Banksy's Scar of Bethlehem
While about 2 billion people in the world are getting ready to celebrate that "most wonderful time of the year," one of the art world's dearest outlaws, Banksy uses the holiday season to the current socio-political situation at the birthplace of Jesus himself. Continuing a holiday theme that includes a jaundiced critique of consumerist society, this Christmas card, comments on environmental and economic issues in UK over the years, and even an alternative Nativity show titled Alternativity and directed by Danny Boyle, Banksy's latest installation includes a new piece in the lobby of his Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.
In keeping with tradition, the elusive artist's work quietly appeared overnight for guests at the fashionable hotel, discovered upon entering the lobby and towards the reception desk, or in this case, the Rejection desk. Playing on previously referenced concepts, the new sculpture titled Scar of Bethlehem is another iteration of the iconic Nativity scene, but rather than nestled in the stable, little baby Jesus splays out in the open, right under massive concrete slabs of the Israeli-West Bank Barrier. Mary and Joseph perhaps warily at his side, the only light shining on these familiar characters is cast through a hole in the wall, the gaping mortar shell hole in the shape of the Star of Bethlehem.
In keeping with the setpiece, the barrier wall is filled with graffiti, as "Love" and "Paix" make visible irony of the traditional tableau. Accompanied by three presents in which the wrapping is cut only to find empty contents, underscores the hollow Nativity scene.
Cleverly combining the well-known story of the birth of God's only son with the current state of affairs, Banksy once again casts a shadow on "joy to the world" literally and symbolically.
Speaking of Walled Off Hotel, much earlier this year a large new piece hanging in the hotel's lobby replaced the previously displayed graffiti leopard guarding a lamb. The new piece also comments on The Israeli-West Bank Barrier, with an image of a young Palestinian girl dressed in traditional mootif with a headscarf, playing with what looks like a standard shape sorter toy. But pervasively subversive, Banksy's version includes common forms of major monotheistic religions–a crucifix, crescent moon and the Star of David, representing Christianity, Islam and Judaism, respectively.
Although the toy laments a hopeless situation created by imposed and situational differences among people, the large heart-shaped hole at the center suggests hope. If the hole was created by the same hammer the girl uses for play, perhaps individuals holds the power of positivity over irrational injustice. –Sasha Bogojev
Photo credits by Banksy, Wisam Salsaa