This weekend was the third edition of Dart, a contemporary art documentary film festival, “The world of contemporary art through the eyes of cinema”. Although I only caught the three below, the entire programme looked excellent and the design of the promo materials/festival identity alone was enough to make you want to go and watch something. This kind of thing is one of the reasons I love living in Barcelona!
The Man Who Stole Banksy (Marco Proserpio, 2018)
This is a little gem of a film. It touched on the impact of Banksy on graffiti artists in the West Bank, but became so much more than this, taking in the very local politics of the city and the region, but also really opening it out to much broader global questions about the commercialisation of art.
In 2007, Banksy and some other street artists visited Bethlehem to put some pieces on the atrocious wall that now divides the Palestinians and the Israelis [will humanity never learn??!!]. Using this as a starting point and focus, the film branches out to explore street art’s relationship to both the art world and the communities where it’s created.
Can street art be taken from its context and displayed in a gallery? Is it important to preserve the original works or is it by its nature ephemeral, never intended to last? Who’s allowed to cash-in on public art?
The film didn’t come to any conclusions, but did an excellent job of including all sorts of contributors and viewpoints.
Barbara Rubin and the Exploding NY Underground (Chuck Smith, 2018)
Avant-garde filmmaker Barbara Rubin was a key figure in the underground arts scene in New York City in the 1960s. She was mates with, and influenced, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg… She made some radical experimental films, introduced important artists of her generation to each other, then dropped it all and joined an orthodox Jewish community.
So an interesting woman, and a well-made biography of her. It was a standard talking-heads style historical documentary, including interviews with close friends, as well as examples of her work, lots of stuff from the archives. I didn’t really get a good sense of her, though. Despite all the research and people she knew really well talking about her (she was a bit of a wonderful mystery to them, perhaps), somehow, for me, she remained a distant character from times past.
War of Art (Tommy Gulliksen, 2019)
We follow a group of European (and one Chinese) artists on a cultural art exchange trip to North Korea. Just getting a bit more of an insight into such a closed society was fascinating, although there weren’t an enormous amount of surprises. The country comes across like you’d expect to see it through our democratic, individualistic lens: mass conformity, obedience and national pride/propaganda that is just so alien to us. I’m not sure anyone involved was changed by the experience or learned to see the world from the others’ perspective – it would be interesting to see a follow-up! – but it was an admirable attempt to build bridges.