Weekend News: Banksy takes on Paris Hilton

Lost deep in my slumbers on this last golden three day weekend of summer, (or more actually struggling to come up with a garden design that is radical enough for my aesthetic... ironic that the first landscape project I've ever done is the first project in architecture grad school) I pretty much missed this story when it broke. British graffiti/street art/media jamming superstar BANKSY previously known for his amazing stencil work, illegal art installations in world famous museums, murals on the Israeli Containment Wall, and industrial re-designs has locked his sights on America's sluttiest, richest, most notorious ex-debutante.

First a quote, then my analysis:

"The secretive artist has smuggled 500 doctored copies of Paris Hilton's debut album into music stores throughout the UK, where they have sold without the shops' knowledge.

In place of Ms Hilton's bubble-gum pop songs, the CDs feature Banksy's own rudimentary compositions. On the cover of the doctored CD, Ms Hilton's dress has been digitally repositioned to reveal her bare breasts; on an inside photo, her head has been replaced with that of her dog. On the back cover, the original song titles have been replaced with a list of questions: "Why am I famous?", "What have I done?" and "What am I for?" Inside the accompanying booklet, a picture of the heiress emerging from a luxury car has been retouched to include a group of homeless people. In another shot, Ms Hilton's head has been superimposed on a shop window mannequin beneath a banner reading: "Thou Shalt Not Worship False Icons."

Instead of Ms Hilton's own compositions, the replacement CD features 40 minutes of a basic rhythm track over which Banksy has dubbed Ms Hilton's catchphrase "That's hot!" and other extracts from her reality TV programme The Simple Life.

--The Independant 03 September 2006

This is a fortuitous confluence for this mild-mannered blogger. Last autumn I actually wrote and presented a paper using Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition as the starting point for a discussion on radical attempts to retake recently privatized realms back to the public sphere. Using concepts dating to Situationist International (derive, detournement, etc...) I exposed such actions as Urban Exploration, Shop-Dropping, and graffiti as inherently public and controversial due to their inherent opposition to a hyper-capitalized, privatized culture.

And what happens?

My example of "post-graffiti radical practitioner" goes and pulls what might be the greatest shop-dropping stunt ever. (Well the Barbie Liberation Organization's operation was pretty sweet too...)

With gleeful abandon Banksy photoshopped a dog onto Paris Hilton's neck (a nice surrealist move if ever there was one) and devised an unforgettable soundtrack (download below). Banksy's questions are blunt, unforgiving, and cut through the simulacra (vapid image of pop stardom rooted in vapid stereotype of spoiled heiress) that is Hilton: Why Am I Famous? What Have I Done? What Am I For? With these three questions Banksy, who has made a career of graphical social activism under illegal to life threatening conditions, challenges not just Ms. Hilton, but her target demographic as a whole to reconnect and involve themselves within the world and focus their illusionary lives around a concrete goal of social justice.




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