IT’S THE prank that launched a meme of many shredded images.
Last week, anonymous British graffiti-artist-slash-provocateur Banksy pulled off his art-world stunt heard round the world: remotely destroying his 2006 spray painting “Girl With Balloon” — via frame-embedded shredder — just moments after the work sold at auction at Sotheby’s for $1.4 million.
The viral, alarm-triggering stunt was viscerally satisfying on several levels to many virtual onlookers. Banksy had hoodwinked the moneyed art snobs, one narrative went — perhaps even increasing the work’s value in the process — while also calling into question the assigned worth of a work. (The trick even inspired a website where you can upload any image to look like it’s getting shredded, Banksy-style.)
To some artists, though, the prank was also inspiring because the clear visual was eminently meme-ready.
"This past weekend gave us two images tailor-made for cartoonists and memes: Trump walking up the steps of Air Force One with toilet paper stuck on his shoe, and Banksy’s self-destructing art,” says J.P. Trostle, a political artist based in Durham, N.C. “The question wasn’t ‘Would people appropriate these?’ but ‘What would they project on these ready-made canvases?’
“Banksy’s use of an ‘out-of-control’ shredder tied in perfectly with the trope of Trump shredding the Constitution,” Trostle adds, “or the shredding of the reputation of Brett Kavanaugh — or Christine Ford or the Supreme Court or fill-in-the-meme — depending on your political preferences.”
There was also a very specific aspect about this work that made it meme-friendly.
“Unlike Banksy’s graffiti, which had the wall for texture and the street for context, the framed ‘Girl With Balloon’ was mostly white space on a white canvas,” says Trostle, who is also the digital editor for the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. “It was already halfway to being a blank canvas for the public.”
Here is how some other artists altered or re-created Banksy’s prank for their own editorial effect: