Banksy and Titian in the palimpsest of Madrid. Blek le rat accompanies them as best he can.
Writing, painting, composing, indeed any manifestation of art, all amount to the same thing: the perpetuation of memory, whether that’s Banksy’s, Blek le rat, Titian (don’t miss the exhibition in the Prado).
Of course, the task is impossible, as impossible as human existence itself: as Sappho noted more than 2.500 years ago, “There is no road to Olympus for mortals.”
It doesn’t matter much whether or not one knows the author or the work. Olympus is reserved for the gods, which is to say immortality is not even a forbidden fruit, to be speculated upon, to be sinned against. Quite simply, it’s not an option. Eventually, everything is consigned to the storeroom of oblivion, one more layer of the palimpsest of life.
This may be simply the way things are, but it is our duty to struggle every day, to occupy our lives and add another layer. In my book Graffiti of the world, sociologist Hans-Maria Bauer urges street artists everywhere to reproduce the Lumen Cox graffiti in every corner of the planet, in turn inviting the whole world to write over them with whatever they like, until all traces of Lumen Cox are gone.
The objective of this activity is the creation of a universal palimpsest, as Hans-Maria Bauer points out: what best defines our ephemeral existence is the very concept of palimpsest, in which different layers of writing, of traces, are left; this is the most any of us can aspire to.
Banksy has written and painted a great deal, and also overwritten, as he did with King Robbo‘s graffiti. Perhaps aware that in the end everything ends up in the storeroom of oblivion, he guards his identity zealously.
Last Week I visited the Banksy exhibition in Madrid. Don’t miss it. It’s a bracing immersion in aesthetics and thinking. Nobody packages social critique like Banksy. The exhibition runs until May 9.
The graffito of the story ´Operation Palimpsest´ was underneath The Queen Elisabeth Hall, London, 2015.