Art and politics have always co-mingled.
Artists have always painted, composed, or installed pieces to rail about what is going wrong and...a bit less frequently...what is going right. In that spirit, Eclair Bandersnatch is a street artist for the digital age as well as the age of deep division and fluid gender. This interview at Gizmodo got me acquainted with her work.
Bandersnatch's glittery stencil graffiti appears all over San Francisco, depicting subjects as diverse as Godzilla, Chelsea Manning, and women. Many many women, several of them portrayed with a cartoonish yet sensual, almost flapper sensibility and often in ways decidedly NSFW. One point of particular importance to Bandersnatch is Edward Snowden, as depicted in her "St. Snowden" spray stencil above. Snowden is of course the cyber expert in exile over his revelation of the NSA's domestic spying program. They spy on...well, everyone. If you've made a phone call or done absolutely anything online in the past several years, they know about it. Why does Bandersnatch find this important to her work?
"My work? They’re [Snowden et. al.] important to my life! And they should be important to everyone’s life!
"But there are still a large number of people who don’t get what the debate is all about because they aren’t able to absorb anything that is difficult or unpleasant. What I try to do is pry people’s snouts out of their phones for a minute and trick them into learning about issues with imagery and prose. People like to be entertained and they like eye candy. If something’s funny or has a flow to it, like songs do, then its much easier for it to stick in your head and its more fun to learn about, especially for short attention spans."
That's quite the herculean ambition these days, particularly when most every piece of art is conceived with commercial aims and most writing amphigory at best (yeah, I'm aware I fall into that latter category more often than not.) When an artist like Bandersnatch comes along and attempts to remind us of our wider political realities, we should sit up and take notice. Granted the stance on Snowden is controversial in many sectors, but then it would make for rather boring art and social commentary if the subject were otherwise, no? Besides, important social issues such as Edward Snowden and domestic spying require debate.
One aspect of the interview that really intrigued me was why Bandersnatch chose street and sidewalk art as her mode of expression. What does that variety of art allow her that others do not?
"What Banksy said to graffiti artists, that “all other forms of art are a step down”, it really is true. We’re showing in the largest venue in the world, the city. The drive to do this comes from the feeling of having no voice. Its an act of desperation and frustration, but through it comes an amazing release and a feeling that I am contributing and changing things. San Francisco seems to be at the center of a lot of things right now, more so than most cities I imagine. And because of that you can put a stencil of Snowden on Divisadero and have it end up on the cover of one of the largest papers in Europe overnight."
I want more artists like Eclair Bandersnatch. I want to see people use art to get us talking about the issues of the Digital Age, the ever-widening gulf between political ideologies, and human rights problems such as those facing the LGBT communities. I'll take such art any day over the bland, vapid, meaningless, so-called "narratives" spewed from TV sets and accepted into the gaping minds of many of our supposedly more intelligent citizens, gulping it all down like young puppies at their mother's teat. Yeah. Give me more like Bandersnatch.
You can check her out on Facebook. I leave you now with one of my favorite Bandersnatch works on trickle down economics
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