Culture Guides, Travel Ideas

An Open Letter to Banksy (with Helpful Suggestions)

Dear Banksy,

Let me start by saying that I dig your shit. I know every liberalish middle-class white person in the world says the same thing. Let me add my voice to the many; I am a liberalish middle-class white person, and I dig your shit. That murdered red phone box was brilliant. The Guantanamo Bay detainee mannequin in Disneyland was brilliant. The paintings along the West Bank Wall were brilliant. Your shit is brilliant.

I recently saw your Oscar-nominated documentary, Exit through the Gift Shop. Congratulations, by the way, on your nomination. I hope it didn’t cause you to question your artistic credibility. I certainly don’t consider you a sell-out for gaining a nomination. If the Oscars are ok by George Clooney, then they’re ok by me.

Watching the documentary, I found it interesting to hear all the talk of good walls for street art. I’d always thought of a wall as a wall; I’d never considered the artistic merits of various walls. Guess that’s why so few people dig my shit.

Anyway, given that you are a very busy man (at least I assume you’re a man), I wanted to offer you some suggestions. Perhaps you’re weary of accepting help from strangers. The guy that looked like Rob Schneider in your documentary offered his help, and look at what a mess that was (I definitely don’t dig his shit). I can assure you, though, that I have no delusions of artistic grandeur. I just want to lend a hand. So I compiled a list of walls; all of these, as far as I know, are currently blank, and invite the sort of poignant-yet-irreverent social commentary that liberalish middle-class white people so identify with…

Mexico – United States Border Wall.

A large chunk of the US-of-America used to be a part of the US-of-Mexico. Now that it’s in the hands of the US they’re building big walls to stop any possible re-invasion. The walls are big, blank, and ineffective. They don’t stop guns going one way or drugs going the other. A word of warning before you head out for these walls though: the surrounding desert is littered with the bodies of people who have tried to cross it (the desert, not the wall) without success. Apparently these don’t make a strong enough statement. Maybe some witty Banksy art will.

The DMZ, Korea.

Kim Jong-il insists that the South has built some sort of evil Korean apartheid wall across his peninsula. He insists that it’s invisible from the South but very visible from the North. Even if you can’t sneak into the North to verify this, the south side of the De-Militarised Zone is an unending span of unadorned walls, fences and bunkers. Unsmiling soldiers patrol the barricades, and could do with some light-hearted art to lift their partitioned spirits.

The Berm, Western Sahara.

A wall built by an occupying power to keep an ethnic group from entering lands that had previous belonged to them. Sound familiar? I know you already covered that whole thing in the West Bank, but the same thing has been happening in Western Sahara; maybe you have a few extra sketches lying around that you could be used down here? So far Morocco has built six sand-and-stone walls through Western Sahara, separating the Sahrawi people from Moroccan-occupied territory. If anywhere needs some images of rats holding art supplies, it’s this region.

The Burj, Dubai.

The tallest wall in the world. As far as I know, no one has yet taken a spray can or wheatpaste to the Burj Khalifa. Given the arrogance and complete uselessness of the structure, it seems only a matter of time before the Burj becomes the focus of a whole lot of angry, ironic art. Get your shit in there before everyone else does.

Whichever of these you choose for your next campaign, rest assured that none of these walls are of any real cultural value. These are not UNESCO heritage sites. The Great Wall of China is, I hear, for the most part blank and available for stencilling, but a lot of people, including liberalish, middle-class white people, would probably be upset by this. Speaking for the liberalish white middle class though, I can say that we kind of wish that these other walls had never been constructed.

The only redeeming quality of these walls is that they present a blank canvas, ready and waiting for some piercing social commentary. Because we dig that shit.

Or maybe other Road Junkies are up for it?



Phil Johnson

Phil Johnson is an editor at Road Junky and more of his work can be read atHe keeps a his blog. You can also enjoy his bountiful wit via Twitter.