The Discriminating Philistine (2013)

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The Discriminating Philistine (2013)

Postby Gavin » 05 May 2013, 12:10

In this recent essay Dalrymple critiques the graffiti "artist" Banksy. TD shows his usual balance, this making his criticisms of Banksy all the more devastating in my opinion: they are not easily dismissed.

TD does not emphasise, as I thought he would, that Banksy graffitis other people's property, which is a criminal offence, but perhaps that goes without saying. He also apparently objects to the sight of "armed by ineffectual" police and to copious security cameras and personally I disagree on those points. I like to see armed police and to think they will use their weapons if pushed (which they will). I also have no objection to CCTV, at least until they create proper deterrents for criminals. Countless offenders, from the Boston bombers to the Bulger killers, are caught solely because of CCTV.

Still a very good article though as we might expect and, as I say, surely powerful through its subtlety. Banksy: the overgrown teenager making mocking points while being hypocritical and being, himself, part of the problem.

Choice TD quotation: "I have known murder committed over brands of footwear". Our thread on modern art and a refreshing link to real art.
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Re: The Discriminating Philistine (2013)

Postby Andreas » 06 May 2013, 18:32

I wasn’t much aware of Banksy (or others like him, like Shepard Fairey) until seeing the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. Banksy has some talent and he is clever, but cleverness alone does not make one an artist. Yes, some of his critiques of consumer capitalism are accurate, but as Dalrymple points out, his (adolescent) rebellion is commodified; Banksy is making money from all this, and so he is just another insider posing as an outsider. He is a shrewd cartoon artist, good at publicity, but not more; there is nothing transcendent or lasting about his art. Dalrymple is spot-on in describing

the subculture that he has elected to join—that of the urban disaffected, dressed in its uniform of sneakers and hoods, resentful of its economic impotence, disdainful of refinement, enterprising only in crime, individualistic but lacking in individuality, egotistic in its imposition of its ways on others


The idea of philistinism as choosing the bad over the good (or perhaps the ugly over the beautiful) makes me think of a recent reading experience. I picked up and tried to read, but could not read, a book of stories by Will Self. His writing exudes something hard for me to put my finger on, but something nasty. There seems to be a pretence that Mr. Self, celebrated by the Guardian, is criticizing corporate capitalism or drug companies or British imperialism, but he has no real compassion for human beings (perhaps because he is not fully a human being himself?). I could not bring myself to read more than a few pages because reading Mr. Self felt like doing something morally wrong, such as taking part in torture, and that is what I think Mr. Self does and is, a manipulative and sadistic puppet-master, not a writer, selling amoral, nihilistic garbage.
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Re: The Discriminating Philistine (2013)

Postby Gavin » 06 May 2013, 19:36

I know what you mean about Will Self, Andreas.

I must admit to having bought his pretentiously titled The Quantity Theory of Insanity some years ago. I was young, he was a new writer and it was an unusually nicely published little hardback volume, almost antiquated in style. But when I started it I found the kind of prose you describe: it was very pretentious and seemed somewhat nihilistic and sullying so I stopped reading it. The book's still unread on my shelf now. I'd sell it but it's only worth 1p on Amazon and perhaps it's good to have one or two "bad books" in one's collection.
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Re: The Discriminating Philistine (2013)

Postby Mike » 07 May 2013, 07:08

Superb article. I couldn't agree more.
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Re: The Discriminating Philistine (2013)

Postby Elliott » 03 Jun 2013, 21:34

I've just read this essay. It's very good, isn't it? I like that he presents a fair, balanced appraisal of Banksy's talents; it makes me feel less guilty for occasionally admiring the wit and cleverness of Banksy's work.
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