Monday, September 28, 2015

Banksy and the Problem of Writing about Humor You Don’t Get (Dan Brooks in the NY Times, Part II)

In a previous post I called out (and, I hope, shamed) Dan Brooks in his NY Times essay, “Banksy and the Problem with Sarcastic Art” for writing a negative critique of Banksy’s pop-up theme park, Dismaland, without bothering to actually experience it. Now I’d like to address another aspect of that piece, the fact that Brooks doesn’t get British humor, thereby offending an entire culture.

Before expounding, Brooks might have, like any good writer, consulted Wikipedia, where it says: “A strong theme of sarcasm and self-deprecation, often with deadpan delivery, runs throughout British humour.” This is a surprise? I thought humor was one of Britain’s most famous exports. But then Brooks lives in Montana.

So, of course, the Brits say it best, as evidenced by these comments on Brooks’s blog:

Patricia:  Hello your piece about Dismaland was a load of bollocks just saying .smiley face

Sam: Hey arsehole, I noticed you didn’t offer a right to reply on your hilarious Banksy critique you coward. American critics can’t seem to help but embarrass them selves when it comes to understanding British cultural work. The reason you can’t pin down where the depth lies in his work is because you can only see it through the lens of your own cultural experience you prick. Its not for you, (American goal/success obsessed, materialists), its for us, (British people who live under the yolk of class oppression). He’s made it clear he doesn’t want to be in the work and that’s a big part of its value. Just accept it. It’s Far more poignant and rare to see outward looking work like his, rather than most American introspective conceptual art that’s obsessed with the artist and the individual, that when you get down to it, exists as little more than in invitation to fuck or be fucked. Write about shit you see in your own culture but leave our work out of it.


 LOL. Takin’ some heat for your Dismaland piece. I guess that’ll happen when you deconstruct the only functioning tool in the room. And anyway, if you can thrill to the demagoguery, than surely you can at least find some amusement in the irony of a society which makes a bond of the chasm and defends it by hurling at you fragments of their smashed and deconsecrated urn, the last remaining ashes of wit mixing irretrievably in the wind with whatever comes next.

Dismaland, featuring "Mediocre" by Axel Void of Miami. Photo: Carol Diehl © 2015

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