Societal issues through painting.
Here is a screen shot from Banksy’s Facebook page. Despite having similarities in style; the painting on the right, of a small boy upset by the lack of ‘likes’ on his Instagram, was not painted by Banksy. However, this image is still very powerful and useful to us as Art Specialists and change makers. It could be argued that The Artist, IHeart, is making a clear link between the happiness and popularity on the internet. The expression on the child’s face could be a possible consequence of the lack of interest he has received from posting on the internet, highlighting the suggested links between feeling content and the opinions of others. On The Artist’s website it states that, “Every platform is flooded with selfies and every ‘like’, new follower or comment serves to validate an existence.”
IHeart continues to argue that our communities are damaged because of social media, provoking the question; “What are we going to do about it?”
In a way The Artist has already done ‘something about it’ by painting on a wall, in Vancouver, and then sharing it, ironically, through social media such as his website; which has lead to Banksy reposting the image, although mainly to remove any confusion between the pair (as shown in the picture above), spreading awareness of a societal issue – The obsession with social media.
As Art Specialists we can use this example to show just how effective a painting can be at addressing and portraying a societal issue. Also, for the Art Specialists who have chosen the issue of Cyberbullying, this image may be useful because it shows a child upset due to the lacks of online ‘likes’. This could be developed further by debating ‘what constitutes as Cyberbullying’.
I would like to pose the question: is not having ‘likes’ on the internet just as upsetting as receiving a hurtful post, and are they both forms of Cyberbullying?
Lastly, ideas from this painting could be used with children. For example, during PSHE you could promote being kind to others online, thus encouraging children not to be a bully. The feelings of the boy in the painting could also be a topic of discussion by asking the class to come up with ways to help him feel ‘happy’ again. Teachers could reinforce this by explaining that it is fine for you to not always receive many ‘likes’ because you have friends at school, who value you unplugged from the internet.
I hope this post will help Art Specialists to look at less familiar artists, recognise the impact a painting of a societal issue can have, gain knowledge about how to present societal issues in an artistic way and possible ways of addressing such issues in a classroom.