Does it matter that it was me?
So here’s the worst kept secret in writing at the moment… That Guardian Guide interview… I wrote it. There, I’ve said it. I wrote it.
What was published was edited, and the footnotes weren’t mine. The coverage of Adam Mclevey was, perhaps surprisingly, not all my doing. It was added in by the journalist or editor. But the answers… those were all me.
I didn’t do it as some great subversive move, or a highly intelligent commentary on the art world. Nope. It was a joke meant for a very small audience. Having been forwarded the interviewer’s questions (which were supposed to be for Nuts magazine, not the Guardian), I answered with my usual sense of humour. Apparently this was painfully clear to many who know me, even in the vaguest internet-y sense of the term. Who else harps on about CarPlan and comedy cocks?
Thing is, this little joke got sent around a bit and ended up published in the newspaper of record amongst the arty farties of the UK. I want to make sitcom references here, about how the extension of a joke beyond the intended receptive audience is a trope that is particularly prevalent in my beloved post-1990 sitcoms. I can elaborate if anyone gives a fuck, but I’m pretty sure nobody does.
So back to the tale… I wrote a joke for some friends and, as it so often does, it ended up published. I didn’t even know about it until somebody on Twitter put something up about a Banksy interview about Rolf Harris and penguins. That’s about when I started shitting myself trying to get a copy of the Guardian in this podunk town of illiterates. It had already been taken down from the newspaper’s website, so I had a tense ride into town (where I still had to go into three shops before I found any copies in stock).
I tried being cagey. I sent coy little texts to a wider circle of friends, alerting them to the mention of Adam (which was a surprise to me). They started texting back saying they smelled a stencilled rat and other such nuggets of highly appropriate wisdom.
Word started getting out — a combination of rumour and drunken storytelling. For my birthday, I was given a custom-made shirt declaring that I was Banksy. And, for that moment, for that day, I was.
And that’s what I find so damn interesting about all of this. I was Banksy. For that moment, forever locked in print, I was Banksy. But, really, who the fuck is Banksy? More importantly, does it matter anymore?
Banksy has become something of an urban myth, a legend. Banksy is no longer a person, regardless of what the Daily Mail would like to think. Just like every artist through history, Banksy isn’t so much a person as an institution. And that’s fair enough. The house of mirrors thing works for ‘him’. If everyone knew who Banksy was, and there were press junkets and photo spreads, the mystery would be gone. Half of the fun, half of why we all still care and queue up for hours to see the work, is that we don’t know who the fuck created them. Could be the person right there, or that one over there. Is that guy on the ladder Banksy (nah… too short, that one)? Or the guy painting that van’s bonnet (nah… couldn’t be)? Or the girl in the shirt declaring it (nah… too obvious)?
No, none of us are Banksy. And, really, it doesn’t matter. If we are Banksy, if we were Banksy, if we will be Banksy, it doesn’t matter. Nobody gets anything from being Banksy anymore. The pay is shit, according the the Freedom of Information documents. You’re better off being yourself.
But it’s still fun to add to the legend. It’s still fun to sit back and watch the scurrying about as every newspaper in the country (and some abroad) put pained quotes around the phrase “comedy cock”. It’s fun to laugh with friends as they marvel at this strange little story of how a morning joke email became a notoriously badly researched bit of journalism. It’s fun to keep people guessing.
So, yeah, I’m Banksy. So’s the next guy. Just maybe not that Banksy. But it’s better this way.