Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Brief, Humorous Word on Art: Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

“Are we art?  Is art art?”

These are the musing questions of one Lisa Turtle of Saved by the Bell as she tries to woo the new student at school; a young stud who also happens to be quite the brainiac and egotistical art-snob, much to Lisa and the gang’s dismay.   As such, Lisa transforms her Beverly Hills teen-fashionista image into something she believes he would appreciate, and strikes up a phony conversation on these pretenses in order to reel him in.  Her scheme works; but as 90’s-teen sitcoms would have it, she soon realizes how stuck up said young stud is for not liking or appreciating the “real” Lisa. 

As is my pattern, when contemplating life’s greatest mysteries over a cigar at 1:00 in the morning, it always comes back to Saved by the Bell.

Today I caught a magnificent documentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop, at the Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco while on vacation (yep, had to throw that in there).  It is an original in so many ways that I’m not even sure where to begin.  It is the first documentary-heist I have ever heard of: basically, the film’s subject, Banksy—a famous British street artist (see: graffiti) turns his own documentary back around on the filmmaker—a wannabe street artist with a camera; and the end result is a humorous, satirical contemplation about what art is, how our society interprets art, and what makes one an artist. 

I know many of my readers don’t have many documentaries saved on their netflix queue, or typically seek them out on their Friday-night Redbox visits.  Nor do I.  But let me make myself clear: if you appreciate art, or appreciate making fun of people who take art too seriously, or appreciate irony in general, or would enjoy watching someone make a complete idiot out of themselves for 90 minutes, then you should not miss this film.  I wrote in my earlier post this week (in bragging fashion) that I would not be interested in spending 2+ hours on a post since I am vacationing in California at the moment.   Well, seeing this movie made me reconsider that obtuse statement. 

In today’s web-based society, we are all artists.  We live in a meritocracy.  Post a funny facebook status, you’ll get several “likes” and comments.  Tweet something funny on twitter, you’ll get many followers and retweets that will likely go global.  Post a video of yourself doing something ridiculous on Youtube, and you’re an instant celebrity, and, (looking at myself here) start a movie blog and advertise it to your friends, and you’ll get a few hundred hits.  We are all “artists” and the world is our judge.  But are we really making art?  That is the question that this movie answers, with a resounding “Maybe, maybe not, but it is what it freakin’ is,” as the film’s subject rips off a few ideas, gets the right promotions from the right people, puts on a massive exhibit and sells millions of dollars worth of “art” to the general public that has no idea how badly they just got duped. 

Is art art?  Maybe Saved by the Bell was on to something...

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