"In a reworking of a piece by the renowned Australian street artist, Meek, Banksy’s “Keep Your Coins. I Want Change” is a damning reminder of the unsympathetic march of economic progress. While the hopes and subsequent violence of the twenty-first century gave way to wavering bouts of aspiration and pessimism, the promise of societal change has never been far from the political agenda.
Yet as with any period of social upheaval, the urban poor are always the hardest hit. Perhaps reworked by Banksy to remind us of the hope that surrounded Barack Obama’s presidential campaign for ‘change’, his adaptation of Meek’s popular image is a resounding cry of dissatisfaction. Meek’s original appeared around 2004 on a train station wall in Melbourne, and the artist himself honed his skills during a spell in London where he was exposed to the works of Banksy. A prolific, socially conscious artist, Meek’s original Begging for Change has since become a symbol for a number of positive causes, from human rights charities to homeless shelters.
The dejected figure is stenciled life-size, sitting at street level, and displaying the cup and sign familiar to so many homeless individuals. Appearing prominently in a busy transport hub, the piece would have been seen by an employed public, most of them on their commute to work. Yet rather than requesting spare change — a few loose coins to contribute to a temporary quench of thirst or hunger — the request to the public rejects money in favor of wider societal change. It is a witty piece of sloganeering, reminiscent of the Situationist placards that appeared in Paris during the 1968 student uprising. For both Banksy and Meek, those forgotten by the ceaseless march of globalization cannot be bribed by the odd donation of spare change." ~ icanvas