Did Shakespeare really write all those plays? I find myself not even caring that much whether he did, or was aided, or – as some who like to stir things up have suggested – he was actually someone else, someone different from the earring wearing fuzzy headed one we see in most portraits. What matters is that it contains some of the finest literature of the English language. Now it has passed into legend, we don’t need to prove he actually turned his hand to something to find value in it, whether monetary or artistic.
So who really cares who the real Banksy is? Once he’s uncovered we realise that, just like celebrities we idolise, he wakes up, eats and goes to the bathroom, fills in his tax return (or not as the case may be!) just like the rest of us. The romantic mystery surrounding this societal vigilante putting two fingers up on street walls disappears when we realize he’s a really canny art student after all. Somehow it doesn’t fit with the emerging figure of a middle class happily well off married man. Ergo, the ‘geo-profiling’ study used to determine to a high likelihood whom Banksy may really be is a big fat – though admirable on academic terms – waste of funding.
It is not like the team that actually managed to pinpoint the street depicted in that famous Vermeer painting: that was useful as it comes from an historical era in which hardly anything was recorded and what evidence we get to fill in the blanks about Vermeer is always a beneficial thing. The difference here is that we are in an age in which everything is documented and recorded to such a degree that historically there will be no mystery whatever surrounding Banksy. What historians in the future want to trawl through Twitter ramblings of commentators? For every historical event now, there are innumerable inane outpourings of no benefit to anyone. HashtagIronic. What really matters is the meaning behind the art, regardless of the figure himself.