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The Outlaw Cult

My latest Fairfax feature appears in tomorrow’s edition of The Age, but is already up online.  I briefly mention the Rialto BASE jumpers and D.B. Cooper, but the article mostly focuses on father of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto and Dread Pirate Roberts of Silk Road fame.  Banksy also gets a look-in, but I was originally going to say a bit more about him. I didn’t mostly because of space constraints but also a tiny bit passive-aggressively because his office never got back to me with a quote.

A rather cool Banksy pic that they used for my latest article
A rather cool Banksy pic that they used for my latest article

Anyway, so I’ve got a new blog post, here’s the stuff I cut out – and it sort of goes against the grain of the article because <<SPOILER ALERT>> it pretty much purports to reveal his identity. Maybe.

British street artist, social commentator and political activist, Banksy, differs from the other two in a couple of respects.  First, his work and fame are not completely reliant on cyberspace.  Second, we probably know who he is but have decided to turn a blind eye in favour of the myth of the anonymous bad boy with a message.

Banksy is on record as claiming he needs to maintain his anonymity because he is still, technically, a vandal.  But it seems unlikely that law enforcement would have much interest in prosecuting him when those whose property he defaces rush to preserve or carefully remove the offending material for sale at auction; others lobby him to come vandalise their walls, please. Not surprising, given that Bloomberg reported one such piece recently sold for a reported $US1.1 Million.  It is unlikely Banksy saw a cent of that.

Although he continues to provide his work for free on walls in the UK and around the world, Banksy also produces sanctioned exhibitions and directed the film Exit Through the Gift Shop. Considering the number of people who must necessarily know the identity of Banksy, it is astonishing that it has not been splashed over the Internet.  For many it would be a commercial decision to remain silent – it is unlikely his work would fetch the same sum were he unmasked.  But others describe those who know him as unfailingly, staunchly, loyal.

There’s speculation, of course, and the investigation by the UK’s Mail on Sunday culminating in a name and photograph in 2008 was pretty convincing.  In a recent unauthorised biography, Banksy: The Man Behind The Wall, the author claimed to take the moral stance of knowing, but not revealing, Banksy’s identity.  However, he wrote: “Throughout the research for this book I always told people who know him that I was not asking them to identify him.  In 2008 the Mail on Sunday produced a long investigative story by Claudia Joseph which did name him and detailed some of his family background.  Three years later they named his wife. . . The name does not appear here simply because I am honouring the commitment to people whom I asked for interviews that I would not identify him.”  Um, yeah.  Way to go at not naming him.

Nevertheless, every time a new piece appears, nearly always making a political or social statement, Banksy is described as ‘the anonymous artist’. It is likely our fascination might wane if it were otherwise.  And in that tradition, I won’t name him either.

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