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September 13, 2006



The thing about Guantanamo Bay I’m most curious about now is when they will install the monorail.

Last week,  Wooster Collective hosted the latest contribution from guerilla artist, Banksy.  If you’re not familiar with his work, it’s well worth your time.  A few years back, I featured a couple examples (1, 2) — and I still regret not having covered his absolutely brilliant alteration of the Israel-Palestine separation wall (here and here) a year ago.

Banksy’s latest venue is none other than Disneyland — originally, an amusement park in Southern California, but now, the reality machine for the reformulation of U.S. political history.  Ranking right up there with the Yes Men’s recent hijacking of the Homeland Security Department, this elegantly simple subterfuge involved the placement of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner inside the Rocky Mountain Railroad ride.  (Here’s the BBC story, and you can see more images here.)

Done well, irony is endlessly robust.  I’d be writing until the bars in Barcelona opened in the morning (serving up all those pasteles and croissants) to provide you a fuller list of associations.  Instead, here are a few that strike me right off:

– Obviously, America has made a full return to prairie justice.

– The scene bears witness to the refashioning of “American progress.”  At one time, the locomotive ushered in a new era of American capacity and vision.  Apparently, the (so-named) war on (undefined) terrorism has come to symbolize our bold leap into modernity.

–  Are the Gitmo detainees simply prisoners, or — like the doll behind the fence — are they actually a perverse amusement attraction?  (And, because the photo puts the viewer inside with him, are the American people — along with the reporters who document this political theatre every day– trapped inside, as well?)

– Love the cross.  Is that a warning to the evil doers about where they’ll end up, or is just part of the mission statement?

I’m getting off the ride here, but I leave you to locomote around this new classic of Americana.

(hat tip: Jacob)

(image: Banksy via Wooster Collective.  Los Angeles.  September 2006)

  • black dog barking

    Disney style theme parks are 3D cartoons; a veneer of the wild, exotic, and exciting draped over a safe and very very clean space. Brilliant viral infection, 3D political cartoon. Shades of the Freeway Blogger.
    From the other images link:

    The sculpture, consisting of an inflatable doll dressed in an orange jumpsuit with its hands and feet manacled remained in place for one and a half hours before Disneyland’s security staff shut down the ride and removed it amid fears over public safety.

    Why does Disney invoke public safety? In the plainest of terms this is a simple act of vandalism. Are they saying it is better for the paying public to worry about personal safety than to spend the teeniest moment pondering Disney’s public embarrassment?
    Following the artist’s planted suggestion, thinking about the conditions at Gitmo, the security overkill with harnesses and hoods and most maximest Hannibal Lecter restraint systems sells the idea these are the most devious blackest belt super criminals the world has ever seen. Old laws aren’t good enough, checks and balances are restraints that hinder the best efforts of President Bush. The failure to catch Bin Laden is *NOT* the fault of Bush’s administration, people like FEMA’s Michael DeWayne Brown. He did a heckava job.

  • margaret

    The wonderful thing about satire is that it is non-violent and packs a greater punch than the uninspired aggressiveness attendant upon most protest actions. Just think, if the Palestinians, foe instance, could use such a thing to make their enemies blanch, it would make the Middle East chaos sort itself out into the ridiculous, futile piles that it’s made of.

  • thom

    This Banksy cat is brilliant. I wish I had the balls to do what he does.
    Whether you agree or not with the “war on terror” the image of the prisoner with a bag over his head and his arms stretched out is what will remain from this BushCo. nightmare.

  • Rafael

    Looking at the pictures from the Wall, I’m reminded of two movies, Escape from New York and its sequel Escape from L.A. In the first movie, NYC is turned into a gigantic open air prison, where prisoners are left to their own devices, much like the Likud goverment has done the Palestinians. In the second movie, the walls arise around the United States, turning the prison inside out, walls that keep the “others” out, but also keep Americans in, much like the proposed wall along the Mexico-U.S. border.
    They might work, but at what price?

  • Keir

    Everybody is talking about Banksy lately. Wonderful work, he does. But the attention reminds me of the story of a wise man who admonishes the students who stare at his finger, saying “I’m pointing at the moon; look at the moon, not at my finger.” The work documented above points at the international gulag system the Bush Administration has set up and the rest of us have allowed to operate. That, and not Banksy, is what should be under the microscope. Anyway…
    “Obviously, America has made a full return to prairie justice.” Yes. Good. True. Not just in the superficial way (a wannabe cowboy puppet of a president raised on the work of the cowboy actor-turned-politician, talking cowboy talk every now ‘n again). The US government’s attitudes towards other governments and towards mega corporations, its disdain for international law and rejection of universalism of any kind has resulted in a “planetary frontier-land” (Zygmunt Bauman, Society Under Siege) in which “lonely gunslingers” (i.e. non-state terrorists) and “cattle barons” (state terrorists) recognize as given only the others’ right to exist. The chaos, insecurity, and precarity of the current global situation is deliberately encouraged by unaccountable self-serving rat bastard pseudo-cowboys blissfully cognizant of the way every last one of us is an anonymous and expendable extra in their latest feature.

  • noen

    I don’t know where to put items for comment but here is one I think you should take a look at:
    Vogue fascist chic
    State Of Emergency
    Vogue Italia September 2006
    Hilary Rhoda & Iselin Steiro

  • Al Shaw

    yes, i like banksy, but what is so brilliant about his separation wall boundaries? i don’t know if you noticed, but in one of those photos, there is another graffito– a scrawled machine gun with some arabic next to it. that’s more the reality of what would happen if the barrier was taken down. why are you so easily swept blindly into left-wing rhetoric?

  • Keir

    I don’t know if the above comment by Al Shaw dignifies a response, but what is the reality exactly of a graffito with a machine gun and Arabic text? Arabic is a language, so benign, unless you would like to suggest otherwise. Would it make a difference if English or Spanish or Chinese or Hebrew were scrawled next to the machine gun? Violence is violence, and the wall is illegal, period. Shame.

  • Rafael

    Or is still happening, even with the wall up, I mean the Israeli goverment created the wall, has put it up and yet continue to go after the elected Palestinian leadership and institutions. If the wall works, why not leave the Palestinians alone? Unless the wall, by itself would work both ways, trapping both Israelis and Palestinians in an IDF made and maned prison.

  • Chris

    I really love what Banksy does and this was a good political “prank”.
    Less “current affairs” but more in keeping with the whitewashing of history I kind of wish he would have put a pile of dead “coolies” there to educate the train passengers about who was sacrificed to get those tracks through the Colorado mountains.

  • ummabdulla

    Banksy’s elephant provokes anger
    The elephant was intended to represent world poverty

  • coal_train

    Satire is the best weapon against propaganda and other forms of psychological warfare. It strips away the authority and emotional violence of the images used against us.

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