Celebrated career criminal Banksy has apparently begun a monthlong residency in New York City as part of an exhibition his website is calling Better Out Than In, ”an entire show on the streets of New York.” Though the title makes reference to a work that surfaced last week in Los Angeles, the show’s first piece, pictured above, appeared today in Chinatown next to a stenciled toll-free line: 1-800-656-4271. When dialed, an automated service offers commentary on the piece in a soothingly parodic museum audioguide monotone.
Callers are first asked to enter the number of the work in question followed by the pound key, which in this case is 1#. “Hello and welcome to Lower Manhattan,” the voice announces, “before you, you will see a spray art by the artist Ban-Sky.” The entertaining 30 or so seconds of narration that follows is punctuated by asides that variously mock the artist’s technique (“cheating”), art language (“Are you kidding me? Who writes this stuff?”), and ponderous reflection (“Let’s pause for a minute to consider the deeper meaning of the work”). The robotic male voice then invites the listener to come to their own conclusion: “You decide, please do. I really have no idea.”
We explored the keypad to see if any other artworks have had their “informational” tracks released but came up short. We did, however, discover that dialing 0# takes you to a feedback option, where one can record a comment. Previous online references to the toll free number suggest that the line was once used by one “Wendy Parks,” a debt consolidation fraudster whose unsolicited dialing appears to have ceased in 2008. Make of that what you will.