Who is Banksy?

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses how the origin of something, especially for culture, can affect how we perceive its legitimacy and impact.

When we talk about gravity and calculus, we often talk about Isaac Newton. While Newton arguably is one of the most important pioneers in science and math, he spent most of his time working on predicting apocalypse and alchemy, which is not a science at all.

Einstein’s theory of relativity is considered one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). The great Albert Einstein had spent decades of his life refuting quantum mechanics in favor of a unified field theory.

When it comes to science, we generally do not discount the truth of the theories just because of the person who made the discovery or presented the proof. However, the same objectivity cannot be said for art and culture.

When it comes to art and culture, the origin (or who made it) matters a lot to us. Fountain by Marcel Duchamp and The Bachman Books by Stephen King are two examples of how we often view a work of art through the lens of the art’s origin. Our perception of art changes based on who we think the artist is.

One approach for artists who want to produce work with cultural relevance is to have a secret identity. Like Bruce Wayne and Batman, the secret identity of Batman represents an idea, not a person. Batman is an icon. Banksy, or perhaps Robert Gunningham, have been practicing street art anonymously. What is fascinating is that there exists a cult-like following of the artist. It shows how much we enjoy talking about who Banksy might be.

In our culture, we judge the work of art around us all the time. We judge by knowing the origin of where it came from and sometimes through the gatekeepers. Now we are much more connected with a less need of gatekeepers, it matters less where a piece of art came from.

Day after day, we are moving away from asking the question of “Where did this come from?” and moving toward asking “What does this do for me?” Each one of us has the chance to contribute something to the culture, particularly when we were talking to people who are looking for the truth. We should seek out others who are on the same journey and level up our work by generously sharing our work with the community.