Along with being amongst Banksy’s lesser-talked about and understood works, this is also a work surrounded by some degree of mystery, as not a lot is known about it in comparison to the rest of Banksy’s portfolio. Choose Your Weapon first appeared in the Southwark district of London.
Choose Your Weapon depicts a British youth wearing a hooded sweatshirt, black pants and a bandana that is serving the purpose of a mask. The youth has on a chain leash, where one would expect a dog, an image of dog, which is drawn in the signature style of Keith Haring, the 80’s artist and activist from New York.
First, this piece pays homage to Keith Haring who was a great exponent of public art and in particular, art that engaged with street culture. The title Choose Your Weapon points us in the direction of the meaning that the artist wishes us to absorb. The youth in the piece who exudes urban disgruntlement has chosen artistic expression as a weapon of choice. The barking dog also represents what the youth wants to express. It conveys that what he wishes to achieve with this weapon is to shake things up, very much like the bark of a dog.
Understanding the physical context of Choose Your Weapon is also central to understanding the overall theme. Southwark district could best be summed up as a mixed development with rich, gated residential communities for the wealthy, existing alongside major office developments, low income areas and council flats and housing. Here the urban condition and disillusionment of youth is most understandable.
There is another way to look at this piece entirely. The Keith Haring dog could actually be a very clever device of Banksy’s that serves the purpose of paying homage to Haring and a twisted conceptual tool. Dogs are regarded as man’s best friend and are a common sight on a leash alongside youngsters such as the youth in the piece. However, in Choose Your Weapon, Banksy is trying to say that the youth has become overwhelmingly conquered by the alienating and unnatural conditions of the modern times we live in. Virtual reality has superseded natural life; so the youth does not even have a real dog, but just the image or a representation of it for company.
Specialists in Banksy prints and urban art, Contemporary Art Trader can help you find your very own, authentic Choose Your Weapon, signed or unsigned. For any queries you may have, contact us today.