The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Banksy’s latest confirmed painting skewers modern cellphone addiction

Banksy’s latest confirmed painting has been spotted in Bristol, England, but this time his target is considerably closer to home than capitalism, poverty or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The painting, which the British media promptly dubbed “Mobile Lovers,” was posted to Banksy’s Web site Monday. Twenty-four hours later, several Brits — including the above tweeter — located it on a busy, partially cobbled street in Bristol, the city where Banksy got his start.

The elusive street artist, whose work frequently studies alienation through the lens of politics or class struggle, apparently fears — like many of his contemporaries! — that technology has an alienating power as well. In fact, the painting quietly echoes a short film that made the YouTube rounds last August: Titled simply “I Forgot My Phone,” it consists of a dozen or so powerfully interpersonal moments — interrupted, or at least diluted, by somebody’s smartphone. It’s been viewed more than 40 million times.

Not that this means Banksy has abandoned his political themes, of course. After all, it was Karl Marx who originally linked technology, alienation and class struggle.

“Human beings are not only dominated by the commodities they produce,” Amy Wendling wrote in her 2011 survey of Marx’s technological theories. “The very tools with which human beings labor dominate them.”