Banksy’s “Monkey Parliament” first appeared in his landmark 2009 exhibition at the Bristol Museum and Gallery. This triumphant return to his hometown and early practice ground also marked the moment of his dramatic leap from the street to the gallery, then from the gallery to the museum. He unveiled a host of pop art interventions and absurdist sculptures, all of which seem freshly plucked from a fast food forecourt. Arguably his most successful works that premiered at the exhibition were his oil paint experimentations — many of which were witty interventions on the old masters, or original pieces clad in ornate frames. “Monkey Parliament” fell into the latter category, and is a manifestation of what some might call a cynical and naïve turn of political iconoclasm. In the galleries of the House of Commons in the British Parliament building, the elected representatives have gathered to air their views. Yet, unlike the true chamber of governance, the members of parliament debate with the flinging of feces and the hurling of bananas. But, for now, this horde of elected apes upholds a dignified stance. Created in response to a national scandal involving members of parliament cheating their expense claims, Banksy’s piece coincided with an upsurge in political dissatisfaction. The work can also be seen as a distant relative of Franz Kafka — the preeminent early-twentieth century prose writer — and his ‘Report to an Academy’ short story in which a monkey addresses a scientific forum on the conditions and challenges of his integration into human society. While Kafka’s tale was an indictment on demands of ethnic assimilation, Banksy’s iconic piece is a bit more straightforward: your elected representatives are making a monkey out of you.
“Is this new?” That is what you are going to hear for the next 50 years. Your yellows will stay as yellow as the first day you hung your art. If not, we will replace it.
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