Stop and Search Banksy
The screen print Stop and Search by Britain’s now-legendary « guerilla » street artist Banksy was released in 2007 as a limited edition of 500 signed prints which are all numbered and signed with blue crayon. Unlike most of Banksy’s works, Stop and Search was never painted in the street.
The artwork combines a reference to the well known film The Wizard of Oz with Banksy’s typical sense of humour : it shows Dorothy, the central character of the Wizard of Oz, along with her dog Toto, being searched by the police.
Stop and Search is a monochrome screen print which only shows three characters. It displays the recognisable protagonist Dorothy, wearing her iconic blue gingham pinafore dress, her Cairn Terrier dog and a police officer wearing blue latex gloves, the only coloured element of the composition. The scene shows the police officer searching through Dorothy’s iconic basket, in which Toto usually sits.
Dorothy Gale is a famous character known by people of all ages. From L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels to the 1939 film adaptation, the character of Dorothy represents traditional and idealistic moral values. She is an archetypal innocent, harmless young girl who originally runs away from home in search of a better place. The dog that accompanies her represents faithfulness and companionship. On their journey back home, they are introduced to the wonders and magic of Oz and meet several fantastic characters. In Banksy’s artwork, Dorothy and Toto are stopped and checked by an officer as if they hide of some sort of contraband.
The scene is a depiction of the stop and search policy, which allows a police officer to stop and search a person without suspicion, and which is very common in both the UK and the US for example. By using such an innocent and naive character, Banksy shows that even the seemingly virtuous Dorothy is not safe from being controlled by the state. This accentuates the absurdity of the search itself. The screen print Stop and Search can also be seen as a reference to immigration in which an innocent and harmless character, with a few belongings, seeking a better quality of life, is being checked and may possibly be prevented entry.