Voina has been placed in a company of pranksters and hazers.
New documentary footage by the Russian art activists Voina (War) has just been released on British TV. The fragment chronicles Voina’s 23-second long action of fighting the bridge guards as the group made their way onto St Petersburg’s Liteiny drawbridge, prior to its daily post-midnight raising. Voina’s action was included in the new TV documentary made by Banksy Antics RoadShow featuring examples of pranks and hijinks in general.
Voina’s action of spray painting a 213-foot-tall phallus dubbed as the “Dick in FSB Captivity” was not a prank action at all; its inclusion in a film featuring examples of mostly UK-based foolish hoaxers incorrectly places the group in a company of entertainers.
Banksy presented his own idiosyncratic definition of what pranksters are when he aired his film during a popular Channel 4 special, which aired across the UK.
The pranks don’t always have the same spirit of provocation and political context as Voina’s actions or those of Banksy’s own work. It is a stretch, to say the least, to put Voina next to the French prankster Rémi Gaillard dressed as a man-in-a-kangaroo-suit or the American example of pranks, Improv.
Banksy’s film adopts the trend followed in particular by UK television, which has turned the prank into a profitable business by filming hilarious actions for the purpose of a crowd laugh. One of the responses to the Antics Roadshow was “Banksy is just the newest in a long list of wankers profiting by selling counter-culture to a population too lazy to do anything but stare blankly at a TV screen.”
The art of the political prank, which aims for a sociopolitical impact, could be diminished and leveled off, when viewed along with other plain entertainment programs such as “Jersey Shore.” Indeed it would seem to run counter to the outsider political image that Banksy has carefully crafted for himself.
Regardless of Banksy’s selection of other content, the footage from Voina is compelling and reveals more about planning and conceptualizing than is initially apparent.
When Voina’s “Dick” image became viral, it was easy to forget how nearly impossible–and dangerous–making this graffiti actually was. They had just one chance. You can see the footage here.