Spring 2022, CMAC/ISS/VMS 290-S

Street Art Critiquing Digital Society/Reliance

Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based street artist, political activist and film director whose real name and identity remain unconfirmed and the subject of speculation. 

Banksy is an English artist whose real name and identity is unknown. Their art is often, if not always, a critique on current social and political issues. 

Banksy’s art is, in my belief, a great example of critical making. They use art in the form of graffiti, sculptures, and videos to critique social issues such as consumerism and political issues like surveillance, government corruption, and more. According to Ratto and Hoekema, “critical making is an elision of two typically disconnected modes of engagement in the world—‘critical thinking,’ often considered as abstract, explicit, linguistically based, internal and cognitively individualistic; and ‘making,’ typically understood as material, tacit, embodied, external and community-oriented.” Banksy’s art shows many examples of critical thinking combined with making. For example, the Dismaland exhibit shows many elements of critical thinking. Bansky exampains “[Dismaland is] a theme park whose big theme is – theme parks should have bigger themes.” It is a critique on our society’s consumerism and carelessness about important issues. For that reason, the park has a depressing tone to show that there is nothing fun about the major issues in the world like immigration, economic hardships, and suffering. 

Another one of Banksy’s popular pieces is their graffiti of surveillance cameras always watching us (us being civilians). Not only does this speak to government corruption, but it also critiques the widespread use of surveillance. This type of critique is even more important now with the introduction of facial recognition in policing. This is a huge problem in our digital culture today, as our reliance and use of technology is far ahead of our regulations on them. 

The way Banksy’s art combines with digital distribution is something that is interesting to me in thinking about our digital age and how it relates to critical making. Because Banksy is a street artist, most people find out about their art from their instagram or online news sources. It is interesting how even though Banksy’s art is physical, the popularization of the art is extremely dependent on digital culture and people’s dependence on social media and the internet for news and content. 

I often think about how these exhibits like Dismaland will one day become digital using forms of AR/VR to conform to our new digital age. I think this would be interesting because the idea of Banky’s art being shown using new digital forms seems contradictory to their critical works. Thus, I think the dependence on digital culture itself is something to be critiqued and can be done without the use of digital art.


Artificial Dreaming


“Art” created by Artificial Intelligence


  1. Isabella Wang

    Hi Zoe! I really liked your post, and how you analyzed multiple works from Banksy to form an argument based on his collection of works and his artistic style. While I was reading your post, it reminded me of electronic disobedience and how organizations like Anonymous are not associated with a single person. The focus shifts from the artist as an individual to the message that their artwork is sending. I think it’s really neat that Banksy chose to do that, but in a physical sense. Just like Anonymous, since their true identity is still masked, they’ve gained recognition solely through their work. Thanks again for sharing, this was really interesting to think about!

  2. Quran Karriem

    You raise some interesting points about the viability of critique in digital publics as they are presently constructed and evolving, especially with respect to AR/VR. For example, to what extent would critiques like Banksy’s be possible within something like Facebook’s ‘metaverse’?

  3. Cynthia France

    Isabella brings up a good point– that since Banksy chose to remain anonymous, they essentially let their art be judged and interpreted by themselves, with no other strings or side variables attached. That leads me to wonder, do what degree does anonymity (or lack thereof) affect the impact of a piece of work? At what point does the effect turn from positive to negative, or negative to positive? Is it even possible to separate an artist from their art, and should we?

  4. Pierre Nanquette

    Your analysis on Banksy art is very complete. This artist’s work is truly what the civil disobedience is about, where the author challenges existing social construct, trends, or authorities with the usage of simple but strong words, or drawings. Banksy’s art is truly interesting in the aspect that it utilises elements that really play out their value for the location and context in which they have being created. It really shows the essence of “critical making”. One may wonder if it is possible for such “critical making” of the same type to exist in the realm of digital art?

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