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In Search of Political Art

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, The History of Pranks

Randy Kennedy explores the state of political art in search of the iconic images that previously captured people’s imaginations as we navigate another absurd political season.

Thanks Peter!


Political Art in a Fractious Election Year
by Randy Kennedy
The New York Times
July 17, 2016

“The Truth Booth” by the Brooklyn Bridge. The booth, by the Cause Collective, is heading to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. Credit Ben Pettey

“The Truth Booth” by the Brooklyn Bridge. The booth, by the Cause Collective, is heading to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. Credit Ben Pettey

In 2008, when the artist Shepard Fairey created the graphically striking “Hope” portrait to support Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, it seemed as if a rich tradition of American political imagery reaching back at least to the middle of the 20th century — on posters, buttons, bumper stickers — was still very much alive. The art critic Peter Schjeldahl called the “Hope” poster “epic poetry in an everyday tongue.”

Read the whole article here.


Why Satire Still Matters: A Case Study

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Parody, Political Pranks, Satire

As the Overton Window of American politics has shifted rightward, taking the “serious” media with it, satirists such as Jon Stewart, John Oliver, and The Onion have picked up the slack on the left, becoming some of its most influential and effective voices.

Here’s a look at how The Onion, in particular, has taken up the seemingly endless and hopeless fight over gun control.


How ‘The Onion’ Became One of the Strongest Voices for Gun Control
by Asawin Suebsaeng
The Daily Beast
June 19, 2016

The sorry state of mass shootings and regulating the use of firearms are perhaps best epitomized by the fact that a satirical website is getting the most attention for its coverage.

48880009.cachedFor years, the editorial page that has most fervently favored stricter gun control in America hasn’t been found in The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Boston Globe. It’s been on the pages of The Onion, America’s leading news-satire organization.

Two days after the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub, which was carried out with an AR-15-style weapon, The Onion (which smirkingly bills itself as “America’s finest news source”) published an op-ed titled, “It’s An Honor To Continue Being Valued Over Countless Human Lives.”

It was posted under the byline of “an AR-15.”

“I can’t imagine it was always easy to hold an 8-pound aluminum-and-synthetic firearm in higher regard than the lives of your fellow citizens—after all, these are good people with rich experiences and families and dreams—but this country has always managed to find a way to put me first,” the darkly comic piece reads.

In the wake of the Pulse mass shooting, The Onion also published articles with headlines such as:

“Exhausted Nation Unsure It Has Stamina To Continue Gun Control Dialogue For Fifth Consecutive Day”

“Frustrated Obama Writes Letter To His Congressman About Need For Gun Control”

“At Times Like This, We Need To Pull Ourselves Up, Hold Our Loved Ones Close, Block Any Legislation That Would Prevent Suspected Terrorists From Buying Guns, And Say A Prayer For The Victims” (“written” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) (more…)

Taking the Bot Bait

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

Donald Trump has used Twitter more aggressively than any other political figure in the short history of the service. He has built a large and pugnacious fanbase that will do his bidding and shout down anyone or anything that challenges him. Even if it’s a bot.


“A Twitter Bot Is Beating Trump Fans”
by Ben Collins
The Daily Beast
June 14, 2016

Many Donald Trump supporters on Twitter spent Tuesday afternoon unknowingly arguing with a robot.

@Assbott, which mostly tweets about professional wrestling and baseball, was created to immediately reply to Trump’s tweets, then respond with nonsense sentences to any user who interacts with it. But many of the presumptive Republican nominee’s fans didn’t recognize it wasn’t a person and continued fighting with it until they finally abandoned the conversation. About 10 users per hour continued tweeting at @Assbott well into Tuesday night.

@Assbott is the brainchild of a Kentucky man named Forrest, who identifies himself as @Nasboat on Twitter and declined to give his last name.

48865581.cached“The bot is just a mishmash of my tweets. @AwfulJack is the one who started the account. I’m clueless on the technical side,” he told The Daily Beast. “There had been a few other bots made from other users we know and follow, and I thought it was a funny concept and wanted one of my own. I sent him my archive, and he got it up and running.” Read more.


Movie Review: If You’re Reading This, You’ve Already Been Conned…

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Art of the Prank - the movie, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Prank News, Pranksters

The Observer welcomes Joey Skaggs back to New York and ponders his relationship with the media.


If You’re Reading This, You’ve Already Been Conned: Joey Skaggs Doc Premieres in LES
by Spencer Roth-Rose
The New York Observer
June 13, 2016

Film documenting media hoax artist opens up LES Film Festival

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Good God, we’re easy to fool.

It feels a bit counterintuitive to be writing, in the media, about media hoaxer Joey Skaggs. Skaggs, who was interviewed this past week by the Observer, has made a name for himself since the 1960s through elaborate pranks that aim to highlight the absurdity of our media culture. So how’s a writer to know he’s not being punk’d by a man who describes fooling the media “as easy as a bowel movement”?

A new documentary detailing the greatest hits of Skagg’s hoaxing career opened up the Lower East Side Film Festival on Thursday night. Art of the Prank, directed by Italian newcomer Andrea Marini, is both an upbeat summary of decades of mischief (a confession booth on the back of a tricycle, a brothel for dogs, cockroaches that hold the key to the human immune system, each one eagerly lapped up by hasty news outlets), and an intimate portrait of an earnest man earnestly engaged in the business of tomfoolery.

Read more…

ART OF THE PRANK (The Movie) to Open the Lower East Side Film Festival

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Filed under: Art of the Prank - the movie, Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Prank News, Pranksters

It’s a homecoming! Andrea Marini is interviewed by Kavitha Surana of Bedford + Bowery about his new film ART OF THE PRANK and about working with Joey Skaggs as he and Joey head towards Joey’s haunts from the 60s for the film’s New York premiere at the Lower East Side Film Festival June 9.


“Meet the King of All Media Hoaxes at the LES Film Festival”
by Kavitha Surana
Bedford + Bowery
June 2, 2016

skaggsposter‘Tis the season for festivals, apparently, and the Lower East Side is not one to be left in the dust. Along with an art festival in Bushwick, music festivals in Brooklyn, and more coming up in the next weeks, the Lower East Side Film Festival is coming to the nabe from June 9-16. It’ll hit the Sunshine Cinema, natch, as well as Hotel Indigo, the new Ludlow House and The Standard, East Village.

The headliner for opening night is the premier of The Art of the Prank, about a mischievous LES artist who loves nothing more than exposing the media’s hunger for sensational story with outrageous tall tales that sound just (barely) plausible enough to swallow. Lambasting the media has certainly been in fashion this election season, but no one has been doing it longer and in better style than Joey Skaggs (sorry, “Settle for Hillary” guys).

“I can connect with Joey’s art because at the end of the day, it’s the essence of storytelling to me,” said director Andrea Marini, who co-produced the film with Judy Drosd. “Keep it simple, keep it meaningful, keep it strong, immediate, and you’ll get people.”

Indeed, Skaggs “got” many people over a remarkable history, repeatedly pranking major news networks with weird fake stories, such as cockroach vitamin pills, fat squad “commandos,” and a brothel for dogs. (Marini said he was first inspired to create hoaxes after a newspaper completely misinterpreted one of his early performances against the Vietnam War.) As Skaggs says in the trailer, “People want an easy answer, they want a pill, the magic pill.” Read more.

Don’t Look in the Bag!

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

PETA isn’t known to shy away from aggressive and theatrical tactics. Its recent campaigns include a fake pop-up shop worthy of Edgar Allan Poe, created in partnership with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather.



“PETA Gives Leather Shoppers A Grisly Surprise”

by Landress Kearns
The Huffington Post
May 16, 2016

The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn’t appear to consider subtlety a virtue in its fight against animal products.

In the graphic PETA Asia video below, unsuspecting shoppers are shown browsing leather goods. But within every purse, glove and jacket is a grisly surprise.

PETA produced the video by setting up a fake storefront called “The Leather Work” in a mall in Bangkok. The animal rights activists then affixed artificial skin and fake organs — including beating hearts — inside wallets, jackets, purses, belts and other leather goods. They also put fake blood inside gloves and shoes, allowing unsuspecting shoppers to try them on.

Everything looks scarily real, and the shoppers were understandably horrified. The video is hard to watch, but PETA says drastic times in Southeast Asia call for drastic measures. Read more.

Dan Savage Is Back and He’s Pissed

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

Seattle author Dan Savage is once again taking the piss out of America’s social conservative right.

Savage is best known a sex columnist, podcaster, and political activist. But perhaps more fundamentally he is a masterful media manipulator. Stunts such as his notorious SEO-based public humiliation of then-Senator Rick Santorum rank with the classic pranks of Abbie Hoffman or The Magic Christian.

In response to North Carolina’s wildly controversial “transgender bathroom bill,” Savage, the prankster, has reappeared with another disgusting, gut-busting idea. And this one is not confined to the internet.


“Dan Savage Has A Brilliantly Gross Idea To Protest NC’s Anti-LGBT Law”
by Noah Michelson
Huffington Post
May 9, 2016

DanSavage

If Dan Savage gets his way, Pat McCrory’s office will soon be filled with urine.

On Monday, the writer and activist tweeted his suggestion for how the North Carolina governor and his staff could ensure the “safe disposal” of transgender people’s bodily waste:

Savage’s tweet came just hours after Governor McCrory announced the state of North Carolina would sue the U.S. Justice Department over House Bill 2, which was signed into law in March and forces transgender people to use public restrooms that don’t correspond with their gender identity. The Justice Department had given the state until Monday to stop enforcing HB2 or risk a federal lawsuit.

Rather than agree to follow the Justice Department’s order, McCrory and the state’s secretary of public safety instead filed the lawsuit today against the Justice Department for its “radical reinterpretation” of federal civil rights law. (more…)

What’s the Deal With Donald Trump’s Central Park Headstone?

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

The NYT reveals the back story behind a morbid and mysterious piece of public art targeting the media’s favorite real-estate developer.


“Trump Headstone in Central Park: Mystery Solved”
by Michael Wilson
The New York Times
May 9, 2016

TrumpHeadstoneIt was a headstone — a full-size, 420-pound hunk of Vermont granite that would blend in nicely in any of New York City’s cemeteries. But it stood out here, in Sheep Meadow, with a name etched on its face of a man very much among the living.

“TRUMP,” read the headstone, and below that, “Donald J.” The date of birth read 1946. The date of death was blank. Below that was carved an epitaph: “Made America Hate Again.”

It was March 27. Passers-by took pictures that made the viral rounds.

“This is morbid but hilarious,” one commenter posted on Instagram.

“This made my day lol,” another wrote.

Frank Cassara, 70, a third-generation monument dealer in South Slope, Brooklyn, saw the headstone on the evening news, and said five words. Four of them were printable: “I don’t believe it.”

His son, Michael, the fourth generation, said four words, three of which were, “What a moron.”

They knew that headstone well. They had made it. Full story here.


Meet the Street Artists Who Pranked Showtime

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

After planting a special Arabic message on the set of Showtime’s hit show Homeland, Heba Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl became internationally notorious. They explain themselves in Homeland Is Not a Series, a short film from The Intercept’s wonderful Field of Vision video series. Check out the video and the accompanying interview.

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“Interview With Hebia Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl of Homeland Is Not a Series”
by Eric Hynes
The Intercept
December 20, 2015

Commissioned to apply realistic graffiti to sets for the popular Showtime series Homeland, three artists and activists took the opportunity to critique their employer by painting satirical and damning phrases in Arabic — such as “Homeland is NOT a series” and “Homeland is racist” — that nobody on the Homeland team seemed to notice. That is, until an episode that aired worldwide in October was watched by viewers who could read Arabic. Within days, the political prank became an international media sensation.

The conspirators behind the Homeland hack, Heba Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl, come from a diverse array of disciplines and backgrounds. Amin is a visual artist and professor born and based in Cairo; Kapp is a Cairo-born, Berlin-based graphic designer and multimedia artist; and Karl is a Berlin-based graffiti writer and author. When the following interview was conducted, kaleidoscopically via Google Hangout, the trio was collaborating on the edit for Homeland Is Not a Series from three separate cities.

In anticipation of bringing this latest iteration of their project to Field of Vision, the “Arabian Street Artists,” as they cheekily refer to themselves, talked about the effectiveness of humor as a weapon against intolerance, the challenges of making a movie when they don’t consider themselves filmmakers by trade, and how they’re trying to foster further discussion around Western representations of Middle Eastern culture.

Read the full interview here.

New York’s Bad Boys

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief, The World of the Prank

3 Notorious April Fools Day Pranks Played by Notable New Yorkers
by Nicole Levy
DNAInfo New York
March 31, 2016

Literary journalist George Plimpton, pop star David Bowie and career prankster Joey Skaggs have all set up hoaxes that fooled the media and the masses. Getty/Evan Agostini, Bryan Bedder; Flickr/Andres Rodriguez

Literary journalist George Plimpton, pop star David Bowie and career prankster Joey Skaggs have all set up hoaxes that fooled the media and the masses. Getty/Evan Agostini, Bryan Bedder; Flickr/Andres Rodriguez


April Fools’ Day is this Friday, and we sincerely hope you don’t get taken for one.

Concern for your own dignity doesn’t, however, exclude you from enjoying the pranks played on others. We’ve culled three of our favorite gags from the annals of recent history, all orchestrated by notable New Yorkers:

Literary journalist George Plimpton, pop star David Bowie and career prankster Joey Skaggs have all set up hoaxes that fooled the media and the masses. Getty/Evan Agostini, Bryan Bedder; Flickr/Andres Rodriguez

► The 15th Annual New York City April Fools Day Parade
On April 1, 2000, television crews from CNN and the Fox affiliate WNYW arrived at the intersections of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue at noon, expecting to cover a non-existent parade.

According to the press release they’d received, the 15th Annual NYC April Fools Day Parade would march down the avenue to Washington Square Park. It would feature “Beat ’em, Bust ’em, Book ’em Floats created by the New York, Los Angeles and Seattle Police Departments, portraying themes of brutality, corruption and incompetence,” and a “Mayor Rudy ‘Doody’ Giuliani” lookalike throwing elephant dung at passersby.

Longtime media prankster Joey Skaggs had been issuing fake news releases for the non-event recognizing “the day designated to commemorate the perennial folly of mankind” since 1986.

(Last year, he hooked the Chinese news agency Sinovision, which ran a 4-minute preview before April Fools’ Day.) The tradition continues this year, with an announcement of the 31st annual parade.

Read the rest of the article here.


The April Fool’s Day Parade gets the NYT Treatment

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

The Annual April Fool’s Day Parade has long been among Joey Skaggs’s most highly visible projects.


“A Fool’s Parade”
by Alexandra S. Levine
The New York Times
April 1, 2016

You’ve heard of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, right?

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Of course.

But the April Fools’ Day Parade?

01NYTODAY-articleLarge

The procession is expected to file from 59th Street and Fifth Avenue down to Washington Square Park, beginning at noon, rain or shine.

Organized by the New York April Fools’ Committee, the spectacle is intended to poke fun at public figures — celebrities, politicians, executives and anyone else who has proved deserving of caricature.

“Nothing is sacred. Our satire knows no bounds,” the committee said in a statement, adding, “The Parade Committee assumes no liability for damages caused by satire.”

Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, (a look-alike, of course) leads the parade, sitting atop a ballistic missile float.

The “Hypocrisy and Democracy” float features presidential candidates yelling confusing speeches at passers-by.

And Kanye West rides the “Infinity Mirror” float, because, well, organizers think he could stare at his own reflection until the end of time.

Just kidding.

To all of the above.

The nonexistent parade is solely a fixture in the imagination of the New York artist Joey Skaggs, a prankster who creates elaborate hoaxes as a form of social activism.

He’s blasted out news releases, posted videos and has managed to get his April Fools’ Day Parade website appearing near the top of search engine results.

“It’s a mystery to me how we continue to enable fools to make fools of us,” Mr. Skaggs said.

Touché.


Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Pranks GOP Supporters

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Parody

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog sends women posing as Fox News reporters to GOP political events to ask some tough questions.

Thanks Steven Beer!


Two Guys Build a Wall Around Trump Tower

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Satire

Some artists build bridges and others are intrigued by the walls that divide humankind. In response to Donald Trump’s plan for a wall along the Mexican border, The Good Liars propose a wall around Trump’s own property… you know, to keep in the “assholes.”

h/t HuffPo.

Banksy Casts his Lot with Steve Jobs in Support of Syrian Refugees in France

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Prank News

Banksy, the loved, hated, famous, infamous, politically ambiguous, and seemingly invulnerable Jay-Z of street art, has apparently posted some new work in Calais, France, home of a Syrian refugee camp.


banksystevejobs
“Syrian Refugees Apparently Have A New Ally: Banksy”

By Ryan Grenoble
Huffington Post
December 11, 2015

He’s no terrorist. He’s Steve Jobs.

And he stars in a piece of street art that appeared recently at an informal refugee camp in Calais, France, and has been attributed to the British artist known as Banksy.

The encampment, nicknamed “the Jungle” for its chaotic, squalid living conditions, is home to some 7,000 predominantly Middle Eastern refugees hoping to migrate to Britain.

As the Paris attacks have led to fear-mongering that terrorists may hide among the streams of refugees, Banksy’s work is a reminder not to let fear steer policy. Steve Jobs was himself the son of a Syrian refugee who immigrated to the U.S. from Homs. (more…)

Iranian Street Art Gets the Doc Treatment

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks

Mutiny of Colours is a documentary in progress focusing on some of the higher-profile graffiti artists of Iran. Priscilla Frank at HuffPo profiles 12 of the artists showcased, with plenty of visuals and access to the trailer. Some of the work is satirical. Some is political. All of it arose in a climate uniquely hostile to this sort of expression.

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