Banksy is back working again. Fittingly, his new piece of work is as political as we’ve come to expect from the elusive street artist – only this time he’s incorporated a technological twist.
A new piece of art appeared on the wall of the French embassy in London overnight on Saturday. It recreates the iconic poster for musical Les Miserables, featuring Cosette with tears in her eyes as CS gas billows towards her.
The new work features a QR code, which when scanned reveals an online video of a police raid on the refugee camps in Calais. QR technology is gradually being incorporated into the art world – the recent Chanel exhibition at the Saatchi gallery made heavy use of it – but this is the first time that Banksy has used the technology to make his artwork interactive.
Given that nothing Banksy does is without meaning, it’s possible that his decision to incorporate a QR code makes specific reference to the ways in which the refugee crisis has unfolded in the West. QR codes are typically associated with smartphone use, and smartphones are often the only possessions of value that refugees have left when they arrive in the Calais camps. Smartphones have also completely changed the way in which people have responded to the refugee crisis – from people in sinking boats sending out their geo-coordinates to rescuers, to refugees using WiFi in the camps to send messages to loved ones back in Syria.
Banksy has been engaging with the Syrian refugee crisis for some time. His Dismaland ‘bemusement park’ was dismantled and repurposed to provide shelter for refugees in Calais after just five weeks. More recently, a Banksy mural appeared in the Calais refugee camp known as ‘the Jungle’. The mural depicted Steve Jobs carrying a knapsack and an early Apple computer – a reference to the fact that the legendary tech pioneer was himself the son of a Syrian migrant.
If you don't have time to head down to Knightsbridge and scan the QR code for yourself, you can watch the video of the police raid below.