My favorite culture jammer / art terrorist / meme warrior, Banksy had an exhibit in LA this weekend. I posted the info about it last Friday night on MySpace. Since then there has been AP, UPI, and Reuters news releases which resulted in over 370 news stories about his exhbit.
Of note is how the artist is covered in the press. CNN literally attacks the messenger (the elephant) instead of addressing it’s message (poverty, social justice, etc.), while Al-Jazeera using the Reuters report treats the exhibit in a more balanced tone. Few of the articles even reference this similar stunt where he painted farm animals (see below)).
CNN via a modified AP report: (below this story is the Al-Jazeera version)
Scarlet elephant has animal lovers seeing red
POSTED: 7:48 p.m. EDT, September 17, 2006
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — A city agency that allowed a spray-painted elephant to appear at an art exhibit is now saying it will not issue permits for such events in the future.
The elephant, named Tai, was given a nontoxic paint job for the Thursday opening of the “Barely Legal” exhibit by British artist Banksy near downtown.
Cards handed out at the opening, which included such guests as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, read: “There’s an elephant in the room. There’s a problem we never talk about.” The statement went on to say that many people live below the poverty line.
Ed Boks, head of the city’s Animal Services Department, said that his agency issued permits for the elephant to appear — to his chagrin — and that he tried to have them revoked Friday on public safety grounds. But the exhibit was to end Sunday, and the revocation would have taken five days. (Watch why people are upset about the painted elephant — 1:36)
“I think it sends a very wrong message that abusing animals is not only OK, it’s an art form,” Boks said. “We find it no longer acceptable to dye baby chicks at Easter, but it’s OK to dye an elephant.”
Animal rights activist Les Schobert, a former L.A. Zoo curator, said the exhibit “degrades” the animal.
“Here we have an endangered species,” Schobert said. “And we’re taking it and moving it into a warehouse and painting it. It’s a mockery. There’s no reason. This isn’t a religious ceremony in India.”
Tai’s owner denied that the 38-year-old Indian elephant, who lives on a ranch, had been abused.
“Tai has done many, many movies,” Kari Johnson said. “She’s used to makeup.”
‘Guerrilla’ artist challenges capitalism
Saturday 16 September 2006, 9:17 Makka Time, 6:17 GMT
Banksy, the British graffiti artist and prankster, opened his first Los Angeles show in an obscure warehouse, bringing his subversive humour and anti-capitalist message to a city better known for wealth and self-obsession.
“Barely Legal,” a free three-day event billed as a “vandalised warehouse extravaganza,” opened with the excitement and puzzlement that has come to be the hallmark of the elusive “guerrilla artist.”
Banksy keeps his identity secret but has built up a cult following in Europe over the last four years, placing his work in top museums, zoos or on the streets.
Manny Skiles, 30, a Los Angeles graphic designer who has spent two years following Banksy’s work mostly through the Internet, said: “It is really amazing. I think he is hilarious.”
Skiles and dozens of others spent more than an hour lining up to buy $500 limited print editions of Banksy’s work. The originals sell for up to 25,000 pounds sterling.
On one wall, a stencil art picture shows bush hunters in loincloths raising their spears at empty supermarket shopping carts.
On another, a masked street anarchist with a thrown back arm prepares to hurl – a bunch of flowers.
But the placid pink elephant takes pride of place. Tai, 38, looms large in a room decked out with a sofa, a television, rugs on the floor and a man and woman sitting reading obliviously on the couch. It is titled “Home Sweet Home.”
Kari Johnson, Tai’s caretaker, said: “We are sitting on the couch not seeing her. From what I understand, the elephant is a symbol of all the world’s problems being ignored.â€
“There is nothing in the world I would ever do to harm an elephant. The paint is nontoxic and washable and does not hurt a bit,” Johnson told Reuters.
Banksy, as is his custom, was not around to discuss his show, which followed a prank at Disneyland this month in which he placed a blow-up figure dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay prison overalls beside a roller-coaster ride.
Last month, Banksy placed remixed copies of Paris Hilton’s debut CD in stores across England. He gave them titles such as “Why Am I Famous?” and “What Am I For?”
In the “Barely Legal” show, the fake Hilton CDs are displayed in a plexiglass case alongside photo-shopped pictures of the hotel heiress and live cockroaches.
This article is 3 Years Old! and mentioned the same stunt…
Finally….. the LA Times print version:
Painted Pachyderm Draws Outcry
Work by mischievous artist wins admirers and criticism from animal rights activists.
By Carla Hall and Amanda Covarrubias, Times Staff Writers
September 16, 2006
When the enigmatic British artist Banksy decided to install an elaborately painted elephant â€” a real one â€” in a warehouse southeast of downtown L.A., he drew a contingent of Hollywood admirers.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, among other stars, were spotted at the Thursday evening opening of the outsized exhibit by an artist known for graffiti-sprinkled work, acts of mischief and never appearing at his own exhibits or granting interviews.
The warehouse was decorated as a living room, complete with furniture, chandelier and the standing Indian elephant.
Cards were handed out explaining: “There’s an elephant in the room. There’s a problem we never talk about. The fact is that life isn’t getting any fairerâ€¦. 20 billion people live below the poverty line.”
Although Banksy’s real-life creation of a metaphor hyperbolic population figure included may have enchanted his fans, it drew the ire of another group, animal rights activists.
Banksy happens to have set up his exhibit in a city with a vocal animal welfare contingent, one that has spent months criticizing the L.A. Zoo’s handling of elephants and is still mourning the death three months ago of the zoo’s beloved pachyderm Gita. Activists believe that elephants, which roam miles in the wild, don’t begin to get their physical needs met in the confines of a zoo let alone a downtown warehouse.
Perhaps Banksy didn’t know this, perhaps he did or perhaps he didn’t care. Whatever the case, the artist’s employment of an elephant in a downtown warehouse had activists e-mailing one another and prompted a rebuke from a city official.
“I think it sends a very wrong message that abusing animals is not only OK, it’s an art form,” said Ed Boks, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services. “We find it no longer acceptable to dye baby chicks at Easter, but it’s OK to dye an elephant.”
Boks found himself decrying the presence of the elephant in the exhibit even though his agency had issued the two permits necessary to have the elephant there “to my chagrin,” he said. He tried late Friday to revoke the permits on grounds of public safety.
“Some of the experts I’ve talked to have told me there’s no way of predicting when an elephant will go berserk,” he said. “We want to do what’s right by the public and the animal.”
However, Boks would have to give five days’ notice to revoke the permits. And in five days, the exhibit will be gone. It is to run today and Sunday from about noon to 8 p.m.
“This situation is causing the department to rethink its permitting procedures so there will be more scrutiny, so permits will not be issued for such frivolous abuse of animals in the future,” he said.
Although people may be drawn for artistic reasons, he added, “they don’t understand what the animal is suffering. I think we’re dealing with the psychology of an animal that needs to roam over large areas of land.”
The animal appears to be looked after well. During her time “onstage,” she was fed and watered and watched over by two handlers and at least two city animal control officers.
The elephant was whisked away at 6 p.m., two hours before the exhibit officially closed, and driven back to her ranch home in Perris. She was provided by an outfit called “Have Trunk Will Travel,” which bills itself as providing “safe, educational, and recreational access” to elephants.
For the record, the elephant is named Tai. She is a 38-year-old Indian elephant. And Kari Johnson, who owns the company with her husband, Gary, said neither of them had any problems with the artist’s painting.
“Tai has done many, many movies,” said Johnson. “She’s used to makeup.”
The pachyderm works only six hours, according to staffers at the exhibit. The elephant’s floral covering is administered with nontoxic paint. The living room in which she stands is cordoned off by a picket fence.
Johnson sounded weary when asked about the criticism. “There are concerns by animal rights activist about elephants being in human care, period,” she said.
Bill Dyer, a regional director of the group In Defense of Animals, went to see the animal at the exhibit Friday afternoon.
“It didn’t seem the elephant was under stress,” Dyer said. “There were carrots and things, but it’s another example of our exploitation of animals” so gimmicky and unnecessary.”
The political statement by the artist made no impression on Dyer: “If this man is an artist, then why couldn’t he build one out of papier-mache?”
Les Schobert, a former L.A. Zoo curator who is a prominent voice in the animal rights movement, said the exhibit “degrades the elephant. Here we have an endangered species. And we’re taking it and moving it into a warehouse and painting it. It’s a mockery. There’s no reason. This isn’t a religious ceremony in India.”
Among the few hundred visitors milling about on Friday evening was Miguel Avila, 21, of La Puente, who caught the elephant before its departure.
“I think it depends on how the elephant is being taken care of,” he said. “I don’t think it was hurt but they never asked him if he wanted to be spray-painted. And I don’t think that’s right.”
The show is called “Barely Legal.” Also in the warehouse are other pieces by the artist is a sculpture of a rat brandishing a paintbrush on top of a garbage can, large pictures on walls and a graffiti adorned truck.
- YouTube Video of Saint Louis Buy Nothing Day 2002 by Aaron Michaels
- Hipster : The Dead End of Western Civilization By Douglas Haddow
- Al-Jazeera VS. CNN on Banksy's show in LA
- p3 continued...
- On Adbusters Magazine's Website
- DC Jammers
- September 3rd, 1967 - what have we learned?
- Adbusters on CNN
- Washington Post: Red, White and Golden Arches: The Star-Spangled Banner Ad
- In Adbusters Magazine Issue #51 - The Buy Nothing Day Blackspot
- Buy Nothing Day 2003
- Think Before You Buy - products by Philip Morris
- I am in the Saint Louis Post Dispatch!