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Mixed Media, 2019
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Banksy's Banksy™ Ultra HD TV artwork features a boy catching a snowflake on a 55-inch color TV canvas. It critiques society's tech and TV obsession and its impact on our lives. Released via Banksy's 2019 Gross Domestic Product, it was advertised as "perfect for the snowflake generation".
This painting of a boy opening his mouth to catch a snowflake is an unusual work of art in that its canvas is a 55 inch colour TV. While it may still be functional, the original description on Gross Domestic Product stated, somewhat ironically, that ‘viewing will be impaired’. If the medium is indeed the message then we can see this work as a wry comment on our late capitalist society in which TV dominates much of our lives, with the so called ‘snowflake generation’ being held in the thrall of endless box sets provided by streaming services whose interest is to keep us on our sofas for as long as possible. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said recently, ‘Sleep is my biggest enemy.’ With this in mind the snowfall the little boy is so happily greeting with open arms can be read as TV static, recalling the now bygone age of analogue television when we only had a handful of channels and no guarantee of being able to watch any of them. In this way Banksy manages to turn what should be a charming scene into a dark mirror of our society, capitalising on nostalgia and empathy to convey his message of warning about the modern trappings of technology.
This is something Banksy comes back to again and again, with works that feature drones, CCTV cameras and iPods in order to highlight the control technology has over our lives. With this work he cleverly unites medium and message to create a strikingly contemporary artwork that both recalls his classic stencilled street art style and allows the collector to bring it into his own home.
The work was originally launched as part of Gross Domestic Product, Banksy’s ‘homewares’ venture which opened for business as an online shop in October 2019 accompanied by a temporary showroom full of Banksy™ products in Croydon, South London. Upon hours of the showroom appearing, GDP went viral, attracting thousands of comments from fans who hailed the project to make his work affordable as proof that he was a true artist of the people while critics approached the stunt with a great deal of skepticism.
While the shop was in part inspired by a desire to make his work accessible, by opening GDP Banksy was also cannily maintaining control over his brand which had been threatened by a greeting card company who was attempting to trademark his name. With this work and others on GDP, Banksy is both deriding and becoming part of the very machinations of a society in which art becomes a commodity along with TV.
'Perfect for the snowflake generation, a 55 inch colour TV with a big Banksy on it. Which is totally fine from an art point of view, but does substantially impair viewing quality.' - Gross Domestic Product.
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