As the UK government announced today that face coverings will become mandatory in shops across England, the British street artist Banksy has released a video seemingly in support of wearing face masks.
No stranger to covering his own face, the artist who is famous for hiding his real identity posted a video on his official Instagram account that appears to show him—or an associate—stencilling and tagging a London underground train with several of his signature rat motifs. Face coverings are already mandatory on public transport.
One of the rats, not wearing a mask, is portrayed sneezing with its excretions sprayed in light blue-green paint across the tube carriage. Other rats are pictured using a face mask as a parachute or a bottle of hand sanitiser to tag “Banksy” on the tube train. The person in the video carrying out the stencilling and tagging is disguised as a cleaner, wearing a hazmat suit and hi-vis orange jacket, using a disinfectant pump to spray the paint.
The video ends with the protagonist disembarking at Euston Square station to the sound of the late 90s hit single Tubthumping by the British band Chumbawumba. The chorus—“I get knocked down, but I get up again”— is written on a station wall and the train doors. The choice of song is perhaps revealing of Banksy age and music taste. The video is captioned on Instagram with the not entirely clear sentence: “If you don’t mask - you don’t get”.
This is not the first time that the popular street artist has made work in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. In April during the height of the UK coronavirus lockdown, he posted images of rats running amok in a bathroom and in May he installed a painting at a hospital in Southampton to be auctioned to raise money for the National Health Service (NHS).
Transport for London were contacted for comment but did not immediately reply.