Banksy is opening an hotel in Palestine called ‘The Walled Off Hotel’. The hotel is a few meters away from the wall that Israel built to surround the city of Bethlehem and this is why it claims it can offer its guests ‘the worst view in the world’.
The hotel wants to be a spotlight on the tense political history between Israel and Palestine. To do this, Banksy creates a beautiful contrast, staging the hotel and the wall as perfect antagonists. The hotel, the business of hospitality, has its fundamental job in ‘the inside’, in offering a space to be in, in welcoming people, strangers, foreigners. The wall, instead, is built to keep people, strangers, foreigners away, in ‘the outside’.
Banksy also plays with a colonial, victorian theme of the hotel. He provocatively encourages a 19th century-inspired elitist tourism, just like the one which brought the rich Brits around the world to see the reality of poverty in their empire. A ‘dark tourism’ which is still relevant today, in a heavily unequal world. It is also metaphor of the role of the UK and of the West in this political mess, of powerful outsiders, playing chess in a world distant from them, detached from their lives, being at best a mere touristic destination.
The fundamental message Banksy wants to share is a message of peace, of understanding, of hospitality. It is also an open invitation to the world to come to Bethlehem, to see with their own eyes what it means to leave surrounded by walls and in the midst of war and political tensions.
To my knowledge, Banksy is the first to utilize an hotel as means of art. I’m so happy, because this fits so perfectly with commonuseless’s philosophy of taking all parts of our everyday life, of our businesses, of our things and leverage them for art just like you would with paintings, drawings, text, etc. So many forms, beyond hotels, have yet to be rendered artistic. Let’s build them.