Hot on the heels of the Adelaide premiere of Banksy’s “Exit through the Gift Shop” I had the opportunity to interview Adelaide street artist James Dodd following his recent exhibitions at the Canberra’s National Portrait gallery and CCAS.
Q: What were your thoughts on Exit through the Gift Shop?
A: Very funny, a good take on the state of the art world. Good look at the history of street or graffiti art and the way these artists operate. Its is also a disturbing insight into the unique men that are Thierry Guetta and Banksy. It supports my view that street art doesn’t really belong in a gallery it is supposed to be democratic, for the people. Street art should be amongst us not remote or isolating or within the confines of a museum. Street art in a gallery is no longer street art, it is out of context and I would feel uncomfortable having my street art within a gallery.
Q: So as someone who exhibits their work in galleries where do you draw the line and make the distinction between what belongs in the street and what is in a gallery?
A: I remember in 2001 there was the “Stencil Movement” which led to the transition from Street to Gallery by artists engaging in this dual but parallel practice and was exemplified in the film. I think it is important to separate the two from each other. I personally view my street art as strictly fun, entertaining and for everyone whereas my gallery art I take much more seriously. Some people have different names, for their street versus gallery persona in order to maintain that separation. I too have a street name.
Q: When did you become interested in graffiti?
A: Growing up in Adelaide, in 1998, I first noticed street stickers by an artist named SYNC. I was excited by the fact that they would just magically appear and seemed to be everywhere. Stencils as well.
Q: I read somewhere that a Banksy street piece in Melbourne got inadvertently painted over by the council and as a result legislation has been pushed through by the Melbourne City Council (MCC) to ensure that significant art is now protected. So when does graffiti stop being vandalism?
A: The word graffiti encompasses a broad spectrum of subgenres from what may be considered vandalism to tagging, stencilling etc. and use of that word may be problematic with the reality of this art form. As for the painting over of Banksy’s work I think the notion of trying to protect a piece of street art just draws more attention to it which is to its detriment. It is supposed to be subversive and part of the landscape and if you place a piece of Perspex over it, this will only invite an element that may wish to destroy it. I think Banksy would agree that his works are not necessarily meant to last, more like a statement of its time and artificially prolonging their life may defeat the purpose of their meaning. MCC is progressive and means well but the bureaucracy of such an organisation may see the right “business” hand not knowing what the left “culture” hand is doing. However compared to my hometown, the Adelaide City Council (ACC) has traditionally had a lzero tolerance of graffiti which has been the death of this culture compared to the vibrancy in Melbourne. I believe the ACC may have seen the error in their ways and may be softening their policy.
Q: Exit through the gift shop – Hoax or True?
It’s definitely not a Mokumentary. I have met Mr Brainwash aka Thierry Guetta at the “Cans” Festival in 2008. He is very in your face with his camera. I think he is psychological disturbed which I personally don’t believe is good for the street art scene. TJ: But is Mr Brainwash just a manifestation of Banksy his gallery persona? JD: No I believe he is real and produces the art work and justs pumps it out in order to be successful.
Q: Comments on Banksy?
A: Banksy is successful as he uses image based graffiti rather than the early forms of text. This is the cornerstone of his success as his art is able to be accessible to everyone and transcends language and culture which just tagging is not able to achieve.
There you have it from the man that has met Mr Brainwash aka Thierry Guetta. I still have my doubts but go see the movie and judge for yourself. Exclusive at Mercury Cinema only till 14 June 2010
To view James Dodd’s work and keep updated with his exhibition at Samstag Museum next year check out http://www.james-dodd.com