TORONTO – As Black Lives Matter protests across North America have begun calling for the dismantling of statues that uphold values of white supremacy, local bronze-painted statue performer Mike Banks has become extremely nervous.
Banks is best known for his portrayals of ambiguous old-timey male characters such as Prospector, Blacksmith and Jean Chrétien. “With the exception of when I’m playing a Tree, all my characters are white men painted in a metallic colour, so I wouldn’t fault anyone for mistaking me for John A. MacDonald ‘cause we all look the same.”
Banks admits that, in his line of work, he’s used to being roughed around. “Teens used to be my biggest concern. I don’t care how many times they longboard into me – I won’t move. I’m an artist!”. But after seeing a video in which anti-racism protesters in England tore down a statue and threw it into a river, Banks has decided to take precautions. Having recently signed up for swimming lessons, he says, “I’ve also added water wings to all my statue portrayals because even with lessons, I still sink like granite.”
Banks has also been donating a portion of his accumulated loose change, TTC transfers and discarded PPE masks to Black Lives Matter organizations. “These statues that have been dismantled or had paint thrown on them sully my profession. A statue should scare you because it moves, not because of the systemic racism it represents.” Banks is also quick to point out that no one actually visits the statues in Queens Park or on the Ryerson Campus, and that he is currently rated the #1 statue in the GTA on TripAdvisor.
Banks’ support of BLM has motivated him to add a sign to his act that reads, “Do not pressure wash me”, after being harassed by the police in the last few weeks. “Police officers circled me like a pack of pigs and took turns spraying me with a high powered pressure washer”. Even after telling the officers that he intentionally painted himself this way, police still arrested anyone standing within a 200 meter radius of his performance. In the end, the officers swiftly apologized to Banks after the pressure washer revealed he was both human and white.
When asked why he wouldn’t just give up being a living statue during this tumultuous time, Banks stood firm: “This is my art – it’s who I am, and I can’t go back to playing the guitar or miming, because those people look like idiots.”