The elusive street artist who’s no stranger to covering his identity is back with new coronavirus-themed artwork. In support of facial coverings, Banksy has just shared a video on Instagram to his 9.6 million followers.
Titled “London Underground Undergoes Deep Clean,” the footage shows a person dressed up as cleaning staff spray-painting Banksy’s signature rats. The artwork covers the inside walls of a Circle line Tube train and features little gnawers coughing across the train, using masks as parachutes, and carrying sanitizer. And if it wasn’t enough, the gooey nasal excretion painted in light green is seen splattered all over the place, showing the ugly side of the virus.
This is not the first time Banksy has delivered a powerful message during the recent pandemic. Previously, he honored healthcare workers in a piece titled “Painting for Saints,” which depicts a boy playing with a nurse doll. A month prior to this, Banksy got everyone talking with a piece showing rats wreaking havoc in a bathroom during lockdown.
Banksy has just shared a video featuring a man spray-painting the London Tube with coughing rats
As the UK government has announced that face coverings will be compulsory in shops across England from the 24th of July, Banksy unveiled his new work captioned “If you don’t mask – you don’t get.” However, much to the disappointment of his fans, Transport for London (TfL) has decided to remove the artwork.
TfL spokesperson commented: “We appreciate the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings.” But “In this particular case, the work was removed some days ago due to our strict anti-graffiti policy.”
The TfL spokesperson added that the company “would like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location.” His latest work was aimed at encouraging people to wear masks while commuting due to the risk of spreading the virus.
Bored Panda spoke to Nick Riggle, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego and the author of the book On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck. Nick helped to explain the meanings and symbols behind this new work by Banksy: “the ‘masked’ artist is drawing on two powerful tropes in graffiti and street art: one from the origins of graffiti (the subway car), and one from the origins of street art (the stenciled rat), to deliver an important message to the public.”
The viral excretion is seen splattering all over the tube carriage
For those who always wondered where Banksy’s signature rats are coming from, Nick has an explanation. “The stenciled rat originates from the early French street artist Blek le Rat, who started stenciling rats around Paris in the early ‘80s.” It turns out, Blek le Rat famously said of his rats that they “spread the plague everywhere, just like street art.” These rats have figured in Banksy’s work too, but they often get personified to be more human-like.
In this particular artwork, “Banksy is flipping this script and using them to make us more like the rats—we are the carriers of disease.” Meanwhile, Nick said that the subway car is inseparable from the birth of graffiti. “By colorfully illuminating NYC subway cars—sometimes entire trains—in the late ‘70s and early ’80s, graffiti artists made themselves known well beyond their artistic circles.” The subway car allowed early graffiti artists “to speak to the public and was an important site of communication.”
When it comes to the whole message of the artwork, Nick believes that Banksy is sending out a public plea for human unity. “Let’s not be the rats. They can’t really wear a mask. You can. Let’s be human and fight this together,” he explained to Bored Panda. Here’s where the play on words and on the Chumbawamba song comes in: that is, we will all “get up” again.
Watch Banksy’s full video titled “London Underground Undergoes Deep Clean” here
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Meanwhile, those who fail to comply with wearing a face mask in shops are risking a fine of up to $125. It may be reduced to half of the amount if the fine is paid in 14 days.
Moreover, “A shop can refuse them entry and can call the police if they refuse to comply,” announced Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Banksy’s previous artwork titled “Painting for Saints” celebrates NHS heroes
Image credits: banksy
And this piece of a rat-infested bathroom unveiled during the lockdown got everyone talking too
Image credits: banksy