In case you aren't familiar with the backstory, Banksy spray painted the words "This looks a bit like an elephant" over a water tank in Los Angeles when the artist was in town to promote Exit Through the Gift Shop. To be fair, the structure did look a lot an elephant, but the artist's actions also cost the home of a displaced man named Tachowa Covington. With so much attention on his makeshift home from Banksy fans, Covington was forced to relocate. Subsequently, Banksy swooped in and gave the man enough money to fend for a year.
It's a crazy story, to be sure. That's why playwright Tom Wainwright decided to turn it into a play that just hit theaters this month.
"There was something of a land-grab on Tachowa's story," Wainwright told The Guardian. "Here's a guy who doesn't know who Banksy is, who's made something for himself and is perfectly happy. Then, not only does his home get taken away, everyone wants to know his story." In Wainwright's play, Covington is played by actor Gary Beadle, who's shown sneaking back into the tank with a video camera to record and share the events on Youtube.
Though Wainwright's intention is to show Covington's side of the story, it's ironic in that it also appropriates and commodifies Covington himself, The Guardian points out. Even Wainwright acknowledges it.
" ... However well intentioned we are and however much consent we have from Tachowa, we are still part of that grab on him and his story. That's unavoidable," the playwright admits.
Thus it's worth rethinking Banksy's message on the now famous water tank. Sure, it says something seemingly meaningless and trite, but what if Banksy was really trying to comment on the realities of the homeless? Better yet, what if Banksy somehow foresaw all of this, and this is his way of making a statement on how everybody appropriates everyone else in both the realm of art and the world in general? Mind blown.
[via The Guardian]