Thursday, June 24, 2010

An art film about how art films suck

I don't know what kind of press this thing is getting right now. But when I heard someone made a film about graffiti art, and that it was playing in Vancouver while I was there, I had to take a look. The long trailer tells most of the story:

But it doesn't tell the whole story. "Exit" is essentially two movies in one: the first half, as advertised, is a documentary on "street art," or really a making-of documentary about a strange French guy who was making a documentary on street art. But it takes a turn a little past halfway and becomes something different. A film about an art hoax? The film itself as an art hoax? The last half hour takes everything the rest of the film did and throws it into question. We know that graffiti art has always been hostile, at least implicitly, to established genres and forms of art: it's out on the street while they're scratching their chins in galleries. This film shows graffiti art taking on art documentary, an established form in its own right, and turning it inside out. It's amazingly well done.

It also connected a few dots for me: I didn't know, for example, that the Shepherd Fairey of those ubiquitous "OBEY" stencils is the same guy who made the iconic Obama poster for the 2008 elections (and then got sued for it). So the film also works just as a documentary, too.


  1. I read about this a week or so back...Slate of course took it to the logical extreme and questioned whether it's the death of street art. Of course, they don't answer the question...

  2. It's a sort of interesting question. I mean, I'll try not to give too much of the movie away, but I think that's implied with the last half hour, where the guy making the documentary starts "making" his own street art. He's sort of a joke, though he may be in on the joke. Anyway, I was in a boutique on Main at about 10th the other day and they had a book of Shepherd Fairey art, and another comic shop near 22nd had a Banksy book. You wonder weather the death already happened, the moment these guys got recognized as artists worthy of exhibitions and collected books, and not graffiti-ists.