How long are you going to remain anonymous, working through the medium itself and through your agent as a voice for you?
BANKSY: I have no interest in ever coming out. I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is. You ask a lot of kids today what they want to be when they grow up, and they say, “I want to be famous.” You ask them for what reason and they don’t know or care. I think Andy Warhol got it wrong: in the future, so many people are going to become famous that one day everybody will end up being anonymous for 15 minutes. I’m just trying to make the pictures look good; I’m not into trying to make myself look good. Plus, I obviously have issues with the cops.
Your art is still free on the streets but costly in the galleries. What dictates that?
BANKSY: What I find is I don’t have much say in what things cost. Every time I sell things at a discount rate, most people put them on eBay and make more money than I charged them in the first place. The novelty with that soon wears off.
The murals you did in Palestine, I would assume, involved personal risk. You’re there, and you could definitely get some people pissed off and put yourself in jeopardy.
BANKSY: Every graffiti writer should go there. They’re building the biggest wall in the world. I painted on the Palestinian side, and a lot of them weren’t sure about what I was doing. They didn’t understand why I wasn’t just writing “down with Israel” in big letters and painting pictures of the Israeli prime minister hanging from a rope. And maybe they had a point. The guy that I stayed with got five days with the “dirty bag” for waving a Palestinian flag out a window. The dirty bag is when Israeli security services get a sack, wipe their shit on it, and put the bag over your head while your hands are tied behind your back. I spat out my falafel as he was explaining that to me, but he just goes, “That’s nothing. My cousin got it for two weeks without a break.” It’s difficult to come home and hear people complaining about reruns on TV after that.
It’s very hard for the locals to paint illegally over there. We certainly weren’t doing it under the cloak of darkness; you’d get shot. We were out in the middle of the day, making it very clear we were tourists. Twice, we had serious trouble with the army, but one time the Palestinian border patrol pulled up in an armored truck. The Israeli government makes a big fuss about how they own the wall, despite building it right through the farmland of Palestinians who have been there for generations, so the Palestinian border police don’t give a shit if you paint it or not. They parked between the road and us, gave us water, and just watched. It’s probably the only time I’m ever going to paint whilst being covered by a cop from a roof-mounted submachine gun.
Did they realize that it favored the Palestinian perspective?
BANKSY: I have sympathy for both sides in that conflict, and I did receive quite a bit of support from regular Israelis, but if the Israeli government had known we were going over there to do a sustained painting attack on their wall, there’s no way that we’d have been tolerated. They’re very paranoid. They don’t want the wall to be an issue in the West. On the Israeli side of the wall they bank it up with soil and plant flowers so you don’t even know its there. On the Palestinian side it’s just a fucking huge mass of concrete.
You’ve never really been busted to the point of potentially not being able to do street art, but ... everybody gets caught at some point. What would you do if you were put in that position? Would you rent walls? Would you try to find legal walls? ... What would you do?
BANKSY: You’re not supposed to get dumber as you get older. You’re supposed to find a new way through and carry on. I invest back into the street bombing from selling shit. Recently, I’ve been pretending to be a construction manager and paying cash to get scaffolding put up against buildings, then I cover the scaffolding with plastic sheeting and stand behind it making large paintings in the middle of the city. I could never have done that a few years ago. Plus, I’m always interested in finding new places to hit up; it’s easier to break into zoos and museums.
Ultimately, I just want to make the right piece at the right time in the right place. Anything that stands in the way of achieving that piece is the enemy, whether it’s your mum, the cops, someone telling you that you sold out, or someone saying, “Let’s just stay in tonight and get pizza.”
Raffle tickets are on sale for £5 at outlets via the Graffle website. Tickets will be sold until January 16, and the draw for the winner will be made on 18 January 2008 at the Gorilla Gallery.