In early May, rumor spread that a new artwork by the world-renown graffitist Banksy had surfaced in the Chinatown neighborhood near the Financial District in downtown Boston. Banksy’s politicized, pop cultural referenced street provocations appear mysteriously overnight on streets and alleys of urban centers across the world (most recently in the US in San Francisco and Chicago). His elusive personal nature brings up questions of authorship and authenticity whenever a new work surfaces. Was it really him? Is he here? This elusiveness is the subject of a recently released documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop”, which, incidentally, opened Boston shortly before this new work (Some critics have called the new work simply a promotion.). The new image, located at 1 Essex Street, Chinatown, shows a man standing with a bucket and pasting material. To his left, the words “Follow Your Dreams” appear beneath the “posted over” (though actually painted) word “Cancelled”.

This is the second “Banksy” to appear in the Boston area. The other image, at 251Essex Street, in Central Square, Cambridge, features a finely rendered child with a marker in hand, partially viewed through a childlike drawn house, with a sign “No Loitirin” posted on its front lawn.

On a particularly sunny, breezy Sunday afternoon, May 16, 2010, my friend Nathan Child – a visual artist and musician – and I walked from one Banksy to the other, beginning at the newly inked piece, and trudging on foot ‘back’ to the other Banksy in Cambridge, via the Charles River Esplanade and Massachusetts Avenue Bridge (total distance a little over three miles). I recorded our conversation as we walked, which covered the usual topics: the art in question, music, gossip. Not particularly academic, just two friends enjoying a day off. I regret to have had to delete a conversation we had with a stranger at the first Banksy location, an elderly Asian gentleman who said he’d never heard of the artist. While we were there he struck up several conversations with the steady stream of curious visitors, who posed for photos in front of the work which was partially blocked by a late-model, fully loaded Chrysler. (This was, after all, a pay-for-parking lot.)

The process of this dialogue and walk recall many of the dialogues I have had with writers Tim Armentrout and Kevin Kilroy, about the working dialectic between life, art, artist, and location. I added ”travel book” descriptions of the area where each piece of conversation took place.

May 17, 2010
Marshfield, MA.


The 50-acre Boston Common is the country’s oldest park. The Common has served many purposes over the years, including as a campground for British troops during the Revolutionary War, and as green grass for cattle grazing until 1830. The Common today serves picnickers, sunbathers, and people-watchers. Wander freely about this 50-acre green, crisscrossed with walking paths and dotted with monuments. Bostonians hustle to and from the nearby T stations; others stroll leisurely, enjoying the fresh air or engaging in any number of Common activities, from free concerts to political rallies to seasonal festivities.

Which reasons did I say? Did you hear what the uh somewhat intelligible thing that I was talking about with uh…



Um. I heard you say that it was a very timely piece. Immigration policy. Is this the intelligible thing?

Yes, this is the intelligible thing.

[Bagpipes heard in distance, din of children playing, wind.]

Um I was thinking of the location of it particularly being in this um this in between space this sort of cut through street. Looking around it was all these you know the Chinese restaurant obviously. But across the street there were all these like closed like sub-shops and massage places that, um, obviously… yeah, exactly. So it’s not only this space that’s between this immigrant populated location neighborhood of Chinatown, and the Financial District, right? So thinking about those two, um, very timely…collapses with the financial sector and the…yeah, the new Arizona laws that just got passed. And all those people who’ve been effected by that, you know their cancelled dreams. Cancelled American dreams, yeah. I think this piece gives like voice to those people you know.

Thank god for “Los Suns”.

Los Suns ? (Laughs) Did we talk about that?

[The NBA’s Phoenix Suns wore jersey that read “Los Suns” in a playoff game shortly after the Arizona law that allows police to ask for documentation of an individual based on their appearance or suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. The Suns’ decision was made by team owner as a show of solidarity to the Latino community on their city.]

Um, I don’t think we did?

Do you know about that?

I guess I did, I saw some pictures and I guess I, I was amazed that professionals sports teams have decided to get involved, or that they were allowed to. I thought there was always more separation of…basketball and state.

Yeah, there is!

Church and State.

Yeah, yeah! The Suns definitely drew some heat for it.

(Laughs. Then both laugh.)

Pun intended?

Los Suns Drew Heat. Draw Heat. Yeah, exactly, for doing that, you know, the critique is that sports and politics don’t mix. You know and they should stay, they should stay….bagpipes. [Wind.] But yeah it’s interesting that nobody complains when sports players make the news when they cross over to [Child crying.] to quote news stories when they do something bad, you know when Ben Roethlisberger or Tiger Woods you know stories show up not just on SportsCenter but on the actual news as news segments. It seems like a double standard to say you know sports teams can’t comment on the world, but the world can comment on sports players and teams. Basically, though, I’m happy that the Suns did what they did, you know that’s pretty cool.

Did they draw any fines or anything like that?

No, not at all, I don’t think they did.

That sort of amazes me too. I thought that there was only so much you could put on your uniforms. I don’t know. Even, even, even trying. Wasn’t there something a few years ago when somebody was trying to honor somebody and just had like his, somebody had something on his uniform, and it was just, he was fined, and…

Yeah, and. Maybe yeah that was like an individual player or something?


Rather than like the entire team I think that as long as it’s a team-wide thing then that’s okay. But other teams have done it, like the Mavericks have Los Mavs jerseys. As do the Spurs.


Um, so, other teams have worn these types of uniforms this season, before any of this Arizona law went into effect.

Figures, yeah, they’re all teams in Texas. I would think that they have a pretty big Latino following.

Yeah. So .

But does it depend on the issue? Like if they were supporting [car horn]…

Yeah, it definitely does, yeah…

Like if they were supporting gay rights or something. And and I don’t know um, if the Celtics showed up in rainbow colored…

Well, I’ll say this…


I think that would be pretty awesome except that there’s no fucking way because of how homophobic and you know ‘manly’ things are, you know male sports teams and their fans are conservative. That uh, yeah, they would probably draw more flack from their…constituency. But on the other hand, would probably be applauded. But on the other hand, you know, someone I heard was talking about something, you know, uh, ‘where do you draw the line then, like, what if, what if this was like, what if instead of saying “Los Suns” on their jersey it said, “McCain for President” or something like that, you know? Um, yeah, I guess it opens up this can of worms.

It seems….

…but I think it’s justifiable and it’s important to say that sports is not outside of the real world. And yes, it’s an entertainment, yes, but it’s situated in such a place that. I mean, these dialogues should be going on, I mean. And so much of, sports and representation gets passed over. It seems like the fact, thinking about the NBA for example, that 80-85 % of the guys are African-American yet in the stands, the fans are 95% white. And here we are walking down one of the wealthiest streets in Boston. As a couple of white guys.

Wearing our Pumas.

With our Urban Outfitters jeans and Gap jackets.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m wearing an Armani. A nice, Armani cotton T-shirt.

Yeah. (Laughs.)

It is pretty beautiful here, though.

I took some pictures of things. Perpendicularly. Wandering around here a few weeks ago. That’s what the rest of that roll of camera was, was like things on doors. We’ll probably come across one here.

Talk more, talk more about, your um, your distrust of the idea of the z-axis, again. Because. That’s something I’d like to get into with you…

(Laughs.) It’s sort of…

Well, here, we stand right here, right? And I’m looking down this street, and I’m standing here and so I’m noticing cars like slope off into a horizon, you know? There is definitely, is it three-dimensional you know, or is it, or is it these cars and this street,

(Unintelligible response.)

is it my perception of it, is it three dimensional, or is it: not?

We’re just walking along the x-axis right now, it’s just that we’re from the vantage point of it’s actually but…

No, well then that that that would be vertical, right? That….


Vertical, I mean the, a, yeah, the vertical, isn’t that the x-axis? And then the y-axis is the…

You’re just looking at it from the wrong perspective.

Well, how do you account for three dimensionality or do you not believe that the world is three dimensional?

Well, it is three dimensional. But, actually have you ever read Flat – Flatland?

I have not but I…

In which the uh this the main character who is a triangle I believe…


Is visited by a sphere and uh when the sphere visits him the triangle sees a point grow into a line because he can’t see that third dimension. I think I was just egging you on. I think I think I think the z-axis mainly on a two-dimensional diagram…

[Passing stranger: “Hmm…”]

is, just, not talked about. Z-axis. It’s, just hard to focus on z-axes when…the sky is so blue.

[Laughs. Street sounds. Birds. Car has trouble parallel parking.]

Thought it was curtains for that sign. Ooh, this is a pretty window display.

You know what it is, it’s Roy Orbison.

Your glasses? Yeah, it is a little Roy Orbison. You’ve definitely got a little “Pretty Woman” thing going on there…

I’ve been listening to uh The National quite a bit the past few days.

You were listening to The National?

The National. Yeah, last night. It’s really good stuff.

Any, uh, any favorites or um opinions.

I think the first one I listened to was “Conversation 16”.


Because somehow you had circled that on…

Yeah, I didn’t mean to, but, yeah uh….


Beacon Hill is home to some of the most expensive real estate in America. Charming brick row houses reflect a long and storied history; where the State House stands, John Hancock once grazed cows. Visitors gawk at the State House’s newly named “General Hooker Entrance.” Locals praise the community feel of the square mile that constitutes Beacon Hill. The Public Garden and Boston Common function as the neighborhood’s backyard.

…let her go by. She seemed a little impatient. I wanted to get all impatience out around me. Out of being around me… So I can hold all the impatience. Sorry yeah…

Made it seem like a transfer? She transferred her impatience.

Yeah, sorry. I didn’t mean to circle it. It wasn’t my intention for you to really focus on that song first. But. I think I got confused because I was circling the letters…

Yeah, yeah…

What album they were on, so…

I took that circle to mean, “Pay attention to this one”.

Even unconsciously. But it’s a really good song, isn’t it.

Yeah, yeah.

I forget what the lyrics are on that one, but…

[Unintelligible. Wind. Foreign female voices. Street sounds. Birds.]

“I think the kids are in trouble?”

Oh, yeah. “I think the kids are in trouble.”

Yeah, no. The trouble. For…

Yeah. Oh, is that “leave the silver city, ‘cause all the silver girls…”

“You’re the only thing I ever want anymore.”

And then the chorus is, “let’s leave the silver city to all the silver girls. They only give us black dreams?”

[Wind, voice. Horn, wind.]


“Everything means everything.”

Yeah. “Everything means everything.” That’s really beautiful, isn’t it? I like his voice. Yeah, that’s from their new one, I found, I, I find I’m really impressed by, that denseness. The dense sound, of their, their newest one? Um, which that one is from.

Is it added instruments? Is it more layers?

I think it’s more layers. I think there’s more cellos. Like they have cellos and pianos…

(Laughs.) “More cellos.” (Christopher Walken impression:) You know what this song needs, more cellos.

“More cellos.”

(Both laugh.) We could go this way?

Actually there’s a band in Portland called The Portland Cello Project, or something.

Portland, Oregon?

Yeah. In which there are something like 5 to 15 cellos at once, playing. Playing, playing all types of pieces. It’s just pieces arranged for multiple cellos.

I think there was this band that played they started at Naropa and they moved to Portland. Um, are we going up the stairs or are we going across the bridge?


I don’t think we can access the bridge this way?

But we can access the river.

Oh, yeah. {sings} anyway, this band was called Strangers Die Everyday. Did I tell you about them or? I think they had two cellos, a bassist, and a drummer. And that was it. They were pretty much all instrumental. And they moved to Portland. Or no, maybe, it was, yeah, it was a cello, a violin, an electric bass, and drum kit.

Not upright bass?

No. But the bassist was a friend of ours. Jared’s still good friends with him, I think they play catch from time to time. Guy named Sterling, he’s a pretty cool guy. But I think they broke up, actually. I wonder if the celloist, Jesse, ended up in the Cello Orchestra you’re talking about. Seems like her kind of deal.

They’re always accepting new cellists.

How can one not be accepting of new cellists?

This view is pretty great.

Yeah, it’s beautiful.

Walking down this ramp, and the glittering river’s all you can see. Framed by these trees and everything…

Yeah, it’s a pretty amazing perspective….

[Sings, incidental noise.]

I’m really tempted …


The Charles River, once lined with sawmills and leather manufacturers, was a smelly, marshy tidal estuary until the early 1900s, when the Charles River Dam was built. Today, both sides of the curvaceous river are graced with grassy banks and weaving byways. The paved paths are perfect for bicycling, in-line skating, jogging, and walking. Storrow Drive snakes along the Boston side of the river…

[Strong wind.]

Eri would get a rabbit and walk it around on a leash! Just eccentric enough to…

[Howling wind, conversation unintelligible.]

…flower shop…. I was drinking coffee she came over and told me she had a large bottle of vodka in her bag that she was going home to drink by herself. She said she doesn’t like to drink in social situations, necessarily, but she’ll go home, and drink by herself, watch a movie and get into bed. But she showed me some of her drawings, when she took my info…and I got to see some of these…

She showed me some of these sketches she did around like her fingerprints. She put some of her fingerprints around the page like similar to your um…that technique you do when you…


…around the page… sort of drags it back and forth….almost like these heads are flames…


Should we happen to…


Windblown carriage knocks bicycles, decapitates two. (Laughs.)

Um, so, on top of the fingerprint heads, did she do, say, outlines of hair or facial expressions, because, or was, like because I always, I remember seeing some drawings that Alexandra did of…
Just, I guess these, extreme [unintelligible.] it wasn’t really anything [unintelligible.]


Yeah, I think the fingerprints had some semblances of faces, sometimes they were more abstract…
[unintelligible.] Um, I mean, you know… [unintelligible.] they didn’t [unintelligible.] Yeah I think I saw some more portraits and things, too.


No, I think I have that last page, not memorized, but…I have him reading it on my iPod, and it’s one of the most beautiful passages when he, the way he reads it. Um, so, [unintelligible.] cause I listened to it so many times.

“And on to it a-gain. Gone!” What are you pointing out? Something, do you want to sit down? Is that what this is about?


Wait, what? (Laughs.)

Yours seems more appropriate. More suitable to you.

Well maybe she thinks you’re a delicate man, and that you’d appreciate… Oh, look at that dog! He’s totally swimming across that… Aw, he’s totally going to eat those mallards.

He’s fetching balls.


Maybe I should have had a, had a, had a brief puff of yours.


This is intense.

Yeah. I know, I, this is the farthest I’ve got with one of these. I usually just have a few drags, and I’m like, ugh. It’s like 1oo % tobacco. [unintelligible.] You can pitch it, it’s totally okay. I’m not going to be offended. I mean…

Maybe I’ll save it.


Oh, man!

Maybe, I think you’re supposed to smoke them like cigars, but you end up smoking them like

Experience…. [unintelligible.] into the tree…


Tom Waits said that he had one of these defining moments of his life when he was in New York, and it was exactly like that he was finishing off this bottle of gin, and lighting a cigarette, and dashing off down the street to… [unintelligible.] different direction…[unintelligible.] Maybe it was [unintelligible.]

…leash… [unintelligible.]




… rabbit…


…just think…


I had seen something he had done as a standup.


No just on Comedy Central…he’s talking about what you’re talking about. The image of him as this sweet guy, but imagining him like guy who’s using prostitutes and saying vulgar things in that Jimmy Stewart voice….



…just necessary to appear to have friends. (Laughs.)

Such as… does that hurt?

It hurts, not much, if I put paper on there it’ll tend to get stuck. So, uh, …


…Memorial Drive along the Cambridge Side. Central Square is a mix of MIT residences, biotech companies, rock clubs, and angry cabdrivers. Sadly, the old Necco candy factory is now a Norvartis research facility…

…learning how to play the guitar, originally … then he was in a band called Jim Kweskin and His Jug Band, which involved a like a washtub, an actual wash-tub bass. [unintelligible.] And Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur and there was this female singer in Greenwich Village named Maria D’Amato, she ended up marrying Geoff Muldaur, and became Maria Muldaur….

Fat Tire! That guy had a Fat Tire training jersey. Sorry.

Nice. Uh, Fort Collins?

Yep. So, had they been in the area, all that time? Were they a national, touring act.

They played all over the place.

Are they still together? Have they been playing continuously?

No, actually, they took a long time off. Geoff Muldaur um went to Hollywood and would wear these white suits and did film scores. Actually, he didn’t play music for maybe 15 or so, 15 or 20 years. He was doing film scores, and then doing film shoots and then, more recently got back into it. Actually, he and Jim Kweskin started playing together again maybe 15, 10 or 12 years ago or something. Um, well I guess, um, they discovered that they are still like a folk, a lot of people still really interested in like his earlier folk music like he was doing in the ‘60s. And Jim Kweskin is great. He does, he does probably their biggest influence is Mississippi John Hurt. That drop-thumb bass, alternating bass lines, but Jim Kweskin just plays [unintelligible.] so as you’re listening to him play, he’ll explain ‘this song was written by, um, was recorded by Alan Lomax who recorded Vera Hill and was one of the most like eclectic singers who was doing things that no one else had heard before and uh, but she didn’t, actually I think one, one of Vera Hill’s is on the Harry Smith, might be “Boll Weevil”? “Boll Weevil Blues” or something like that? She does like an a capella. She does everything a capella. So, they’ll play that on the guitar. And you’re getting this music lesson, and then strings and old, old Americana. But then he’ll switch over and play like Rogers and Hammerstein or something like that.

[Birds sing, street sounds.]

Like those old classical, or classic ones that also show up in a lot of jazz, like become jazz standards. Which is interesting.

Which stuff becomes jazz standards?

Oh, a lot of those…

Just, old musical numbers?

Yeah…you know, uh… like, oh, jees, I can’t, I can’t… I can’t think of any. You know, “I Remember April” or “Can’t Get Started”. But those are…

Pretty sweet little old… I think if I had a car…

Is that a Merc- an old Mercedes?

It’s pretty sweet.

“You didn’t borrow Laura’s Mercedes?” “No, I didn’t borrow Laura’s Mercedes!” (Latter in Cary Grant voice.)

(Laughs.) What. Is. That?

The world may never know.


Sounds like something like an acting, uh, sounds like an acting lesson or something.

It is. It’s a scene from North by Northwest. Cary Grant’s trying to explain to his mother, or no, not to his mother, his mother’s there, but … this woman who’s putting on that she knows him… Ooop…
Oh… Crossing on the wrong side.


Not the obvious place to frolic the day away, Central Square is full of funk-venture by night. Parking around Central Square is not easy, but with a litter persistence, you can find a spot along a side street.

Seems to have happened a lot lately. Uh, lost journals, lost uh, I mean, Liz lost an entire bag of journals.


Like years, this was probably years of writing.

I thought this was something that only happened to Hemingway. Just like a bag of journals?

Yeah it was a tote-bag of like you know Moleskines. There may have been fifteen of them or something.

Oh, man…

This is when we were in Missoula. [unintelligible.] She went off to the Sacajawea Park across the street where we were living, and then came back and realized she’d forgotten her journals and realized when she came back to get it it was gone. So we scoured the area and put up uh lost and found signs and…

Where were you when she realized it was gone?

We were probably in our apartment.

But the bag was in the apartment?

The bag was, no the bag was in Sacajawea Park.

Now I getcha.

Never was found. Not by us anyway. And then, Jared’s uh hard-drive just crashed or his computer just broke. He lost quite a bit of writing. This was in the last month. And then I lost my memory stick.

You poets!

(Laughs.) I know!

You need to learn how to back up your work.

Well, I end up backing it up by printing copies, so I’m pretty much covered. But then of course I give all my copies away so I have to you know ask for the books back which I’ve given people as gifts. Such as your next treee. Uh, and Jared has a whole stash of my work which he has to send me. It’s like poet’s memory. Like poet’s time. You know what they say. You know, poets are sort of always operating on poet’s time, which means that readings consistently start 15-20 minutes late uh. Like today I was about 15 minutes later than I said I would be showing up to see you. But then you were about 45 minutes late so maybe that’s like musician’s time!


Cause like sets never start on time. You know at shows rarely they do. Sometimes they do.

I think it depends.

[Street music, other conversations, car horn.]

I think the, uh, I think [unintelligible.] usually starts on time. Because if you go over, they charge you like a thousand dollars per few minutes.

[Music continues.]

311 cover band, or something? They sound pretty good!

Yeah… “311 cover band”? Is that what this song is or…

Yeah, no, it’s just sort of sounded like their style. Sort of groovy uh somewhat groovy reggae. White guy singing. Oh, squirrel, you don’t look like where you should be…



The Cambridge Department of Public Works has a phone number you can call to “report a street or sidewalk defect”, tempting us to call them once a day to report “all of Mass. Ave.”

So I’m curious about, you know, looking. I’d like to research more of Banksy and see, again, what sort of neighborhoods these other pieces are going on. Like, what’s, the German guy was talking about, and I think I read about it as well, that one of the, one of the pieces, I thought it was in London, but he seemed to think it was in Australia, um, that was just painted over because it was called ‘graffiti’. You know and my guess is, I’m curious, but, sort of thinking about it, you know, if it was in a more, a more affluent neighborhood or something. But that might be um questionable.

[street voice of a woman being handcuffed.]

But it seems like Central Square is, more conducive to the more, uh, urban, uh street graffiti.

Well, it seems like you just get, graffiti that’s uh, I imagine after a week or two it might just be destroyed by other graffiti first.

Yeah, yeah. But I guess that’s sort of part of the culture, too, isn’t it? Like,

The impermanence.

Yeah, absolutely, that it’s impermanent. I feel like that slow, like de-volution, dissolution of it by layers of time and other artists commenting and uh that sort of dialogue is more conducive to the…

[Street voices passing.]

…work than say, like a complete white-washing over the entire piece, you know what I mean?


So, Shepley seemed to think that this was a less, a less possible, a less possible than the other one, than being, legitimately, by him. By Banksy.


I think he said because of the style. Maybe, maybe the house, like sort of chalky, a little less uh, precise in its portrayal. Although it it seems like it would, it supports the image of the child. You know with his marker in his hand…

I like that it’s obvious that there’s people making treks to Banksy…It seems sort of funny that, it seems like something you would just happen across. It’s not like you would go and seek out graffiti.

I know, but, it’s great, right? It’s great that it bringing a different… cultural awareness. I’m almost more fascinated about what’s going on to the left over here. This like um, more layered space of this like figure that’s been painted over, but other tagging and I also love the visual of like even to the left of that, this um, you know, Posted “Wish Ted Happy Birthday” and um, on this worn wood panel on the, and the brick, and then these other layers of paint and, and…

You just like those layered moments….

Yeah, I like those layered, textured surfaces…

Multiple faceted…

In Portland, Jared was telling me, a lot of the telephone poles, they’re just covered in staples from from uh from flyers. And then Jared was telling me, there’s just so many layers of paper, one on top of the other, and Jared told me that, like once a month, they go and burn them off, so it’s like, it becomes this blackened, black space every month, and then they start, you know, building again. It’s just this public space, for, advertisements, for dialogue, that continually renews itself.

Huh. I’d be interested to see the burning of the wood…

Yeah, I know, I know, I would love to see it. I imagine these teams of city workers come out with their blowtorches, and light the streets on fire. I wish I had taken more photographs. I have one…

[car horn]

…that’s this coffee shop in the background, and then the stapled texture on the front there…

[recording ends as the dialogue continues…]

Nathan Child grew up in the mountains of Colorado, and studied Art History at the University of Puget Sound — writing a thesis on the aspiration towards music in the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky. He currently lives and works in Boston, and wanders about with a Holga in his spare moments.

AKP: Museum of Thrown Objects (BlazeVox 2010); My Worth (Black Lodge Press, 2010); Between Here & the Telescopes (w/Elizabeth Guthrie; Slumgullion, 2008). Some recent journals: The Offending Adam, Dusie, and The A sh Anthology (Fact-Simile Press). MFA: Naropa U. BA: The Geo. Wash. U. Co-founder/editor: Livestock Editions. Currently: living: Mass. Reading: Hannah Weiner, Philip Whalen, Carla Harryman.

Between the Banksys: A Conversation
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