Brainwashed? Pas moi, merci quand-meme
So I'm back from holidays for 22 hours or so when I find myself face to face with the hero of Banksy's first foray into filmmaking, Mr. Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta. Like everybody slightly famous who wants to be more so, Guetta is here for TIFF, though there's no star-making silver screen turn for the feckless videographer, whose opportune bumbling lead to his creating perhaps the greatest video archive of seminal street art imagineable. No, he's here in his incarnation as an artist himself, at the festival's behest.
Even after speaking with him, I'm not exactly sure what he's doing here, though he spent today installing a bunch of life-sized Mountie mannequins along Roy Thomson Hall's red carpet. With them, Guetta's seven 8-foot tall spray cans, each representing a different film genre, line the carpet as well.
Anyway. I'm not the first to suggest the entire Mr. Brainwash persona is a ruse by none other than Banksy himself, but having seen him up close and in person, I'm convinced of it. What I'm not entirely convinced of, though, is that Guetta is in on the joke. He's utterly guileless and remarkably, sincerely sweet-seeming, in that way that only the French can be (he moved to LA from Paris when he was 15, but still has a thick-as-moloasses Parisian accent.)
Mr. Brainwash may have been created by the Banksy hype machine for his own sociological pranksterish purposes -- and I have no doubt he was -- but like Frankenstein's monster, the creation has broken free from its creator's intent and is now running amok in the real world. There's a reason so many believe that the art career of Mr. Brainwash is pure contrivance, and if you go to see Brainwash's show at Gallery One in Yorkville, you'll see what I mean.
To my eye, Banksy's gone a little too far for anyone to reasonably believe Brainwash's facile, banal oeuvre -- cringe-inducing Warhol knock-offs, sunny, uninflected Banksy copies -- could be a sincere project. Then again, Guetta certainly seems to, and stalwart commitment coupled with childlike enthusiasm can be very convincing -- and, for those who have spent millons on Brainwash works, really is -- even set against a complete and utter void of talent. But like Brainwash says, "What it is to us to judge, what is art and what is not art? " Ah, right. Pardon me.