Angry Robot

Libertarian or Rapper? Take the Quiz

I did pretty well, but I know some of the lyrics. Not the Ayn Rand ones though. (via What a Day That Was)

Joshua Allen Interview

I’ve been following JA for about 10 years – great to see him being so extra-awesome these days

Exit Through the Gift Shop: Hoax?

Something’s been bugging me for a while: is Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop a hoax or not? I saw the film when it came out and loved it. I heard some rumblings questioning its authenticity, but didn’t think too much about it. While I was in Windsor, a bunch of the artists went to see it, and most didn’t like it. Their reason, more often than not, was that it was a self-celebrating fake documentary. So there were a few discussions about what exactly might have been faked – but no one knew for sure.

For those who haven’t seen it and don’t want to, a quick SPOILERIFFIC! summary: Thierry Guetta is a Frenchman who owns a clothing store in LA and obsessively videotapes everything he does. He becomes interested in street art and before long he is following first one artist, then another, finally meeting and filming Banksy (who appears in shadows and voice-modulated). When Banksy asks Thierry to see the film he is working on, Thierry – who had no interest in editing a film, only shooting – hacks together a clump of shit. Banksy suggests that Thierry (who by now is doing his own street art under the name Mr. Brainwash) should concentrate on getting a show together, and Banksy will take over the documentary. The talentless Thierry mortgages his life to hire minions to produce an extravaganza of bad art, but nonetheless after an LA Weekly cover story and other press, the art world gets caught up in the hype and the works sell by the truckload for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You can understand the suspicions. Banksy is known for pranks. His identity is still unknown. Counterfeiting seems a theme of his: the film mentions a stack of fake ten-pound notes he threw into a crowd. And of course the story of Mr. Brainwash seems too outlandish to be true.

Where, then, was the locus of the hoax (or hoaxus, if you will)? The following are possible:

These are all ideas floated in one review or another of the film. After casting about on google for a while, all I can find are reviews, which all sound pretty similar. Here’s the new film, Banksy blah blah, it may be a hoax, but maybe not, anyway, here’s what I think of the film (most like it – the consensus review might be, “it could be a hoax, but who cares? It’s a good film.”)

So we have something here about the cynicism of critics – or alternately, their laziness. Everyone is willing to say it “may” be a hoax, but no one is willing to say definitively that it is or not, because that would take actual work. We might have to figure out whether Thierry exists (he does), whether the LA Weekly cover story happened (it did). Or, we might have to talk to one of Thierry’s employees (no, I’m not going to go that far).

I suppose it makes sense – film critics aren’t investigative journalists, and there isn’t much of a call for that sort of work in an arts context. But it reminds me of After Last Season – everyone’s quick to jump to the hoax conclusion as a defensive stance, since if we believe it’s a hoax, we won’t be revealed to be gullible or naive. We can be revealed to be cynical, but that’s not much of a knock these days.

Interesting little quote from Shepard Fairey to do with the whole affair:

I asked Fairey directly whether Mr. Brainwash was a hoax devised by Banksy. “I swear to god that’s not the case,” he said. “Banksy may not want me to say that but no, it’s not.”

Hoaxists aren’t going to buy that line, of course. But I love the idea that Banksy wouldn’t want him to say that. Banksy wants to encourage the hoax rumour – it’s essentially part of the film’s publicity.

That’s an astonishing thing in and of itself: the creator of a documentary wants his film to be thought of as a hoax. Documentary is a tough category to define, but any definition will include the idea that these films make truth claims. So are we in some strange new era when truth-dealers want to disguise their work as fiction? Or is Banksy just being honest, since it is a hoax? I’d like to argue that his desire for his film to be considered a hoax makes it more likely it’s not, but let’s be frank – what he wants is controversy. “Is it real or not? Decide for yourself” becomes the implied marketing tagline.

Let’s step back for a second. If Thierry is real and Mr Brainwash did have a show in 2008 at which his work sold for hundreds of thousands apiece, what difference does the hoax make?

Perhaps Banksy and/or Fairey created and/or oversaw the creation of all of the Brainwash art. But part of the point in the film is that Thierry didn’t make the art himself, he hired people to do it according to his orders. No matter who ‘created’ it, it’s clearly mass-produced bad art that nonetheless became hugely popular on the art market by exploiting the ‘street’ aesthetic and reputation. A hoax was carried out no matter what: bad art was foisted on the art market.

Both Banksy and Fairey lent their names to the Brainwash enterprise. Banksy lent a quote to the Brainwash marketing materials, and it’s fascinating in this context: “Mr. Brainwash is a force of nature… and I don’t mean that in a good way.” Fairey DJed the opening night. So Banksy and Fairey’s support is the case whether hoax or not. Is there something else that they could have done to guarantee the success of Mr. Brainwash? Other than bidding up the price of the art (which of course in and of itself wouldn’t prove a hoax), no. The fact that the art world was unable to see through the hype is not in dispute, and that’s the important part of this story.

This may sound like “who cares if it’s a hoax or not,” and perhaps it is. I don’t think that phrase holds true in general, but in this case, given the limited scope of the possible hoax, I think it does.

What’s perhaps even more fascinating is that the hoax possibility presents a bizarre reverse hoax. If Banksy or even Fairey created the Mr Brainwash art, then the work is worth considerably more than what people paid for it. Similarly, one of Banksy’s counterfeit ten-pound notes now goes for £200.

Lobbying from the private prison industry helped drive Arizona immigration law

Rob Ford and a decade of controversy

“What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later, you’re going to get bitten. And every year we have dozens of people that get hit by cars or trucks. Well, no wonder. Roads are built for buses, cars and trucks. Not for people on bikes. And my heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.” And so much more. Great job, Toronto!

Facebook, Adobe, Disney, Sony — Apple takeover rumors ignite

there is no source to the rumour other than a bunch of analysts realized Apple has enough cash in the bank to buy some pretty enormous companies.

U.S. Kindle bestsellers outselling print versions

quite a stat.

PSP2 Hits Next Fall With Dual Analog Sticks, Touch Pad and Bigger Screen

This sounds a little crazy. Touch pad on the back, not a touch screen?

Terrorist Motel to Replace Ground Zero Mosque?

excellent proposal (via)

A Funkaoshi Production :: Chennai (and a day trip) — Feb 1st – Feb 6th

The last leg of Ram’s trip to India. God damn I love this writing style. I could read a novel like this.

The Myth of Charter Schools

takedown of “Waiting for Superman” and its endorsement of charter schools

Socrates – a man for our times

pretty good overview of why Socrates is awesome.

NASA's Puffin: Your Personal Aircraft?

Yes motherfucking please. So cool. (Thanks, anonymous link benefactor!)

Game Idea Generator

A game with Eating and Hooks. / A game with Bubbles and Swallowing and Math.

This Rocking Lead Singer is a 3D Hologram

surely not the first time a fake /composite pop star became popular. Monkees, Milli Vanilli, Gorillaz…

First Look: 11.6-inch MacBook Air

as I expected, I’m lusting after this thing. Wish I had a reason to buy one, but I don’t.

The Social Network

The Social Network does what it does to perfection – it makes a thriller out of a heap of code. It pays attention to the details. It treats the characters even-handedly.

But it fails at one big thing. The big topic is of course Facebook, and the site is far from a main character in this story. We catch glimpses only; the odd screenful. The blue glow on Zuckerberg’s face as he writes code.

A few months back a few private IMs of Zuckerberg’s circulated. One contained the following:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask.
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don’t know why.
Zuck: They “trust me”
Zuck: Dumb fucks.

Another went as follows:

Zuck: So you know how I’m making that dating site
Zuck: I wonder how similar that is to the Facebook thing
Zuck: Because they’re probably going to be released around the same time
Zuck: Unless I fuck the dating site people over and quit on them right before I told them I’d have it done.

These show how restrained Sorkin and Fincher actually were in their depiction of the man. I mean, it’s just the kind of black humour all of us practise in private with our friends. But it’s the sort of thing that can become public all too easily nowadays, thanks to this brave new world we live in, thanks to services like Facebook.

Facebook and its ilk have changed how we communicate, what we mean by friendship, what we consider public and private, what we know about each other. They have changed our society fundamentally.

The film does not explore this at all. It does present the simple irony of a friendless man creating the world’s largest social networking site, but that’s it.

So it’s a real missed opportunity. The direction they did take this project – a docu-drama thriller, along the lines of All the President’s Men – also steers the ample public discussion of the film almost exclusively towards the issue of its veracity. Is that what the characters were like, is that the correct sequence of events, etc. There is some consideration of morals and ethics, but the techology’s impact on society gets next to no attention.

Does that make it a bad film? I’m not sure. On the one hand, I don’t believe you can criticize a film for not being something it didn’t try to be. On the other hand, if the significance of the subject matter is lost on the creators, how good a job did they do?

Canada has the priciest cell phone plans in the world

slightly above the US. What costs $67.50 here would cost $34.05 in Sweden or $13.50 in Hong Kong

David Foster Wallace: On Fear of Ridicule, Irony

irony “is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage”

Mark Zuckerberg tells the biggest difference between “The Social Network” and what actually happened

MacBook Air update rumors spike ahead of Apple event

let’s hope for a new Air. I’ve always lusted after it, but it’s so pricey.

Scientists suggest that cancer is purely man-made

because it basically didn’t exist before the industrial revolution.

Brother André: The Rocket Richard of miracles

fascinating profile of the man who will become a saint on sunday. Also see this article about a doctor and “atheist who believes in miracles” who works to evaluate miracles for the Vatican.

Documentaries Get Even Harder to Define

A. O. Scott considers the heterogeneity of the genre that contains “Catfish” as well as “Waiting for Superman” as well as “Jackass 3D”. That’s one of the things I love about documentary.

MovieReshape: Tracking and Reshaping of Humans in Videos

Algorythm automatically adds / subtracts height, weight, muscles – total craziness. Expect a lot of actors to really let themselves go now. (via)