The use of rats in street art was apparently fist started by a FRENCH graffiti artist aptly named Blek le Rat who started using them in the 70s stating “I began to spray some small rats in the streets of Paris because rats are the only wild animals living in cities, and only rats will survive when the human race disappears and dies out,”
Nearly two decades later rats would again become prominent in graffiti with the onslaught of Banksy.
There has been a lot of discussion involving Banksy’s use of rats. Some people think he uses them because the rat is a representation of Banksy himself in that it only comes out at night, is cunning and sneaky and usually ends up causing some sort of damage to people’s property.
Another similarity between rats and the graffiti artist in general is the inability to successfully cull the population. It is a known fact that simply killing rats will usually create more as there is more food for the rats and rats regulate.
In some respects the same can be said about graffiti artists as in New York where they managed to slow graffiti, making the artists more determined to perform there work and therefore the problem came back with more force than before.
Or you could take a quote from Banksy himself “If you feel dirty, insignificant or unloved, then rats are a good role model. They exist without permission, they have no respect for the hierarchy of society, and they have sex 50 times a day.”
Another similarity between rats and graffiti artist is well worded by rat enthusiast Robert Sullivan who states “It is the very ostracism of the rat, its exclusion from the pantheon of natural wonders, that makes it appealing to me, because it begs the question: who are we to decide what is natural and what is not?” and who are we to state what is art and what is not.
Of course it possible that Banksy never meant for the rat to symbolise graffiti art as he said once himself “I’d been painting rats for three years before someone said, ‘That’s clever, it’s an anagram of art,’ and I had to pretend I’d known that all along.”
In the end like all art it all depends on what it means to you.
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