptians came and linking arms surrounded the building to protect it. Luckily curator's say, the damages can be repaired.

Probably the most famous artifact in the museum is the gold sarcophagus of Egypt's King Tutankhamun (King Tut) 1341-1324 BC. King Tutankhamun was Egypt's 18th dynasty, New Kingdom Pharaoh whose treasure filled tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.

 King Tutankhamun (King Tut) sarcophagus 1323 BC - Egyptian Museum, Cairo, photo: John Spicer