Pulp Fiction Banksy
Banksy’s Pulp Fiction depicts a famous scene from the eponymous 1994 film by Quentin Tarantino. It was released in 2004 an edition of just 150 official Pulp Fiction signed and 600 unsigned prints. However, it first appeared in 2002 as a stencilled composition in the streets of London, near Old Street tube station. It was visible until 2007, until Transport for London painted over the wall, estimated at £300,000, on the grounds that the work lent an atmosphere of social decay and neglect in the capital, despite the well-known drawing art fans and tourists to the area. When the mural was covered, a local artist sprayed-painted the words “Come Back” in its place, addressed to Banksy. Banksy then re-tagged his original Pulp Fiction in exactly the same place, but this time the characters were holding real pistols and wearing banana costumes instead.
In January 2007, the late graffiti artist Ozone wrote over the new piece with the words “If it’s better next time I’ll leave it”. The 19-year-old artist tragically passed away a few days later, along with fellow artist Wants, after both were hit by an underground train in Barking, East London. Banksy created another piece over his original Pulp Fiction mural in tribute to the two young graffiti artists, depicting an angel wearing a bulletproof vest and holding a skull in his right hand. He also posted a note on his website that read “When we lost Ozone we lost a fearless graffiti writer and as it turns out a pretty perceptive art critic. Ozone – rest in peace”. The tribute mural was quickly referred to as “Ozone’s Angel”. Subsequently, Banksy’s original Pulp Fiction mural also became immediately popular, and was mass-reproduced on commercial merchandise.
The work depicts the two characters played by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in the 1994 American film Pulp Fiction. Rendered in white stencilled forms on a black background, Banksy’s version presents the protagonists Vincent and Jules, side-by-side and aiming their firearms in synchronisation. However, in a humorous and ironic twist, their pistols have been replaced by bright yellow bananas, the only touch of colour in the otherwise monochrome composition.
There are several references from popular culture in Banksy's Pulp Fiction, in addition to the obvious reference to Tarantino's cult film. The bananas used as guns are also reminiscent of Andy Warhol's iconic 1967 album cover for American rock band The Velvet Underground, which depicts a banana on a monochrome background. They also recall Monty Python's sketch “Self Defence Against Fresh Fruit”, which appeared in the episode "Owl-Stretching Time" from Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969, in which an instructor teaches a class how to defend oneself against an assailant armed with a piece of fruit. The sketch ludicrously parodies acts of pseudo-violence committed with pieces of fruit, including bananas.
Pulp Fiction first appears lighthearted, paying homage to the film and other aspects of popular culture. In fact, Banksy uses this to subversively undermine ideas of war and violence, transforming the scene into something harmless and even laughable. Pulp Fiction's has also been interpreted as a comment by Banksy on America's foreign policy, which he often overtly criticises, as also seen in the works Have A Nice Day, Applause, Bomb Hugger or Flags.