BANKSY IS BACK
Earlier this month, Banksy returned to the streets, or this time, trains of London to make a statement regarding the COVID-19 crisis. He then posted a video on Instagram of a man, presumably himself, disguised as a cleaner, allowing him to create this piece of street art.
The post is captioned “If you don’t mask – you don’t get.” It begins with the title “London Underground undergoes deep clean”. The artistic vandalism features a handful of rats in scenarios inspired by the pandemic, from sneezing over a window to parachuting with face masks. The artist’s signature tag is also sprayed across the driver’s door of the Circle Line train in the colour of a medical face mask, by a rat wielding a bottle of what appears to be sanitizer. At the end of the video, as the doors of the tube open and close, the words “I get lockdown, but I get up again” are also seen sprayed across the train, as ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba begins to play.
The message behind this piece is clear, and stays relevant alongside Banksy’s recent creations, such as the NHS tribute or the Black Lives Matter post.
However, by the time he revealed this artwork on Instagram, it had already been removed by TfL’s (Transport for London’s) cleaning crew. A statement from TfL said that while they appreciated "the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings", as masks are now mandatory on public transport systems in London, "It was treated like any other graffiti on the network." "We'd like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location," they added.
The real question is: was the removal of the artwork planned? Tom Edwards, BBC London Transportation Correspondent, writes “Graffiti is regarded - certainly in the transport world and by many commuters - as something that contributes to a threatening, unwelcoming atmosphere.” Is it possible that Banksy, who has purposely vandalised his own artwork in the past, “knew exactly what would happen to his work by putting it inside a carriage”? With the TfL’s “strict anti-graffiti policy”, its immediate removal and cleaning may provide a message within a message for Londoners, who have flooded the streets of Soho in large crowds as pubs slowly reopen.
Wearing a mask during the pandemic shouldn’t be a political statement to begin with, but with recent developments in mind, Banksy’s disappearing artwork serves as a reminder for those who need it.
What do you think of Banksy’s work?
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