In That Giftshop is not a Doc It Should Win The Documentary Oscar

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Exit Through the Gift Shop is a fake documentary artfully mixing staged and true realist documents that represent the art market’s inability to–or need for–discerning talent, value, honesty, and “truth” given its insatiable need for new product and its crushing love of charlatan self-promoting wunderkinds. As I’ve written elsewhere, that’s already been done (Orson shoulda won the Oscar!): “bad-boy, Euro-trash pranksters bite their thumbs at the art-world that feeds them by playfully manufacturing a hoax-star doppleganger forger from thin air, then selling his misbegotten wares for millions: gotcha! But really, guys, Orson Welles did it all before, with better craft, crazier detours, and actual genius. F for Fake (1973), also a film about (male) authorship, authenticity, and the value of art—as warranted (or not) by modernist masters like Howard Hughes, Pablo Picasso, and Orson Welles—runs intellectual, artistic, and charlatan circles around the pomo school-boy thrills of wheat-pasting and the endless whirlpool of appropriation.”

So why do I proclaim Banksy should win the documentary Oscar, especially given that I didn’t even think the film was that great?

-For taking to the public the truth that all documentaries are fake.

-For forcing starry eyed viewers to see that partially scripted, highly edited, fully artificed depictions of (the ideas of) our lived world are manufactured, are not the world, are documentaries.

-For making the move that all good fake docs make where the viewer feels reality slowly drop away, a queasy moment of vertigo: oh my, this is a movie! What is reality?! What is a documentary? (or when is a documentary, Dirk Eitzen’s essay that explains that it is only when we think it is).

-For reminding us (and the Academy) that all the reality programming we crave and love sits in this impure space (see my recent YouTube work for more on this line of thought), the documentary space of “the creative treatment of actuality.” Yet only a small sampling of reality programming is interested in examining this mixing in a way that produces thoughtful response: like a Documentary Oscar that would prove to be self-knowing of the changing register of documentary’s current cultural truth and value.



Filed under: documentary Tagged: banksy, exit through the gift shop, fake documentary, orson welles

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