Guardian environment editor Damian Carrington has started an interesting conversation about “the balance between impact and taste in environmental campaigns.” The topic surfaced in regards to a controversial image that’s currently up for auction by renowned British graffitti artist Banksy. The image depicts Disney’s Jungle Book characters “awaiting execution against a backdrop of clear-felled devastation.” It was apparently featured on Greenpeace billboards and leaflets around the UK in 2002 and again recently for the group’s forest campaign, despite raising copyright concerns. But as Carrington points out, the bigger concern for activists is whether an image can go too far.
In the last year or so, there’s been Plane Stupid’s polar bears falling from the sky, the government’s bedtime stories TV ads, the images of shanty towns around Buckingham Palace, and, of course, the exploding children in 10:10’s notorious short film.It’s clear that involving children in campaign films or images requires very careful thought. Does that apply to much-loved cartoon characters, who in this Banksy image appear to be lined up for beheading? I’d be interested in your thoughts.
Most of the commenters seem to find little fault with Banksy’s image. I tend to agree, as it humanizes the issue of deforestation in way that is unfortunately necessary for most people to understand its importance. It also has the side benefit of prodding a major corporation to think about the issue. As a Greenpeace representative noted, somewhat humorously:
Our letters to the company urged them to consider the reality of rainforest destruction, and how their characters might help raise awareness of this issue. Their concern for the environment didn’t stop them threatening ‘further action’, sadly.
What do others think? When has a protest image gone too far? Can anyone cite examples?
The immediate one that comes to mind was created by the Russian art collective Voina earlier this year. They painted a 65-metre erect penis on a drawbridge in St Petersburg, facing the city headquarters of the federal security service FSB. Ironically, Banksy is in the midst of donating £80,000 to Voina to help two of its members, who are in prison awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism.
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I don’t see the problem here. The purpose of this kind of artwork is to challenge ideas and preconceptions – to shine a light into the perpetual gloom of ignorance.
To achieve this you have to grab peoples’ attention and arguably the quickest way to do that – bearing in mind we live in the age of the short attention span – is to shock them.
One of the easiest ways, in turn, to do that is to use context – in this case to take familiar and harmless characters and place them entirely out of context in an unfamiliar and dangerous situation.
Ultimately, when using art as a political statement, if it doesn’t shock and offend at least some people… what’s the point? If people can look at it and then shrug it off and forget about it, then the complacency remains and nothing changes.
On the other hand, if people are shocked, the image will remain in mind and conversations such as this one can and will begin.
My advice is consider any unsolicited advice having a grain of salt. If you have not ask for suggestions from someone pay no attention to it. People have a tendency to wish to usually voice their thoughts even when not ask for or wanted. Attempt to recognize that their opinions, thoughts, ideas and advice doesn’t matter.. all that matters is what you believe about your self. Even if it is somebody you love really much and they advice you about some thing that make you feel bad, inform them how it makes you feel and why. If you ask somebody for advice and also you do not like the things advised, you’ll just need to take it and do with it that which you want. Except it or let it go. It is always your call what to accomplish with anyones suggestions. Most individuals don’t mean to hurt your feelings. They truly think what they’re telling you is inside your greatest interest. Just think of it like that and do that which you would do anyway regardless of points they say.
heaven forbid that art be controversial.. whatever next!?
and let’s face it.. this is about as tame as popular cutting edge art gets