“Exit Through the Gift Shop”
Street Art and its Quest for Authenticity
Mid-Term Documentary Film Paper
Documentary Film as a Liberal Art: LB-456
Exit Through the Gift Shop is a British documentary film directed by the anonymous English-based street artist Banksy. It was released in 2010 and premiered at the 2010 Sundance film festival which was nominated for the academy award for best documentary film feature. It tells the story of a French Immigrant; Thierry Guetta, who is absolutely obsessed with filming every waking moment of his life. Through a chance encounter with his cousin, who is the street artist Invader, Guetta begins to become fascinated with filming the subculture of street art and begins to follow around many street artists including Shepard Fairey. Guetta eventually crosses paths with the infamous Banksy, with the intention of creating a documentary about street art. As the film progresses Guetta eventually becomes a street artist himself and becomes famous basically overnight. Banksy uses this film to contribute to the conversation about art and authenticity. I feel the larger human situation around this film is about street art and its quest for authenticity. Banksy feels as though that Thierry Guetta’s art isn’t authentic and Guetta’s entry into the street art world was based on copying his own work and the many street artists’ that he followed. This raises the question of: Is Thierry Guetta considered an authentic street artist? I will be examining this question through the lens of three liberal arts disciplines, namely expressive arts, psychology, and anthropology.
The first half of the film is a stimulating montage of the subculture of street art. We see a montage of short video clips showing street artists hard at work displaying their art around the city to the tune of “Tonight The Streets Are Ours” by Richard Hawley. This song choice by the filmmaker could be a great metaphor for street artists’ claiming their territory by plastering their art everywhere they can mostly at night so that they are more hidden and have less risk of getting caught. Guetta’s recordings provide a glimpse into the uncontrollable underground street art subculture movement. Guetta’s documentary was shaping up to be the authentic inside story of the birth of the street art movement starring the biggest figures in the street art world but as the film progresses, Thierry Guetta becomes a street artist himself and calls himself “brainwash”. Guetta never even knew how to do any of the street art that he has been filming for a while and almost seemingly overnight comes up with an art style and drawing of him holding a camera. According to Banksy, actual street artists take years to develop their style and Guetta seemingly copy’s the work of Banksy by plastering his one drawing that he created all over town just like how Banksy and all the other artists did. The film gave me goose bumps throughout when it showed how authentic useless...