Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Banksy, Steve Irwin and the Wilderness

Banksy's Los Angeles exhibit - a live, painted elephant in a living room - has run into trouble with the Animal Services Department. The practical charge concerns the kind of paint, but the head of the ASD is regretting giving permission for much broader reasons - for, in fact, "frivolous abuse of animals". Banksy's installation is very much in his prig style. World poverty is the elephant in the room, geddit? Oh yeah, wow, deep, Banksy. Meanwhile, Steve Irwin lives on in the form of a signed toy stingray. Banksy's work is politically correct in one way but outrageously incorrect in another in that it involves the humiliation of an elephant and, therefore, an insult to the wild environment. Irwin is sainted as a champion of the wilderness, but, to be honest, I agree with those who argue that he also humiliated its inhabitants. A wilderness occupied by a capering Steve Irwin is not a wilderness. The deep truth, way beyond the wit of Banksy and Irwin but encompassed by the minds of their far greater contemporaries James Lovelock (see Selected Articles) and Edward O.Wilson, is that the wilderness, the non-human, must return if life on earth is to survive. There's a bigger elephant in Banksy's room and a bigger croc in Irwin's swamp. They are the wilderness that exists not for us but for itself.


  1. I'd have to agree the elephant exhibit seems to exude the pleasures of sellf-righteousness rather than any kind of empathy with the downtrodden be they human or not, in this case not. Pretty bizarre level of disassociation from nature all right.

  2. I wonder if there'll be an update of the "Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter - His Most Dangerous Adventures" DVD. Noticed it yesterday in a store and it led to, I presume, this inevitable thought.