the split. “I wanted to clear up the rumours of us fighting with each other of hating each other. It’s just not true/ We want to enjoy ourselves and regroup and write a record when it’s the right time” – but
Blink-182 From ‘Indefinite Hiatus’ To Long-Rumored Reunion. After a four-year hiatus, punk-pop kings Blink-182 shocked the rock world when they announced they were getting back together. But how did the trio heal the rift between them? Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge open up…
n the morning of September 20, 2008, Mark Hoppus woke up to a call from a close friend. This friend wanted to know if Mark was okay and if there was anything he could do to help. Confused, Mark asked what he was talking about. “Oh my god,” said the voice on the other end of the line, “you don’t know. You have to turn on the news, Mark.” When he did, Mark’s blood ran cold. Rolling across the TV screen was the news that his friend and +44 bandmate Travis Barker was critically ill in hospital, following a Learjet crash in Columbia, South Carolina, which had claimed four lives, among them Travis’ 29-year-old personal assistant Chris Barker and his 25-year-old security guard Charles Still. The drummer’s own life hung in the balance. “It was horrible, terrible,” says Mark, recalling that fateful morning. “There were no words at all to describe all the feelings I had. It was just so…horrific.” By mid afternoon, Mark was on a plane to
Augusta, Georgia. That same evening he sat by Travis’ bedside in the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, still in shock, still unable to take in the horror of the situation. Back in San Diego, readying his band Angels & Airwaves for a five week U.S. tour with Weezer, Travis and Mark’s former Blink-182 bandmate Tom DeLonge “freaked out” when he heard the news. As media organizations sought to solicit a statement from him about the tragedy., Tom poured his thoughts instead into a letter to his erstwhile colleague, letting him know he was thinking of him and praying for him. Upon receiving the letter, Travis called his old friend from hospital and the pair spoke at length. A few days later, Mark and Tom spoke too, for the first time in almost four years. And as Travis’ wounds slowly began to heal in his Georgia hospital bed, so too did the bitter divisions between the three men who together had soundtracked a generation’s adolescence with their band Blink-182. When Blink-182 announced their decision to go
on an indefinite hiatus” on February 22, 2005, they did so as one of the world’s most successful pop-punk bands, having achieved over 25 million album sales worldwide during their five-album career. Though the use of the word ‘hiatus’ and the wording of the band’s official statement hinted at the possibility of future collaborations – “While there is no set plan for the band to begin working together again, no-one knows what tomorrow may bring.” it read, coyly – few truly believed that the announcement spelled out anything other than the band’s permanent dissolution: after all, post-hardcore figureheads At The DriveIn and Fugazi had announced their own ‘hiatuses’ in 2001 and 2002 respectively, and neither band has shown the slightest inclination of returning to the global stage. Initially, Blink played down any suggestions that their self-enforced break signalled a schism in their long-time friendships – “I love those dudes, they’re my brothers,” Travis told LA radio station KROQ in the immediate aftermath of
cracks soon began appearing in the facade when it came time to promote new projects, namely Tom’s band Angels & Airwaves and Mark and Travis’ +44. In his first major post-Blink interview, Tom promised that, within two years, Angels & Airwaves would be “the biggest rock act in the world”, saying of his former friends, “when money and fame entered into the equation, and we were all growing up and having kids, I think we all just grew apart.” Mark retaliated by saying “your selfish nature is destroying everything that the three of us, our crew, and everyone else worked so hard to do.” Hopes of a Blink reunion seemed to fade further into the distance with each subsequent interview. “Did I even envisage the day coming when we’d be back together?,” muses Tom today, down a staticflecked phone line, as Angels & Airwaves’ tour bus speeds towards Las Vegas for the third-to-last date on their U.S. tour. “In my own mind I did not see this as a reality, no. But then I’ve also found that I’ve been wrong in my life a number of times about things that I get very emotional about.” Answering the same question at home in LA a few days later, Mark is a little more ambiguous. “I never really knew,” he admits, “because ultimately it wasn’t my decision to put a stop to Blink-182. And people always asked me, when Blink wasn’t together, if I thought Blink would ever play together again, and my honest answer was that I could see us never reforming or I could see reforming the next day. It just needed everyone’s head to be in the same space at the same time.” “Even before Travis’ plane crash, I think all of us were in the mind space that we’d worked through whatever issues we’d had before and, not even thinking about the band, I think we were all in a space where we wanted to put all of that negative energy behind us and at least reconnect as humans and friends,” Mark adds. “And obviously after Travis’ plane crash any
of the arguments or bad feelings toward each other went out of window.” “No-one cared about any of the other shit that had happened,” Tom agrees, “We all just wanted Travis to get better.” In the wake of Travis’ accident, the first conversation between Mark and Tom in four years was not an awkward one. The pair spent two hours talking on the phone, talking about old times and what had transpired in their lives since. “Despite all the animosity and bad press back and forth at one another and bad blood, it really was an easy conversation.” says Mark. An arrangement was made for the trio to meet up at Mark and Travis’ LA studio in October 2008. As the
announced, “We used to play music together, and we decided we’re going to play music together again.” In truth, the band had already been playing music together again, knocking around ideas in the studio for new songs for Blink’s forthcoming sixth album. According to both Mark and Tom, the sessions felt natural and sounded great – “awesome” is the word Tom uses, in fact – but the trio called a halt to the session in early spring before any full songs were written. “It had been so long that we’d played as a band that we didn’t want to sound like three separate individuals,” reasons Mark, “we wanted to sound like a group again and feel like a group again.” A summer U.S. arena tour – with
“There were no words at all to describe all the feelings I had. It was just so… horrific.” mood was relaxed, friendly and convivial, none of them initially wanting to acknowledge the elephant in
the room, namely their former band. It was Tom, finally, who broached the subject. “He said, ‘Well, how would you guys feel about the possibility of playing music together again?’,” recalls Mark, “and I said, ‘I think we absolutely should, we should put Blink back together and do what we’ve done since day one.’ I think everyone had that in their hearts and we moved forward from there.” Rumours of a possible Blink reunion began to hit the internet as soon as the trio confirmed in interviews that they’d been spending time together once more. In November 2008, Kerrang! confidently stated that the trio were back together as Blink-182 and on February 8, 2009, the news was made official from the stage of the Staples Cener in Los Angeles, when Blink appears at the Grammy Awards and Travis
support coming from high profile acolytes including Fall Out Boy, The All-American Rejects, Panic! At The Disco and Taking Back Sunday – proved the perfect opportunity for the trio to bond further, and as friendships were restored, it also served to confirm just how much their band meant to generation of rock fans. “That the band has actually gotten bigger since we’ve been away absolutely blew my mind,” state Tom humbly, his voice raising in pitch and volume. “Shit, we were doing 40,000 and 50,000 seats in some cities which is insane. Knowing that that kind of support is still there for us has only strengthened our ambitions.” Work on the new studio album – the follow-up to 2003’s eponymous last outing – begins in earnest this week, in the band’s own studios in LA and San Diego. Following the death of the band’s long-time producer Jerry Finn in August 2008, Mark predicts that the band will self produce the album, though the option to bring in outside help remains open. Asked to describe the early sketches of songs fleshed out, already Tom uses the words ‘fast’, ‘huge-sounding’ and ‘totally futuristic’ and both he and Mark insist that the time spent apart has only enhanced their capabilities as a unit.
“We’re not going back to 1993, but we’ll be playing with spirit and energy people expect from Blink-182,” says Tom, “But the palette of what we can do now is so much broader. Mark has done so much music with other people over the past few years, Travis is always gonna be the best drummer on earth, and I’d like
to think that the last three Angels & Airwaves albums have shown that my writing has developed too. So now, we feel we can do anything. People are gonna love it.” Before the album emerges however, there’s the small matter of Blink182’s return to these shores, with headlining slots at the Reading and Leeds festivals and arena dates in Scotland and Ireland. When they look ahead to the prospect, Mark and Tom couldn’t be more excited. “The fact Travis is literally taking a bus for four days across the United States and then getting on a boat and traveling for a week to get to you guys is a testament to how dedicated we are and [how] excited we are,” notes Mark. “I can’t believe we’re headlining Reading and Leeds,” Tom laughs. “It’s such a gigantic honour. I’ve spent so long building up Angels & Airwaves that it’s not in my head that I’m in a giant band, so it’s pretty crazy. I’m really excited that your readers care so much and I think it’s gonna be a fun time.” So what can we expect from the all-new, all-fired-up Blink-182 in August? “Expect a lot of fun, a lot of bad words and a really good time,” laughs Mark. “In some ways, it seems like the last five years never happened,” he adds soberly, “But it seems healthier now than it did. We always appreciated what we had, but when you’re caught up in this life you can lose a little bit of perspective. So [to] go away and do other things and then come back, makes us realise how really truly amazing Blink-182 is to the three of us. And that people out there still share that feeling too makes things even better.” Blink-182 are due to headline the Leeds and Reading Festival 2010 on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th respectively.
preparing colour for
Monotone & Duotone
We can use other creative colour processes such as Mono tones, and Duo tones to change the look and feel of an image, and this can be handy to use if we have a set colour palette to work with. For instance, if we are to produce a poster with just two colours like Pantone references 222c and 299c then we could also produced imagery that only uses these two inks. I have added the light blue to the highlights in the image and the burgundy red to the shadows of the image. By using only two colours this means that the print job would be cheaper than using a full 4-colour process. Here are examples of a full colour image as well as Mono tone and duo tones. Effectively, overprinting (pg11) two different colour mono tones would create a duo tone print. We can also create Tri tones and even Quad tone prints. We can also create selective duotones by manually selecting parts of an image using spot channels to colourise that part of the image.
10 Print. An Introduction
A good feature of using a duo toned image exported from Adobe Photoshop to Adobe InDesign is that the colours you use for the image gets directly transferred to your colour swatch library ready for use with shapes, and typography.
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A good feature of using a duo toned image exported from Adobe Photoshop to Adobe InDesign is that the colours you use for the image gets directly transferred to your colour swatch library ready for use with shapes, and typography.
n Pre-press tips that caal help you avoid cruci and costly mistakes k when sending artwor to a printer.
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Black, not registration. Ensure all you want to print is in black and not registration. For instance if you are preparing artwork that is a solely black, you will need to make sure the artwork is in black only. Sending artwork that is filled with registration will utilize the full four colour process.
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Print. An Introduction 11
Portrait using type thehonor2
Experiment of Typography by yienkeat
Experimental typography. Whatever that means. Peter Bilak
ery few terms have been used so habitually and carelessly as the word ÂexperimentÊ. In the field of graphic design and typography, experment as a noun has been used to signify anything new, unconventional, defying easy categorization, or confounding expectations. As a verb, Âto experimentÊ is often synonymous with the design process itself, which may not exactly be helpful, considering that all design is a result of the design process. The term experiment can also have the connotation of an implict disclaimer; it suggests not taking responsibility for the result.When students are asked what they intend by crating certain forms, they often say, ÂItÊs just an experiment⁄Ê, when they donÊt have a better response.
In a scientific context, an experiment is a test of an idea; a set of actions performed to prove or disprove a hypothesis. Experimentation in this sense is an empirical approach to knowledge that lays a foundation upon which others can build. It requires all measurements to be made objectively under controlled conditions, which allows the procedure to be repeated by others, thus provng that a phenomenon occurs after a certain action, and that the phenomenon does not occur in the absence of the action. An example of a famos scientific experiment would be Galileo GalileiÊs dropping of two objects of different weights from the Pisa tower to demonstrate that both would land at the same time, proving his hypothesis about gravity. In this sense, a typographic experiment might be a procedure to determine whether humidity affects the transfer of ink onto a sheet of paper, and if it does, how. A scientific approach to experimentation, however, seems to be valid only in a situation where empirical knowledge is applicable, or in a situation where the outcome of the experiment can be reliably measured. What happens however when the outcome is ambiguous, non-objective, not based on pure reason? In the recent book The Typographic Experiment: Radical Innovation in Contemporary Type Design, the author Teal Triggs asked thirty-seven internationallyrecognized designers to define their understandings of the
term experiment. As expected, the published definitions couldnÊt have been more disparate. They are marked by personal belief systems and biased by the experiences of the designers. While Hamish Muir of 8vo writes: ÂEvery type job is experimentÊ, Melle Hammer insists that: ÂExperimental typography does not exist, nor ever hasÊ. So how is it possible that there are such diverse understandings of a term that is so commonly used? Among the designersÊ various interpretations, two notions of experimentation were dominant. The first one was formulated by the American designer David Carson: ÂExperimental is something I havenÊt tried before ⁄ something that hasnÊt been seen and heardÊ. Carson and several other designers suggest that the nature of experiment lies in the formal novelty of the result. There are many precedents for this opinion, but in an era when information travels faster than ever before and when we have achieved unprecedented archival of information, it becomes significantly more difficult to claim a complete novelty of forms. While over ninety years ago Kurt Schwitters proclaimed that to Âdo it in a way that no one has done it beforeÊ was sufficient for the definition of the new typography of his day · and his work was an appropriate example of such an approach today things are different. Designers are more aware of the body of work and the discourse accompanying it. Proclaiming novelty today can
seem like historical ignorance on a designerÊs part. Interestingly, CarsonÊs statement also suggests that the essence of experimentation is in going against the prevailing patterns, rather than being guided by conventions. This is directly opposed to the scientific usage of the word, where an experiment is designed to add to the accumulation of knowledge; in design, where results are measured subjectively, there is a tendency to go against the generally accepted base of knowledge. In science a single person can make valuable experiments, but a design experiment that is rooted in anti-conventionalism can only exist against the background of other · conventional · solutions. In this sense, it would be impossible to experiment if one were the only designer on earth, because there would be no standard for the experiment. Anti-conventionalism requires going against prevailing styles, which is perceived as conventional. If more designers joined forces and worked in a similar fashion, the scale would change, and the former convention would become anti-conventional. The fate of such experimentation is a permanent confrontation with the mainstream; a circular, cyclical race, where it is not certain who is chasing whom. Does type design and typography allow an experimental approach at all? The alphabet is by its very nature dependent on and defined by conventions. Type design that is not bound by convention is like a private language: both lack the ability to communicate.Yet it is precisely the constraints of the alphabet which inspire many designers. A recent example is the work of Thomas Huot-Marchand, a French postgraduate student of type-design who investigates the limits of legibility while phsically reducing the basic forms of the alphabet. Minuscule is his project of size-specific typography. While the letters for regular reading sizes are very close to conventional book typefaces, each step down in size results in simplification of the letter-shapes. In the extremely small sizes (2pt) Miniscule becomes an abstract reduction of the alphabet, free of all the details and optical corrections which are usual for fonts designed for text reading. Huot-MarchandÊs project builds upon the work of French ophthalmologist Louis Emile Javal, who published similar research at the beginning of the 20th century. The practical contribution of both projects is limited, since the reading process is still guided by the physical limitations of the human eye, however, Huot-Marchand and Javal both investigate the constraints of legibility within which typography functions. The second dominant notion of experiment in The Typographic Experiment was formulated by Michael Worthington, a British designer and educator based in the USA ÂTrue experimentation means to take risks.Ê If taken literally, such a statement is of little value: immediately we would ask what is at stake and what typographers are really risking. Worthington, however, is referring to the risk involved with not knowing the exact outcome of the experiment in which the designers are engaged. Belgian designer Brecht Cuppens has created Sprawl, an experimental typeface based on cartography, which takes into account the density of population in Belgium. In Sprawl,
the silhouette of each letter is identical, so that when typed they lock into each other. The filling of the letters however varies according to the frequency of use of the letter in the Dutch language. The most frequently used letter (e) represents the highest density of population. The most infrequently used letter (q) corresponds to the lowest density. Setting a sample text creates a Cuppens representation of the Belgian landscape. Another example of experiment as a process of creation without anticipation of the fixed result is an online project . Ortho-type Trio of authors, Enrico Bravi, Mikkel Crone Koser, and Paolo Palma, describe ortho-type as Âan exercise in perception, a stimulus for the mind and the eye to pick out and process three-dimensional planes on a flat surface⁄Ê. Ortho-type is an online application of a typeface designed to be recognizable in three dimensions. In each view, the viewer can set any of the available variables: length, breadth, depth, thickness, colour and rotation, and generate multiple variations of the model. The user can also generate those variations as a traditional 2D PostScript font. Although this kind of experimental process has no commercial application, its results may feed other experiments and be adapted to commercial activities. Once assimilated, the product is no longer experimental. David Carson may have started his formal experiments out of curiosity, but now similar formal solutions have been adapted by commercial giants such as Nike, Pepsi, or Sony. Following this line, we can go further to suggest that no completed project can be seriously considered experimental. It is experimental only in the process of its creation. When completed it only becomes part of the body of work which it was meant to challenge. As soon as the experiment achieves its final form it can be named, categorized and analyzed according to any conventional system of classification and referencing. An experimental technique which is frequently used is to bring together various working methods which are recognized separately but rarely combined. For example, language is studied systematically by linguists, who are chiefly interested in spoken languages and in the problems of analyzing them as they operate at a given point in time. Linguists rarely, however, venture into the visible representation of language, because they consider it artificial and thus secondary to spoken language. Typogaphers on the other hand are concerned with the appearance of type in print and other reproduction technologies; they often have substantial knowledge of composition, color theories, proportions, paper, etc., yet often lack knowledge of the language which they represent. These contrasting interests are brought together in the work of Pierre di Sciullo, a French designer who pursues his typographic research in a wide variety of media. His typeface Sintétik reduces the letters of the French alphabet to the core phonemes (sounds which distinguish one word from another) and compresses it to xx characters. Di Sciullo stresses the economic aspect of such a system, with an average book being reduced by about 30% percent when multiple spellings of the same sound are made redundant. For example, the French words for skin (peaux) and pot (pot) are both reduced to the simplest representation of their pronunciation · po. Words set in Sintétik can be understood only when read aloud returning the reader to the medieval experience of oral reading. Quantange is another font specific to the French language. It is basically a phonetic alphabet which visually suggests the pronunciation, rhythm and pace of reading. Every letter in Quantange has as many different shapes as there are ways of pronouncing it: the letter c for example has two forms because it can be pronounced as s or k. Di Sciullo suggests that Quantange would be particularly useful to foreign students of French or to actors and presenters who need to articulate the inflectional aspect of language not indicated by traditional scripts. This project builds on experiments of
early avant-garde designers, the work of the Bauhaus, Kurt Schwitters, and Jan Tschichold. Di Sciullo took inspiration from the reading process, when he designed a typeface for setting the horizontal palindromes of Georges Perec (Perec has written the longest palindrome on record, a poem of 1388 words which can be read both ways, see http://graner.net/nicolas/ salocin/ten.renarg//:ptth). The typeface is a combination of lower and upper case and is designed to be read from both sides, left and right. (This is great news to every Bob, Hannah or Eve.) Di SciulloÊs typefaces are very playful and their practical aspects are limited, yet like the other presented examples of experiments in typography, his works points to previously unexplored areas of interest which enlarge our understanding of the field. As the profession develops and more people practice this subtle art, we continually redefine the purpose of experimetation and become aware of its moving boundaries.
The Good and Bad Typography Modern, digital desktop publishing could be accredited as much to the innovators of operating systems like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, as much as it can be accredited to the long standing history of the written word, printing, and Typography itself.
BEST OF BRITISH?
Banksy is the most exciting artist to come out of the UK for more than a decade - or so many people on both sides of the Atlantic will tell you. But is he really so much more than a prankster with a spray can? Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones gives his view.
t’s not often you hear someone roar the name of an artist as if they were cheering on a football player. In Bristol, however, I once heard a man scream out “Banksyyy!” as he walked past one of his murals. He was in good company. Hollywood, the New Yorker magazine, Sotheby’s (which sells him), Damien Hirst (who collects him) and Glastonbury (where he recreated Stonehenge with a group of portable toilets) all concur that Banksy is the artist of our time, the rising star, the news. A poll of 18to 25-year-olds recently named him an “arts hero” in third place behind Walt Disney and Peter Kay, and ahead of Leonardo da Vinci. The cult of Banksy is a broad church, ranging from millionaire bankers splashing out on “street sculpture” to young book buyers radicalised by Iraq. His bestselling tome Wall
and Piece is perfectly calculated to divert the leftist on the loo. Not only does it remind us that Banksy went to the US and painted “Fat Lane” on the sidewalk at Venice Beach - it even has a photograph of a fat American walking past it. America was originally just a great target for Banksy - but then it unexpectedly took him to heart when he put orange-clad sculptures of Guantánamo prisoners in Disneyland. That was a taster for last year’s oneman exhibition in Los Angeles, the opening of which was attended by the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. There were massive queues to see the show’s installation of a living room with 18th-century pictures on the walls, containing a live elephant with its body painted pink and gold. Suddenly Banksy was no longer a merely
British obsession. A couple of months ago he got an accolade he could scarcely have dreamed of when he was spraying slogans on walls as a teenager - the New Yorker dedicated a seven-page feature to him. It makes funny reading if you’re British: as if describing a journey into some Dickensian slum, the author evokes the seediness and sleaze of the Soho gallery owned by Banksy’s dealer on Greek Street, near some of London’s most expensive restaurants. What are we to make of the Banksy phenomenon? Banksy, obviously, is not his name. You can’t help thinking he might have chosen a better tag if he knew he would one day be taken seriously by the art world. I mean ... Banksy. Rival graffitists don’t have to think hard to turn this Bristol, boy,” someone has written beside his work on a wall in
Clerkenwell, London. Most people believe that Banksy - who has so far concealed his true name - comes from Bristol or its environs, and his surviving murals in that city have become objects of local pride. A couple of weeks ago it was announced that a new building development in Bristol, instead of destroying his street painting The Mild Mild West, will incorporate it and profit from the association. Another wall piece by him, across the road from the council offices, has been protected, giving Bristol its own answer to the Angel of the North, Tyneside’s renowned public art icon, at a fraction of the cost. Or so Bristol tells itself. We may not know much about Banksy as a person, but we know he’s ambitious. He went to Ramallah to paint on the dividing wall in the occupied West Bank, and this summer was booked to enliven the Glastonbury festival. Banksy makes open-air sculptures that are like gags from a Dom Jolyesque television show - he put shark fins in a pond in Victoria Park in east London - and this humour has translated easily into his indoor gallery installations. The resulting stardom must surely soon make anonymity impossible. One anecdote he does tell about his origins is how, when he was painting graffiti as a teenager, he was chased by the police: hiding under a van, he saw a stencil-like plate on its chassis and decided there and then to use stencils to design his street art. That way he could paint faster and elude the law; but this also meant he could paint better, becoming some-
thing far more like a proper artist. Banksy’s stencil technique is now what makes his style so recognisable, like Andy Warhol’s silkscreens. I decided to try to become a Banksy fan, for a day or two, in order to understand this modern institution. I bought Wall and Piece and for about 24 hours managed to get into the spirit of its quite-funny-for-a-minute-ortwo look at modern life. Banksy is not just a graffitist but a guerrilla conceptualist. His gags have included surreptitiously infiltrating his own works into museums - the British Museum took a full eight days to notice his chunk of “rock art” depicting a stone age hunter with a shopping trolley, together with the caption crediting it to “Banksyus Maximus” - and has also redone Monet’s water garden with a supermarket trolley and bollards. I know you’re laughing. Now you’ve stopped. My favourite is the parody of Andy Warhol he put in New York’s MoMA, depicting a can of Tesco Value cream of tomato soup. He put a wheel-clamp on Boudicca’s chariot by Big Ben and left a phone box slumped against a wall with a pickaxe stuck in it. He floated a child hanging from a McDonald’s balloon over Piccadilly Circus ... and so it goes on. Banksy’s conceptual humour works just as well in the gallery context, yet I don’t think it has a long life there, as its jokes are so one-dimensional and soulless. If he had gone to college, he might be making good money in advertising by now. Perhaps the jokes are funnier, the images more emotional when you encounter them in the streets. Yet as I test that proposition,
something rapidly makes me hold my guidebook to Banky’s street art - that’s right, there’s a guidebook, Martin Bull’s Banksy Locations and Tours - under tables in coffee shops, or skulk in alleys while reading it, in case anyone notices I’m actually seeking out this stuff. What is it that constitutes Banksy’s appeal? First of all, he is talented - for a graffiti artist. That’s a big qualification. Look around your nearest car park or railway bridge or wherever the spray-can painters congregate. It’s like looking at wire wool. In a car park in London’s Shoreditch you see all this scribbling, and then you see a Banksy: a huge painting of a rat ready with a knife and fork to gorge on the city at its feet, beside it a TV set being thrown out of a window. Banksy is fascinated by trompe l’oeil - the art of deceiving the eye - and has quoted from “a man in the pub” a story about art and illusion that in fact comes from the writings of Pliny the Elder. Two painters compete to fool the eye: one paints realistically enough to deceive birds, but the other fools humans. Banksy’s TV set would only fool myopic birds. But you get the point: it’s far more ambitious and lucid than the graffiti around it. Banksy’s stencil method permits him to paint pictures where others just spray their names. It also encourages the use of icons and stereotypes, making his art a long series of variations on themes - and drawing comparison with Warhol from those who see him as a great modern iconographer. Around London there are scores of one of his most persistent images: the urban rat. There
are rats in gangsta gear with microphones, rats waving placards with slogans like Go Back To Bed or Welcome To Hell. Most of the rats are quite small, nibbling away low down on walls or in odd, out-of-the-way places. Hey, wait a minute: gangsta rats and protest rats ... that’s pretty funny, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s what makes him stand out. Banksy is a comic artist, as opposed to the tragedians who try to impress with their sublimity. He doesn’t take himself or his rats seriously. Not even the ones who are trying to blow up parliament. They crouch low behind the cover of the wall of the South Bank walkway, preparing to fire a mortar shell over the Thames at the House of Commons. The image is one of Banksy’s most effective. You contemplate the little rat warriors and giggle, but of course there’s a wan political pessimism to the joke. Banksy’s rats are about to fire at parliament, but they’re not real terrorists. They are mere painted rats, cartoon animals. There’s not really any chance of the dispossessed - which is what Banksy says his rats symbolise - mortaring the Houses of Parliament. His terrorist rats make a wry comment on the weakness of protest in modern Britain, where people march against wars they can’t stop. Yeah, Banksy seems to be saying, we’d all like to mortar parliament; but what are the chances? If you don’t try quite so hard to see the good in Banksy, however, the complacency and stupidity of this sinks in. Blow up parliament? Who wants to blow up parliament? What’s that got to do with democratic dissent? What’s Banksy assuming? Nothing very thoughtful. Nothing very coherent. That’s it, you realise - that’s the truth. This man has achieved something original, something uniquely of our time: found a visual style for self-congratulatory smugness and given a look to well-heeled soi-disant radicalism. So that’s who likes him: self-proclaimed enemies of the state, fermenting in their own self-righteousness.