Film Review: Exit Through The Gift Shop

In the world of "street art" or "graffiti", I consider myself a "tourist". Even after years of blogging and featuring news about the sub-culture of traditional art, I remain an "outsider", oblivious to the nuances which belie the craft, perhaps a level of understanding above the masses, but not as a practitioner.

My curiosity and wonder for street art remains unsated, and with the viewing of EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP giving me yet a glimpse into the close-knit community - and it is indeed one, it seems - but does not totally answer my questions, which in turn I know not the questions to ask, in the first instance.

The documentary felt like a basic bait-n-switch for me. Some have theorized this to be a "mockumentary", while I on the other hand thought it was about Banksy, when I first popped the disc into the DVD player…

Or as I realized later, that was not the case, as it was presented as "A Banksy Film", and not "About Banksy" … such is the power of his brand - but I was oblivious to that, until the movie's end, and until I just read the DVD cover, to review the movie typed here!

Such is the power of perception, and perceived knowledge, which to me is the underlying note in the song of lament that which is "street art", and constantly the chorus chats on about being misunderstood and maligned, and perhaps that is the case for graffiti and other subversive happenings. For "street art" to be embraced, it is not just a matter or understanding, it is a matter of acceptance, IMHO.

Back to the movie:

And while the "main" movie played on, it was a tricky premise of the titular character of "Mr Brainwash" (whom I've never heard of, actually, hence the mockumentary theory), and the chronicling of his ascension to street art / pop art, which in lieu featured the artists well known in the scene - from (Space) Invader, to Shepard Fairey, to Banksy et all. The final segment when Mr Brainwash attempts to hold his first ever solo show, was such an eye-opener to the fallacy of the scene which permeates the culture, if indeed it was all true.

Like I said, I was a "tourist" and might not have the benefit of "knowing" the "truth", IMHO.

And while the DVD-cover touts the allure and mystic of the documentary, one main moral I got out of this one-time viewing was:

"Breaking the Rules" no longer is an issue, it is a matter of "Is the result worth the effort and rule breaking?"

And while most are self-serving acts, a select few presents a visual aesthetic worthy of noticing, methinks. But hey, like I mentioned earlier, I am a "tourist" after all, standing at the sidewalk, looking on as an image is being formed on the wall via the hands of folks with their face covered, and that I will take a picture of said wall, only after the artists have finished and walked far away from their art on the wall … but that's just me.

At the end of the day, what Mr Brainwash had proven, and the acrylic-panels covering Banksy's art had shown, "ART" might be in the hands of the artist literally yes, but the "VALUE" of the art, is now determined by the dollars spent purchasing them, and being owned by collectors who might not even be tourists to the scene.

Be that as it may, "street art" no longer belongs to the "street". Times have changed. The world has evolved/devolved to a state where that is no longer relevant. The irony is, the "Law" which dictated the legitimacy of the act, is the one determining "value" of "street art" hahahahaha

But "street art" and all it's permutations NEED to exist. The "good", as well as the "bad" - for without the bad, how could you recognize the good? Now the trick is to let the rest of the world, in on this. But the truth is, beyond a community and culture of supporters, the world might choose to not embrace it, and alternatively they choose to embrace it on their terms and understanding - why do you think the traditional art world is sitting up and taking notice?

Frustrations aside, this docu was an eye-opener, and a quick chronicling of the scene for folks looking for cliff-notes and names to drop. The "B Movie" exclusive Banksy short was also a swell add to the Special Features.

Make no mistake, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP is a documentary, made from footage filmed straight from a domestic camera (or perhaps not totally, I have no concrete proof otherwise), and not a cinematic triumph needed to be experienced by viewing it via the big screen, IMHO. And that to me is a plus-point (so I don't personally "feel bad" for not sitting in a darkened cinema in the first place haha).

One viewing is all you need, repeated viewings might perhaps leave a distaste and/or an aftertaste of disillusionment, by my speculation. And I'll leave it as that.