Exit Through The Gift Shop

I just watched the wonderful film Exit Through the Gift Shop, and it has left me spinning with excited archetypal awareness. It is a film about the emerging street-art scene of the the last decade, and focuses on one frenchman living in LA, Thierry Gueta, and his obsession with filming nearly every moment of his own life. He constantly has his video camera turned on, and the people around him get used to the omnipresent filming. He starts to document the work of graffiti artists that he encounters, and he becomes obsessed with filming the work of the most celebrated underground artists of our time. The most famous, and most illusive, artist that he pursues is the british phenomenon known as Banksy (his actual identity is not known). Banksy is a kind of artistic Robin Hood Zorro figure, who with stencils, often under the cover of darkness, creates anti-establishment artistic statements in public places. His fame became more pronounced in 2005 when he managed to paint nine images on the Israeli West Bank barrier wall, one depicting children digging a hole through the wall.

Through a series of fortunate connections Gueta finally tracks Banksy down and earns his trust. We see him accompanying Banksy on his night-time missions to leave his artistic mark on various cities around the world. What is fascinating about the film is that it starts out being a film about Banksy and other guerrilla artists, but gradually the most fascinating chararacter becomes Gueta himself, who at a certain point in the film decides to start creating street art of his own. Gueta is the one making the documentary, but Banksy (who we see in the film always with his face and voice obscured) turns the camera around to focus on Gueta’s art. What unfolds is an exciting drama that raises many questions about the nature of art, the nature of fame, and the exploitation of art and artists for financial gain.
For me as an archetypal astrologer it is quite a process watching a film like this. There are so many levels and angles of possible archetypal/astrological interpretation that I can take. I can focus on the collective alignments that might be relevant; I can look at the director’s chart (and his/her transits); or I can focus on any of the actor’s charts/transits. Sometimes it is challenging to discern what the most prominent emerging archetype is, and it can be hard to know where to look for it. In this case a number of things jumped out at me, and I want to share them here.
The first thought I have, given the mass popularity that this film is achieving in the recent period –it is one of the most talked about documentaries of the past year, it has a 98 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it has also been nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar– is that it is archetypally reflective of the powerful collective Jupiter-Uranus conjunction that is currently in the sky. The most dominant archetype of the film is the Uranus principle. This is a film about rebels, pranksters, tricksters, and law-breakers, and these are all qualities that Uranus is said to rule. In the case of this film there is a very specific form of the Uranus archetype that seems to be dominant, and this is the Jupiter-Uranus combination that has been in the sky during the period of the film’s widespread popularity.
The Jupiter-Uranus archetype is the combination that celebrates and honors (Jupiter) the rebel energy, and it is also the successful revolutionary archetype (as we are seeing so clearly in Egypt this past week), and this is a film that celebrates and honors the successful law-breaking artists that are featured. It is also fitting for the Jupiter-Uranus combination that this is a film that has itself been very successful and is receiving many honors, including the Oscar nomination. It is also about the huge success and wealth that these street artists have begun to achieve in recent years. The historical art tradition that is most referenced in the film is that of the Pop Art phenomenon of the 1960s, and the work of Andy Warhol. That scene decisively emerged with Warhol’s first exhibitions during the Jupiter-Uranus opposition of 1962 (which was overlapping with a Uranus-Pluto alignment, as is the current Jupiter-Uranus conjunction).
As in the 1960’s, the current collective energy is also informed by the Uranus-Pluto archetype (in the 1960’s there was a conjunction, and now there is a square). And this energy is also clearly present in the film. One of the main qualities that the film conveys, besides all of the rebel prankster energy, is that of the extreme adrenaline-pumping danger that these artists are experiencing all the time. These guerilla artists work under cover of darkness, often climbing up buildings and over roof-tops, precariously perching on risky footholds, and all the while having to stay on the lookout for the cops. This is Pluto’s realm, that of the underworld and the thrill of living life on the edge. And so the film perfectly conveys the combination of Uranus and Pluto coming together in the world of art.
Unfortunately, most of the main artists that are featured in the film, including Banksy and Gueta (who gives himself the name “Mr. Brainwash” once he actively starts creating street art) do not have available birth data. When I see a film like this my heart breaks that I can’t look at the charts for the featured personalities, and now Banksy and Mr. Brainwash are right at the top of my “most wanted birth data” list. I don’t think it is very likely that we will ever know Banksy’s chart, as he is such a motivated trickster when it comes to concealing his identity, but it is possible that we may eventually get Gueta’s data, and that is going to be quite a fascinating chart to study along with this film.
The one person featured in the film whose data we do have is the artist Shepard Fairey. This is the person who became known for making the famous Barack Obama “Hope” poster (and that brought him much legal controversy concerning whether he stole the image from an AP photographer). In the film we see some of Fairey’s early street-art campaigns featuring his well-known Andre the Giant images. Gueta befriends Fairey in the film, and it is this connection that eventually leads him to Banksy.
If we can take Fairey’s chart as a kind of representative for all of the street artists featured in the film, it is quite illustrative. When I study his chart, I am, of course, going straight for his natal Uranus, and I can see that he has two major Uranus hard aspects. He is born two months after the decade of the 1960s ended, in February 1970, when there was still a very powerful Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the sky, and it seems very fitting that he would be born with this aspect. He is born with the conjunction, and he becomes a successful and well-known artist (with his natal energy in resonance with the zeitgeist) as the collective square comes into alignment.
Fairey is also born with Mars opposite Uranus, and this is another archetype that is really consistent with the themes of the movie. I’ve heard Rick Tarnas refer to this combination as the “street-fighting-rebel archetype,” and the “prankster archetype,” and it really fits the energy that many of these artists are embodying in the film. These are individuals who are aggressively (Mars) pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable by society. Mars-Uranus is also a risk-taking energy, and it is really consistent with the way Fairey and others are practicing their art on the edge of danger, often risking their safety in the places that they do their work.
In conclusion, I want to share another meta-level to my archetypal experience of this film. It is important to note that I personally had a very strong response to this movie, and therefore it is necessary to also reflect on what it is archetypally in me, that had such a powerful experience. I really love watching films about rebels, and the rock-and-roll side of me just delights in seeing people breaking the rules (with the graffiti in this case) and getting away with it. I also love the combination of art and rebellion, and I have always been drawn to revolutionary artists. Watching artists pushing the boundaries, and performing social commentary in such a radical way as this film portrays just totally satisfies a deep part of myself. Now, I’m sure there is probably a way in which the themes of this film have a kind of universal appeal, and archetypally they will resonate with the Uranian spirit that lives in every human psyche, but it is also the case that some people will love this film more than others.
And so here I must bring in my own personal astrological chart to this blog for the first time. I was born in 1969 with a Venus-Uranus-Pluto triple conjunction (with Venus in between Uranus and Pluto), and it is this part of me that is in total resonance with this movie. As I was watching it I could feel this part of me waking up and coming to life. These three planets together perfectly capture the energy of this film. We have already explored the Uranus-Pluto archetype, and its relevance, and it should be clear why Venus would amplify the themes we have already explored here. Venus is the goddess of art and beauty, and when combined with the revolutionary energy of the Uranus-Pluto archetype, it really captures the major motifs that are at work in this movie.
It is very common for someone who is born with a particular archetypal combination to be attracted to works of art, literature, music, and film that are expressive of that combination. We see this all the time. There seems to be some kind of magnetic field of attraction that draws similar expressions of the archetypes into each other’s orbit. In this case, as soon as I heard a little bit about what this movie is about I was immediately drawn to it, and then when I actually started watching it I was just completely enthralled by it. The psyche delights in seeing its own potential mirrored back to itself, and that was certainly my experience with Exit Through the Gift Shop. I may have to go buy some spray paint.
Shepard Fairey’s birth data is from Wikipedia, no time, so chart is cast for noon.
My own chart is an exact-timed chart, with the birth time coming from my birth certificate.
All images (except for Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster) are photographs of artwork attributed to the artist known as Banksy.