Elusive Graffiti Artist Banksy Speaks to Village Voice in NYC: Highlights

By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times
October 9, 2013 Updated: December 3, 2013

Banksy rarely gives interviews and when he does, interviewers often describe him as aloof, hard to contact. The British graffiti artist contacted the Village Voice recently while living in New York City. He is creating one new piece a day in the city throughout October in a unique art show titled “Better Out Than In.”

He told the Voice of his desire to work on the streets of New York: “I chose it for the high foot traffic and the amount of hiding places. Maybe I should be somewhere more relevant, like Beijing or Moscow, but the pizza isn’t as good.”

His work is fleeting. The work in New York has been painted over and encroached upon by other graffiti artists. He dispelled rumors that he’s defacing his own work.  “I used to think other graffiti writers hated me because I used stencils, but they just hate me,” he said. 

The pieces are accompanied by a phone number which leads to a voice recording: “What exactly is the artist trying to say here? Is this a response to the primal urge to take the tools of our oppression and turn them into mere playthings? Or perhaps it is a postmodern comment on how the signifiers of objects have become as real as the objects themselves. Are you kidding me? Who writes this stuff? Anyway . . . you decide. Please do. I have no idea.”

Banksy said the audio recording controls the time one spends looking at an image. “I read that researchers at a big museum in London found the average person looked at a painting for eight seconds. So if you put your art at a stoplight you’re already getting better numbers than Rembrandt,” he added.

In 2010, Time Out London reporter Ossian Ward met Banksy at a graffiti jam and set up an interview with him. 

Ward wrote: “Many people claim to have done so, but I have indeed met – albeit accidentally – the real Banksy, an unremarkable, medium-build man wearing glasses.”

Banksy asked Ward, “Can we just run a blank page that people can draw on?”

Regarding painting over the work of others, which Banksy has been accused of, the artist said: “I don’t buy into the idea a wall ‘belongs’ to a certain writer, or anyone else for that matter.”

‘Traditional graffiti writers have a bunch of rules they like to stick to, and good luck to them, but I didn’t become a graffiti artist so I could have somebody else tell me what to do. If you’re the type who gets sentimental about people scribbling over your stuff, I suggest graffiti is probably not the right hobby for you.”

One of the most common questions he’s been asked is whether he would say he has “sold out.” Some stars, including Brad Pitt, have paid millions for his work. Unusual for graffiti art. 

“It’s hard to know what ‘selling out’ means – these days you can make more money producing a run of anti-McDonald’s posters than you can make designing actual posters for McDonald’s.”

He said: “I tell myself I use art to promote dissent, but maybe I am just using dissent to promote my art. I plead not guilty to selling out. But I plead it from a bigger house than I used to live in.”