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What the Hell Happened: Banksy’s Artificial Revitalization Shocks London

Ultimately, Banksy has created yet another news-garnering installation — this time incorporating nature into the message of his design.
Ultimately, Banksy has created yet another news-garnering installation — this time incorporating nature into the message of his design. By Angel Zhang
By Thomas A. Ferro, Crimson Staff Writer

Environmental decay, the transience of nature, and the vulnerable state of public art are all themes that have been put to the test by Banksy’s new work — an artificial revitalization of a dead cherry tree in London with a background of green, spray-painted leaves.

Rather than centering the artist’s own creation, the work, which was installed on March 17, focuses on nature instead — in the form of a pruned, seemingly dead cherry tree. Behind the bare tree is a spray-painted wall of leaves — appearing as abundant and natural foliage to the unfocused passersby. A spray-painter, themself spray-painted onto the wall in Banksy’s characteristic silhouette, stares up at the dead tree.

The installation’s theme, perhaps, is the impermanence of the natural world. This piece reflects not only on nature’s declining state but also the role of humans in its destruction. The spray-painter — with paint dispenser in hand — seems to have tried unsuccessfully to spray green paint onto the tree itself, as the paint perpetually drips down the person’s shoulders and head and the building’s wall.

With this piece, it is possible that Banksy is commenting on the common resolution that humanity can solve and overcome any problem — claiming that this idea is hollow and futile. Climate change is not a problem that can easily be solved, and — with this piece’s message in mind — it is an insurmountable one.

Even more, the abstractness of the bright green paint and the foliage’s almost pixelated design alludes to the development of technology in the art world — and its inferiority to nature. Even during its decay, nature surpasses the artificial and the digital.

Banksy’s pieces — which have been installed in cities around the world — are incredibly renowned, and often the artist’s pieces sell for millions of dollars. It is Banksy’s public art, however, that has given the artist his world platform.

Through Banksy’s rise to fame over the last 15 years, he has maintained his anonymity somewhat successfully, though recent legal issues may force him to publicize his identity.

Two days after the piece’s installation, white paint was hurled at the artwork. Banksy’s pieces, due to their public nature, are often subject to vandalism. However, this specific defacement of a seemingly climate-conscious piece is interesting to consider in terms of recent climate protests, in which paintings have been the target of activists attempting to bring awareness to climate change. Perhaps this act of vandalism is yet another facet of Banksy’s thought-provoking installation.

Ultimately, Banksy has created yet another news-garnering installation — this time incorporating nature into the message of his design. Even more, the installation is impermanent. The tree will eventually die, and the work with it — giving the piece an undeniably beautiful relationship with the inevitable passage of time.

—Staff writer Thomas A. Ferro can be reached at thomas.ferro@thecrimson.com.

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