A New Banksy Piece in London - Reaction to the Use of Teargas in the Refugee Camp in Calais

Art News

January 25, 2016

Once again, the most famous unknown artist reacts against the social injustice towards the immigrants. The new artwork by Banksy created in London poses a clear statement which criticizes the apparent use of teargas on refugees in the Calais “Jungle”. This is not the first, nor probably the last time, Banksy does what he does best in order to raise some awareness and turn the public eye towards the difficult situation of the refugees. His recent artwork was made right in the camp, featuring Steve Jobs, as he himself was a son of a migrant, thus sending a powerful message to the rest of us. Not to mention that the artist sent lumber and materials from his notorious Dismaland to help build the camp in Calais. But, even though Banksy is quite active and prolific, this particular work is a first of the sort for him, because he employed something never-before-used by the English-based street artist.

Banksy's Cosette stencil in London, image via hookedblog
Banksy's Cosette stencil in London, image via hookedblog

Pointing Out the Lies of the Authorities

To trace things back a little bit and figure out what it was that inspired this piece by Banksy, we go to the French authorities. Plans were announced that the authorities intended to bulldoze a large part of the camp in order to prevent asylum seekers from attempting to climb onto trucks and buses in traffic jams next to the site. This course of actions by the government would effectively evict around 1,500 individuals (20% of the camp). After an ultimatum to leave the section of the camp designated for demolishing, hundreds of migrants clashed with the French police. The riot officers used tear gas, batons and rubber bullets to break up around 300 refugees. What Banksy found interesting was probably the fact that the police stated just last week that they wouldn’t use teargas in the camp itself, and then did the complete opposite. Banksy’s work is known to be heavily criticizing of the social injustice throughout the world, and the artist has been particularly dedicated to bringing the focus onto the refugees’ dire situation.

QR code as part of the Banksy's stencil, leading the viewer to a video of the police raid in the camp
QR code as part of the Banksy's stencil, leading the viewer to a video of the police raid in the camp

Banksy Employs a QR Code for the First Time alongside of his Stencil in London

The subject of the Banksy’s latest piece is the iconic image from the French musical Les Misérables. The famous character of the girl named Cosette is located right across from the French embassy in Knightsbridge, London. The girl is depicted with tears in her eyes as the smoke from the teargas bomb billows towards her. As per usual, the artwork appeared overnight, followed by a confirmation from the artist’s representative that it is, indeed a piece by one of the most elusive artists in the scene. But, what makes this piece particularly special and new to Banksy’s style is that for the first time, the artist included a QR code accompanying the artwork. The code can be scanned and it leads to a graphic seven-minute video of the police raid on the camp from earlier this month. This represents the first time the enigmatic artist has produced an “interactive” artwork. Perhaps this will become a practice he’ll use more often in his artwork from now on, or maybe it was just a one-time thing used to display an obvious evidence of the lies of the authorities, it remains to be seen as we all look forward to Banksy’s next daring artwork.

Worker covering up Banksy's artwork
Worker covering up Banksy's artwork

The Stencil was Covered up with Plywood Panels

Apparently, the artwork was created on the side of a disused complex, which is in the process of being turned into luxury flats and shops. Shortly after the installation of cameras on the outside, the developers have attempted to first remove the stencil, and then after failing to do so, covered it up with two large pieces of plywood. At first, workers from the building staff tried removing the stencil with a crowbar, but quickly gave up on the endeavor since they realized it would severely damage the artwork. The decision to cover it up with wood came after a group of people attempted to prise it off the wall and steal it. Anyone familiar with Banksy is also well aware of the fact that people often try to “sell” the street artwork or donate the proceeds to charities, or even make a personal profit as if though the artwork belonged to them, even though it clearly doesn’t. Considering the daring nature of his art, provocative character and the social message it conveys, works of Banksy sometimes even get vandalized and ruined. Either way, Banksy's message remains clear and resonates even behind all the covers, attempts of vandalism or sales.

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All images used for illustrative purposes
Credited images via hookedblog.co.uk

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