r A t.
Banksy said: ‘imagine a world where graffiti wasn’t illegal… where standing at a bus stop was never boring… where the street was like a party that everyone was invited to.’
Think of the colours, the freedom, the entertainment. Think of the justice of it. And think of the architects weeping.
There’s a whole book in here, I think. But, if I tried to write it, I would use ten times the wordage with none of the succinct wit and wisdom, or eloquently profound and playful illustration of Wall and Peace. ..See? Just look at that sentence.
It’s a book that I think Caroline should have on her Important Urban Design Texts shelf at work, next to Jane Jacobs and Fifty amusing skylines (25th edition).
But the fact that Banky’s subversive, stenciled rats speak so cleverly has everything to do with context. ..And the fact that my primary adjective there was ‘clever’ rather than ‘funny’ or ‘bloody-spot-on-mate’ makes it obvious I’m a middle class bloke who got the book for Christmas and has subsequently joined the revolution by idly reading it in the bath and thinking it was marvelous, darling. Plus, I used the word ‘context’.
But it is about context. Without the mindless street clutter of signage, Banksy’s rats would have nowhere to play. Without the boundaries, we have no way to be naughty.
What fun is football on a tiny stretch of grass in a suburban cul-de-sac without the gloriously sanguine No Ball Games sign rooted quietly in one corner? No fun either way for me, but I’m not getting my own point. Or what about Mark and Lard – they were at their funniest when on Radio 1 daytime, precisely because they hated the playlist.
The designer makes effective pieces of visual communication by setting up fields to work in. Invisible grids to break out of and create dynamism. Ah, grids. Don’t get me started on grids. The grid is your friend, subversive graphic designer.
Now, the problem with packaging Bansky into a book is that it becomes a bit of a commodity and something to be consumed in the bath, rather than lived with as a piece of the human environment, challenging the human story. But I don’t care, because it’s brilliant, inspiring stuff. And the fact that my new copy now has slightly damp, wrinkled corners seems to make it slightly better to me.
But this is all something to do with Christmas.
As Banksy also said, when you are the outcast, the thrown-away and the useless of society, the rat is your rolemodel.
What is art, or design, if it communicates nothing? If it speaks for no-one? Yet the very structures we need to speak up and challenge are often the things we need to hang our message off; the very fabric of our environment the canvas of our communication.
That’s why, while we’re all rightfully trying to use Yuletide as the time to be with whatever family we can pull together around us, and take time off, and think about what matters, I’ll also be trying to remember the little baby at the centre of the Christmas story, Jesus.
Now that quaint manger painting, beautifully rendered, covers a brutal, ugly back street reality that is the genius beginning of a real inspiration.
At least to us subversive rats.
Happy Christmas day.