Banksy IRL

You often hear, ‘of course I’d rather be there in real life, but this is the next best thing.’ The term, ‘Virtual’ is ubiquitous. It refers to anything from a text chat to a zoom meeting.

Even ‘Virtual Reality’ means tablets and browsers as well as headsets connected to gaming computers. Headsets make a qualitative difference because browsers and tablets are a hybrid experience — you see both realities at once, the room you are in and the screen show. Headsets put us there and only there, in a different reality than the room your body is still in.

For appreciating street art, Headset VR makes an existential difference — and it is not the next best thing. It is frequently the only thing.

Street art is impermanent. It challenges authority. It is not built to last.

Even Celebrity Street Art is impermanent: We are sorry to inform you that no exceptions can be made and the defacing item must be removed under Article 226B6.

Even for Banksy.

Most of his work is gone. But not forgotten, because it is still seen on walls inside buildings where viewing requires a ticket instead of on walls outside buildings where viewing is free for all.

However, an Unexpected Consequence happened.

Google Street View started saving everything it could see in 2007, which included A LOT of street art. And it kept doing it, again and again.

What a gift. An open gift, that people all over the world contribute to, not just the Google cars. Street art in existence in 2007, and any time going forward, may be preserved

The person who is Banksy probably began around 1974 and Banksy-the-Artist was probably part of a crew by the early 1990s in Bristol, UK.

Why Bristol?

I am not an expert on this topic and I am writing this as a learner, not as a teacher. I lived in London in 1969, saw The Who play all night on Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath. That was what we now call Classic Rock.

A few years later and100 miles away from London on the west coast of England, immigrants from Caribbean nations began working with local artists and coming up with a Hip Hop, Reggae, R&B, and Rock fusion that eventually became known as the ‘Bristol Sound.’

New music unwanted by mainstream venues needs unused spaces to inhabit. To practice and perform. Places like old empty warehouses, which Bristol had in abundance.

Why Bristol? Because it was the initial center of UK’s direct trade in enslaved people, a complex enterprise requiring a large fleet and plenty of storage. The city was enriched from the profits, but divided by the injustice.

Bristol was also the initial center of UK’s opposition to slavery in all forms, through John Wesley and the Society of Friends (Quakers). Trade in enslaved people was made illegal in England in 1807.

A few centuries later, the buildings were there to be appropriated for new purposes.

The Bristol Sound and Bristol Street Art came together in album covers and concert posters. Some artists did edgy music and edgy visual art. Both come from the same challenging sensibility, new forms of expression you’re not supposed to do.

Over time, the scene divided and matured into different threads. Bristol bands like Massive Attack and Portishead found larger audiences and the Bristol Sound became a worldwide style known as Trip Hop. trance with energy and a dark edge.

This is the music Banksy grew up with.

A Multi Media Resurrection

The first Banksy IRL event, presented by Educators in VR, will feature three works of street art that no longer exist on the street. They were cancelled.

During the event we will be, virtually, in the actual location of each work, fully recorded in 360 degrees by Google Streetview when they did exist in place. Unfortunately, we cannot get right up close to Streetview’s image. That’s fixed.

What we can do is bring a very large, detailed picture of each work of street art into our event and place it so we can all see Banksy’s art in context and in detail at the same time.

Then we add the Bristol Sound, Trip Hop cuts. We’ll play songs from the time Banksy created each piece, what he might have been listening to.

I’m no docent, but I can share a little back story for the three works we will experience this way. View, listen — and then discuss, reflect. Everyone will be free to say what it means to them.

Early indications for the upcoming event suggests high interest in the topic.

VR can accommodate large numbers by spawning new Instances ad infinitum. But that format can only work for a one-to-many presentation. I have done one-to-many presentations forever and now I want to host discussions.

I will not dilute the quality of the experience to allow more people to attend. People will be turned away. I will run the event at other times and other days.

Image by David Denton

I write about VR and other topics I have no standing to write about on Medium and Substack.

I have a black belt in learning and I’ve been meditating for so long you’d think I’d be enlightened but I’m not.

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Tom Nickel

Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos