Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Blog Posts

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

by
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

skaggs-nyobserver_review

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…

The King of Comment-Section Trolls Unveiled

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Pranksters, Satire

Meet Ken M, an uncommonly sharp internet troll whose mix of surreal humor and remarkable tenacity has helped him build a fanbase.

“The world’s greatest internet troll explains his craft”
by Phil Edwards
Vox
May 6, 2016

“How does an internet troll build his own following?

That’s a question that Ken McCarthy, a.k.a. Ken M, can answer: He’s the subject of a dedicated subreddit with more than 150,000 fans, as well as popular Facebook and Twitter pages. And that following is all for … leaving comments. As the above video shows, those comments are funny enough to create a legion of devoted fans.

Calling Ken a troll is a bit of a category error — though he does lure in commenters with false premises and hilariously mistaken information, his act is more like a new kind of improv comedy. To my critical eye, he’s an internet love child of early Smothers Brothers and Jack Handy, with a dash of Greg Packer, too. (Packer is a non-comedian famous for showing up as the “man on the street” in countless news articles, the same way Ken M is likely to pop up in comment sections.)

Ken experiments a lot. His persona easily transforms from that of a confused old man to a punctilious professor, but the result always has the same absurd sense of humor. Though his audience changes as well — he shifts between news comment sections and branded Facebook pages, among others — he adapts to each with jokes that he constructs on the fly.”


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

by
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.

Now You See the Louvre Pyramid, Now You Don’t

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic

“JR at The Louvre” at Musée du Louvre, Paris from May 25 – June 28, 2016, presented by French Street Artist JR


This Summer, the Louvre’s Pyramid Will “Disappear”
By Erin Blakemore
Smithsonian.com
March 15, 2016

A French street artist promises a tantalizing trick of the eye

Louvre Pyramid

I.M. Pei’s grand pyramid brought controversy, modernity and a new entrance to the Louvre. But is it time for the pyramid to disappear? Kind of: As Henri Neuendorf reports for artnet News, a French artist will eliminate the pyramid through a mind-bending optical illusion this summer. Read the full story here.


Don’t Look in the Bag!

by
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.

Sicily’s Stunning Art Silos

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Brooklyn Street Art blog showcases creative civic repurposing.


“Art Silos Rise in the Harbor of Catania, Sicily”
By Stephen P. Harrington and Jamie Rojo
Brooklyn Street Art
May 4, 2016

They’ve been here since the 1950s, these silos for wheat and corn on the harbor of Catania on the east coast of the island of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna. 28 meters tall and facing the Ionian Sea, they are now some of the largest canvasses in Italy by a small group of international and local Street Artists.

Interesni Kazki. Detail. (photo © VladyArt)

Interesni Kazki. Detail. (photo © VladyArt)

The “Art Silos” project includes works completed during an eight month installation begun in June 2015 as part of Festival “I-ART” organized by “Emergence”, thanks to Angelo Bacchelli, curated by Giuseppe Stagnitta. The artists taking part in the project were Okuda (Spain), ROSH333 (Spain), Microbo (Italy), BO130 (Italy), VladyArt (Italy), Danilo Bucchi (Italy) and the duo Interesni Kaxki (Ukraine), mostly all from the graffiti/Street Art world. A separately organized but related project on the harbor-facing row of eight silos was completed by one artist alone, the Lisbon-based Vhils.

Interesni Kazki. Detail. (photo © VladyArt)

Interesni Kazki. Detail. (photo © VladyArt)

The project’s completion at the turn of the year culminated in one of the largest Street Art/Graffiti artists’ collective shows in Italy held in the city’s main public gallery Palazzo Platamone, entitled “Codici Sorgenti” (Source Code), which was curated by Stefano S. Antonelli and Francesca Mezzano from Rome’s 999 Contemporary Gallery.

There is talk about the possibility that this exhibition of about 60 artists work will tour throughout Europe with its message of the historic roots of modern graffiti and Street Art along with many of its most impactful practitioners pushing into the contemporary art world.

Danilo Bucchi (photo © VladyArt)

Danilo Bucchi (photo © VladyArt)

Okuda (photo © VladyArt)

Okuda (photo © VladyArt)

Full story and more photos here.


Meet the Street Artists Who Pranked Showtime

by
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.

homeland-filmmakers-feature-hero

“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.

We’re Gonna Need More Enthusiasm

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Hype, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Pranksters

Davy Rothbard of Found fame profiles a company that hires out fake crowds. H/t Dave Pell.


“Crowd Source: Inside the company that provides fake paparazzi, pretend campaign supporters, and counterfeit protesters”
by Davy Rothbard
The California Sunday Magazine
March 31, 2016

scale-2000x0x0x0-0403ffcrow-1459210886-6

When he can, Adam trains his hired crowds himself, but more often he relies on local coordinators who manage the events. In Los Angeles, Del Brown — the woman I met at the Marriott — is Adam’s point person. Del moved to California in 2012 to pursue an acting career and soon landed a Doritos commercial, but after that, she mostly found work as an extra in student films and small indie projects. She worked a gig with Crowds on Demand, and Adam was so impressed he immediately put her on staff. Del has established a wide network she can reach out to when she needs, say, 60 crowd-fillers for a party on the roof deck of the W Los Angeles hotel or a 6-foot-6-inch man in a leather kilt to act as a fan at the launch of a book about S&M culture. Many of Del’s recurring crowd members are background actors she’s met on film sets, yet she is continually trawling for fresh faces.

At the Marriott, I’d met Jackie Greig, who typifies the crowd members Del and Adam often hire. Jackie is 50 years old, a film student at Los Angeles City College. A teacher had shared a posting about what she thought was an upcoming film shoot that was looking for paid help. Jackie showed up at the Marriott only to discover that this was not a film shoot. Yes, she was being asked to aim her camera at the life coaches, but whether she hit record was immaterial. On one hand, Jackie was frustrated. She’d skipped class and driven more than an hour to be there. On the other hand, after a couple of hours, she’d made $37.50 and could now afford a Foo Fighters concert for her daughter. “I just wish they’d been more transparent about what the gig really was,” Jackie tells me.

If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know.

The tricky thing, Adam says, is how many of his clients insist on secrecy. If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know. Adam must balance his goal of spreading awareness of his company, so he can attract more clients, with the benefits of keeping the public in the dark. If people start to doubt the veracity of crowds, his business might suffer. “Right now, we’re still kind of this secret weapon,” Adam says. “We have the element of surprise. Yeah, you might’ve heard about political candidates paying to bring some extra bodies into their campaign events, but it’s beyond the realm of most people’s imagination that crowds are being deployed in other ways. Nobody is skeptical of crowds. Of course, in five years that could change.”

Adam says he gives Del wide latitude to recruit crowd members. Most often, she presents the gigs as background acting work. This is only slightly misleading: Crowd members won’t bulk up their IMDB profile, but being part of a fake crowd is a kind of acting. In a world where everybody is constantly playing a part, staging moments to be broadcast later on social media, the line between counterfeit and authentic has become blurred. Is curating a version of yourself on Facebook any less fake than pretending to be a superfan of a life coach? Read more.


New York’s Bad Boys

posted by
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.


Winter is Trumping

posted by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Political Pranks

Armed with a Valyrian steel sword named Deal-Maker, Donald Trump embarks on a quest through Westeros to take care its border policies.

From Huw Parkinson, February 20, 2016


New York, New York!

posted by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Pranksters, Satire

From Andrea Marini: Snow Boarding with NYPD

Improv Everywhere: Global No Pants Subway Ride 2016 – This Sunday!

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief

We’ve posted the full details for the The 15th Annual No Pants Subway Ride, taking place on January 10, 2016 in New York and dozens of cities around the world. Participate!

Improv Everywhere No Pants Subway 2015

Details for NYC
Details for other cities around the world

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

by
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…)

Fear, Loathing, and Farts in Austin

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

Texas is at the center of the national controversy over mass shootings and gun control. And few cities have the same flair for the theatrical as does Austin.

The warring sides of the gun debate recently staged their own equally ridiculous public events in the state capital.

Fake Mass ShootingThe Huffington Post reports that “Pro-gun advocates doused fake victims with fake blood outside the University of Texas on Saturday in what they called a theatrical event to show the need for firearms on campus.

“Their ‘mock mass shooting’ was met with a much larger counter-protest and derision by many onlookers in the left-leaning city of Austin who saw the group pushing a position that could increase the danger brought by firearms at the university that saw one of the worst mass school shootings in U.S. history.

“One of the mock mass shooting organizers, the group Come and Take It Texas, said allowing gun-free zones on campuses eliminated a human right to personal protection.

“‘Our goal is to instill the importance of everyone to be able to defend themselves in any way they choose,’ the group said in a statement posted on its website.” Whole thing here.

mass farting counter-protestMeanwhile, as reported in the Austin Chronicle, “Pro-gun demonstrators staging a mock mass shooting near the University of Texas at Austin on Saturday were overwhelmed in number and ferocity by a large group of counter-protesters wielding dildos and machines that generated fart sounds.

“‘This isn’t about guns necessarily. This is about scaring our community. This is about a choice between fear and a little bit of good humor,’ Andrew Dobbs, a UT alumnus who organized the ‘mass farting’ counter-protest, told the crowd. ‘We are in a scary time right now and lots of scary things are happening, and some people want us to be more afraid.’ Whole thing here.

Providence Punks Poke Fun at Local Foodies

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Pranksters, Satire

As marks go, culinary snobs are low-hanging pomegranates. But these anonymous Rhode Island performance artists get points for their attention to detail. (H/t to Dave Pell.)


The Hippest Cafe in Providence Was Totally Fake
By Vicky Gan
Citylab
October 27, 2015

luracafeFor a few #blessed days, Lura Cafe was the hottest new restaurant in Providence. The bright, cozy farm-to-table joint hid in plain sight next to a downtown parking lot, steps away from the Rhode Island Convention Center. Lura would be a refuge for diners in the know, serving modern takes on cafe classics—all local, all organic, all certified GMO-free. It was upscale and casual, timeless and avant-garde. It had a vaguely Nordic air of refinement.

It announced itself – as all similarly accoutred restaurants must – with a social media blitz, featuring sans serif lettering, sunny high-angle shots of brunch dishes, even a breathless write-up in the New York Times.

It was also totally fake.

When Lura Cafe “opened” on October 18, visitors were greeted not with avocado toast and bruleed carrots but with a manifesto: “‘Lura’ is a statement project targeting the rising phenomenon of the elitist subculture of foodies.” Beside it, a translation of “Lura” – “Swedish for fool, trick, deceive, lure, cheat, befool” – and a call to arms: #stopfoodies2015.

The satire wasn’t exactly subtle. In the days leading up to Lura’s grand opening, the restaurant’s Facebook page taunted followers with a surreal menu of “home-cut potatoes… wrapped in authentic New York Times newspaper,” “cold brew coffee served… over mineralized water rocks,” and “10x washed quinoa salad.” The quote attributed to Pontus Wikner, “POTS SEIDOOF,” is “FOODIES STOP” backwards. Full story here.