3 things a missing Bansky tells us about London
It appeared overnight in 2006 in Gillett Square, Dalston. A real Bansky! Two days later, the London Borough of Hackney removed it.
There was an uproar of course. Some felt that Hackney Council had destroyed a valuable piece of public art. Some applauded the speed with which the Council had removed what they considered to be a blight on the urban landscape.
Whatever position you may take on graffiti in general or Banksy in particular, it’s clear that London’s public spaces are areas of contestation. The three props that Banksy uses; the AK 47 necklace representing violence and gang culture, the teddy bear representing childhood vulnerability and lost innocence and, the ghetto blaster representing the role of music in street culture, give us a clue to the three elements that animate Gillett Square. That is the first thing we can learn about the missing Banksy in Gillett Square.
The second thing we can learn from our missing Banksy has to do with what this artist actually depicted and how they feed our prejudices and assumptions about the space, the Square in which it was painted. When I look at the Banksy I see a young person torn between the harsh violence of the streets as represented by the golden AK47 necklace around their neck while clutching a teddy bear, also rendered in gold. This tension between childhood vulnerability and street violence is played out across London’s streets every day.
The third thing we can learn from our missing Banksy is that it has actually disappeared. In this fact. The fact of it’s not actually being there anymore and yet is still remembered lies the really amazing thing about London. It’s precarious existence mirrors precisely the situation that most of us experience about London. We all live precarious lives here. Yet London is a city that remembers itself. It is constantly being rebuilt and yet always recalling the past. London is a city that is more about what was there and now is no longer. So much of London is hidden, has been repurposed and changed.
The wall today.
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