The elusive artist Banksy is back again with a coronavirus-themed installation in the London underground. In a video posted to Instagram, we see a man—possibly Banksy himself—dressed like a member of a cleanup crew entering into a train car. In a piece he calls “If you don’t mask – you don’t get,” he starts spraying stencils of rats across the train. But, in typical Banksy fashion, these aren't any old rats.
Each critter is doing something coronavirus related. For instance, one helpfully dispenses hand sanitizer while another parachutes in on a face mask. Another, without a face mask, is shown sneezing and Banksy doesn't hold back on how far the results fly. At the end of the video, we see the words “I get lockdown” on the wall of the station and “But I get up again” as the doors of the tube slide shut. And in a classic touch of Banksy irony, the 1997 song Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, known for the line “I get knocked down, but I get up again,” plays in the background.
Transport authorities stated that the work had already been removed a few days ago, in line with their anti-graffiti policies. However, in a statement, they said that they appreciated “the sentiment of encouraging people to wear face coverings.” Face masks have been mandatory on England's public transit since June 15. However, politicians are still debating policies that would require them to be mandatory when entering into commercial shops.
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The UK has been hit hard by the coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, there have been nearly 300,000 confirmed cases and 44,830 deaths. The good news is that the island nation continues to see the number of new cases slow, with 4,053 new cases confirmed the week of July 6. That's a stark difference from the peak in early April, when there were 37,088 new cases in a week.
Banksy's new installation comes after producing several works while in lockdown, including rats overtaking his bathroom in a work titled “My wife hates it when I work from home.” He also created a piece to honor the UK's healthcare workers and gifted it to the Southampton General Hospital. Now we'll just need to wait and see what he comes up with next.