There are hundreds of reasons to visit Ottawa, but my latest favourite is the Banksy 360 immersive exhibit in the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park. Banksy becomes more relevant every day as the world goes to pot and this exhibit is an entertaining and powerful reminder that we can’t just accept the status quo.
If you don’t know the artist, you’re not alone, because he is an anonymous Bristol artist. He is quoted in the exhibit: “Nobody ever listened to me until they didn’t know who I was.”
If you don’t think you know his work, you probably have at least heard of his stencil-style graffiti offending some groups and delighting others. He has travelled to New York, Palestine, Toronto, and across the United Kingdom, among many other locations, tagging structures with his ironic social commentary.
His quotes about his art are as moving if not more poignant, and the exhibition at the old “Cattle Castle” does an excellent job being informative and thought-provoking. It might be the first time that I have read every word on every panel at an exhibit, ever. After the exhibit portion, visitors were welcomed into the standard 360-degree immersive room, where audio and video further anoint viewers into Banksy’s world.
His graffiti speaks to the failings of capitalism, the damage we’re doing to the environment, the aggression of police, how we are failing the next generation, as well as his commentary on Brexit, the monarchy, poor treatment of refugees, and the conflict in Palestine. One of my favourite stencils is the youth with a cup in front of him, holding a sign that reads: “Keep your coins, I want change.”
If you still aren’t familiar with his work, a quick internet search will fill your screen with some of his most famous ones. I remember hearing about Banksy when Girl with Balloon, one of his more famous pieces of art, went to auction. A framed stencil of a young girl with a red heart shaped balloon went to action, then self-shredded, purposefully, once it was sold for $1.3 million. Since then, the shredded piece resold for over $25 million.
Showing that he walks the talk of social responsibility, the exhibit also makes us aware of Banksy’s charitable side. He says: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
The show ends with a walk through the gift shop, not long after hearing another of Banksy’s quotes: “We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime, we should all go shopping to console ourselves.” I did choose to console myself with a fridge magnet of Girl with Balloon.
My father, stepmother, son and I were able to attend on a family pass, thanks to some smart price comparisons by my stepmother. Luckily, we were in town while the Banksy exhibit was up, as other days of the week it is the Van Gogh 360.
Talking about the exhibit over lunch, my son’s favourite quote was: “I lot of people never use their initiative because no one told them to.” It’s a week later and I’m still reflecting on what I saw, read, and heard. I think it would be impossible to not be inspired or provoked by the Banksy 360 degree immersive exhibit. It’s an impactful outing, that reminds us not to get too comfortable, and that we have a responsibility to each other and to the planet.
The exhibit runs until Sept. 7. Tickets are available at https://www.showclix.com/event/banksy-360-ottawa.