Just over a month after his trip to Calais where Banksy painted Steve Jobs (the Apple founder and son of Syrian refugees) on the wall of a tunnel in the “Jungle” refugee camp (read about it here) – and other works in the town including a variation on Gericault’s The Raft of Medusa, depicting a ravaged raft filled with refugees looking on at an ocean liner for help – he’s back. This time in London, at the French Embassy, to be precise.
Over the course of Saturday night an image of the young girl from Les Miserables appeared (pictured), she is depicted with a can of teargas billowing towards her. Incase the delicacies of his point are missed, as a first for the artist, this piece is interactive so you can find out the reality in the image. A QR code on the work links you to an online video of police raids that took place in the “Jungle” camp on the 5th of January. The seven minute YouTube video clearly shows CS gas (tear gas), rubber bullets and concussion grenades being used by French authorities in an overnight raid on the camp.
There were also videos and reports of the use of tear gas last Monday as police tried to create a buffer zone between the camps and the motorway. However, the police spokesperson, Steve Barbet, rejected tear gas was being used to clear the camps “It’s not in our interest to use teargas unless it’s absolutely necessary to restore public order, and it is never used in the camp itself,” he said.
Banksy’s Steve Jobs mural had been placed behind protective glass, however last week vandals tore it down and defaced it. Previously there had been reports that some camp members had put a curtain over the work and were charging a few euros for people to see it.
Banky’s dedication to human rights and highlighting where they are lacking can’t be put in to question. The left over construction from his sold-out Weston-Super-Mare success Dismaland, has so far been used in 12 dwellings, a community area and a children’s play park in the “Jungle” refuge camp – a former rubbish tip. There may be more attention on Banksy’s work these days, but we shouldn’t forget some of his other great statements, including in 2005 when he travelled to the west bank, and on the Palestinian side of the wall painted nine artworks highlighting the prison-like atmosphere of the wall. In 2008 he travelled to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, among other artworks he painted on the derelict buildings after the disaster, was one of a homeless Abraham Lincoln.
We wonder what he will draw our attention to next?