Steve Jobs, with later additions by unknown person by Banksy

Banksy

Steve Jobs, with later additions by unknown person, 15 Feburary, 2016, Mural, 'The Jungle' refugee camp near the ferry port in Calais, France, PRISMA ARCHIVO / Alamy Stock Photo

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‘Because Worthless’

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Like the identity of the author of 1 Timothy, the identity of Banksy is disputed and contested. And like the literary corpus attributed to Paul, this work from Banksy is palimpsestuous, having been annotated and overwritten and reinscribed several times over. In its first iteration, it was an image of Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple, carrying only a knapsack and an early Macintosh computer. Later artists added words to the original artwork. In large letters, ‘London Calling’ quoted the title of an album by British rock band The Clashitself a quotation from BBC radio broadcasts during World War 2. Here, perhaps, it served as a reference to London as a particular centre of economic wealth and one of the preferred destinations of migrants. And, over the centre of the image, were scrawled the words ‘because worthless’.

This work appeared in 2015, as a humanitarian crisis consumed Europe. Refugees from North Africa, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East desperately made their way toward Europe, seeking both political and economic safety. In response, debates exploded across the continent, sometimes centring on economy, sometimes on national, religious, and ethnic identity, and sometimes on the threat of terrorism.

Banksy created this work on a wall in the Calais migrant camp in France, and the meaning seems straightforward. Pointing to Jobs’s own roots as the child of immigrants to the United States, the artist is making the common observation that immigrants contribute much more to our societies than they require in resources. After all, there is a good chance that the device you are reading this on owes something to this son of migrants.

But the ‘because worthless’ of a later anonymous artist provokes a question: what is worth, and where does it come from? The implication of an image of Steve Jobs as a refugee is that refugees’ worth is tied to their utility as economic subjects and objects. Immigration fuels growth, and innovation comes from the mixing of a diversity of cultures. No prophet of postliberalism could disagree. But the later addition, ‘because worthless’, complicates things.

Likewise, this part of 1 Timothy is complicated, and even confused, about what makes human beings worth something. Is it being a docile and obedient slave? Is it contentment with one’s lot in life? Or a life of devotion to God?

 

References

Ellis-Peterson, Hannah. 2015. ‘Banksy Uses Steve Jobs Artwork to Highlight Refugee Crisis, 11 December 2015’, www.theguardian.com, [accessed 20 June 2019]

Ibrahim, Yasmin, and Anita Howarth. 2018. Calais and its Border Politics: From Control to Demolition (Abingdon and New York: Routledge)


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