Banksy and the Truth

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Apparently, we’re living in a post-truth age. That doesn’t set well with Barbara Simmons and a recent event that rocked the art world doesn’t help.

What was it about the self-shredding of the 1.4 million dollar Banksy painting at Sotheby’s in October 2018 that caught our collective attention? Yes, it was horrifying to think that the painting, at the instant of being sold, was simultaneously being shredded. Apparently, a remote-control mechanism within the frame had been "triggered" by someone in the gallery; the artist "in" on the destruction. The winning bidder kept the painting. The painting increased in worth. What are we left with? New art?

Had we been Banksy’d? Have we become accustomed to viewing one image as our truth, only to find, later, that truth has been shredded, re-created as new truth. The space between truth and pretending-to-be-truth shrinks. Masterpieces crop up, as did Banksy’s, after the original has been deconstructed. Same with news stories. Some news stories simply become platforms for spreading misinformation or blurred truths. Enough.

A study printed in Science in March 2018 indicates that “the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor.” This study had analyzed every major contested news story in English during Twitter’s existence – and found that users preferred sharing falsehoods. Banksy’s contrived destruction of his painting attracted more attention than the pre-shredded original. I don’t want to shred a Van Gogh to create something better. I want the picture to be its own truth, the story to be truth’s oracle.

I think of our national artistic treasure, our Declaration of Independence. Without gimmickry, its language reminds us of a portrait of national truth: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


We don’t need to shred these words to believe them; they stand unBanksy’d because truth strengthens the canvas of beliefs, withstands being shredded, rises above distortion and misperception always.

With a perspective, I’m Barbara Simmons.

Barbara Simmons is a retired educator and counselor. She lives in San Jose.