The World of the Prank

The artist as social provocateur and activist incorporates humor, satire, irony, political commentary and/or direct action to provoke critical thinking. Pranks challenge convention and the status quo and expose prejudices and biases.

Blog Posts

Ubiquitous Bard Portrait Is More Than Meets the Eye

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Fact or Fiction?, Literary Hoaxes, The History of Pranks, The World of the Prank, You Decide

Everything is not as it seems… Take for example, the exalted portrait of William Shakespeare and it’s uncanny resemblance to a portrait of Queen Elizabeth. Thank you Lawrence Gerald.


“The Prank of the Face: Unmasking the ‘Droeshout’ Portrait of William Shakespeare”
by Simon Miles
SirBacon.org

In 1977, art historian and pioneer computer artist Lillian Schwartz made a remarkable observation with potentially far-reaching implications for the Shakespeare authorship debate.

She took a copy of the famous “Droeshout” portrait of William Shakespeare which appears in the First Folio of 1623, and scanned it into her computer. Then she did the same with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1. She overlaid the two images one on top of the other, scaling them to the same size. Then, adjusting their relative transparency so that they could be readily compared, she noticed something very strange: there were certain portions of the Shakespeare portrait which exactly reproduced the features of Elizabeth.

It was not a question of an approximate copy, or a close facsimile, or a loose likeness. There was an exact reproduction of the key sections.

Her discovery, extraordinary as it appears to be, seems to have attracted almost no commentary in the intervening years. It’s perhaps not hard to see why. There does not seem to be any obvious reason why a portrait of Shakespeare should share elements of a portrait of Elizabeth. I must admit that when I first heard of this discovery, my initial reaction was to dismiss it out of hand as too ridiculous to contemplate. The internet is awash with foolish claims of identity between different people based on dubious photo-shop manipulations, wishful thinking and outright stupidity. This claim, I thought when I first heard about it, no doubt fell directly into such a category. That, however, was before I looked at the superimposed images for myself.

Watch the video here:

In this short article, I would like to revisit Lillian Schwartz’ original discovery, with an open mind. I will present the images, and allow the reader to make up her own mind. Then, once we have seen for ourselves the extent to which the two portraits share common elements, we will explore some possible implications of this challenging discovery. Read more.

Subway Sexual Assault Prevention Gets Physical

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Political Pranks, Publicity Stunts, Satire

An aggressive awareness campaign hits handsy men where it hurts.


“Mexico City Subway Installs Plastic Penis on Seats to Fight Sexual Harassment”
by Kieran Corcoran
Heat Street
March 14, 2017

Subway bosses in Mexico City have fitted plastic penises onto seats in a bizarre campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault.

The smooth shape of some plastic seats on the billion-passenger network has been replaced with the sculpted shape of a male body.

The upper half of the seat is fitted with a chest, nipples and a belly – while the lower half is given legs, and a prominent, flaccid penis. Watch the video here:

Text placed on the floor next to the modified seats makes the point that sitting there is uncomfortable – but not as uncomfortable as getting sexually assaulted. Read more.

Yahoo News covers NYC’s 32nd Annual April Fools’ Day Parade

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

New York City’s 32nd Annual April Fools’ Day Parade
Yahoo News
April 1, 2017

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesThe theme for this years parade is MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN! The Grand Marshall will be a Donald Trump look-alike. The full parade was actually a April Fools’ prank. During the event, masked activists marched with a hand-pulled “float” featuring a likeness of Donald Trump sitting in an outhouse. (Getty)

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Click here for more photos

NYC’s 32nd Annual April Fools Day Parade in Photos

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

It was huge. Tremendous turnout. Thousands of people. Bigger than the Obama Inauguration! These images speak for themselves…


(more…)

April Fools 2017: This Year in Branded Pranks

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire, The World of the Prank

April Fool’s Day brings a deluge of cleverness. For journalists covering the arts, entertainment, business, culture, or predictably tech (populated as it is by Stanford and MIT wiseacres), tracking the cuteness can be overwhelming.

At The Verge, Elizabeth Lopatto turns in a thoughtful rant on “the 500-year history of a troll holiday,” including an interview with Alex Boese of the Museum of Hoaxes, that explores why some of us are not big fans of 4/1.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty of fun to be had. The enormous display of creativity and break from the standard shilling grind can be inspiring. And a few marketing stunts shine through with transgressive humor, playful conviviality, or something genuinely important to say. (That, or they’re just joyously dumb.)

Here were a few that stood out in 2017.

MetBnB

The Metropolitan Museum’s fictitious partnership with the “sharing economy” startup was a lighthearted means of drawing attention to serious commercialization and fundraising challenges in the art world. (more…)

Joey Skaggs Promises Satirical Provocation for Donald Trump

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Prank News, Pranksters

As our founder prepares for his April Fools’ Day Parade Trumpathon, he gives us a look behind the scenes.


“Prankster Behind NYC April Fools’ Day Parade Says This Year’s Event Will Mock Donald Trump”
by Jillian Kay Melchior
Heat Street
March 28, 2017

For more than three decades, prankster Joey Skaggs has rejoiced in ensnaring the national media into covering fake news of his own invention. But this April Fools’ Day, he insists he’s absolutely serious about mocking Donald Trump.

“You can certainly accuse me of being the Boy Who Cried Wolf, given my past track record with this parade,” Skaggs told Heat Street. Indeed, for the past 31 years, Skaggs has sent out elaborate news releases announcing not only the April Fools’ Day Parade schedule and route but also describing floats—all fake, all for a parade that doesn’t actually happen.

“But the reality of this April Fools’ Day makes it absolutely essential that I finally show up along with, hopefully, hoards of Donald Trump look-alikes,” Skaggs said, adding that he’s hoping to earn a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest gathering of Donald Trump look-alikes.

For what it’s worth, we called the Guinness Book of World records, which confirmed there is an open application under Skaggs’ name. “But the category that he’s applying for is a new category, so the category would have to be accepted by the records team first, before he could attempt a record,” said spokeswoman Sofia Rocher. She said it’s not yet clear whether they’ll have an answer for Skaggs by April 1.

New York City requires a permit from the Police Commissioner for any parade. Skaggs says he has not gotten one, adding, “We’ve gone 32 years without a permit.” Read more.

Not #FakeNews, But an Incredible Simulation

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, The World of the Prank

A new video game brings your republic-wrecking fantasies to life.


If you were for some reason dying to play a video game about fake news, it’s here now
by Marissa Wenzke
Mashable
March 27, 2017

This fake news simulator is the depressing video game America deserves

It’s something that’s come to be reviled, the very thing that may have cost America a presidential election — fake news.

And the horrible phenomenon that’s been called out by everyone from former President Barack Obama to Apple CEO Tim Cook now has a video game all about it.

Yes, you can actually climb inside the minds of real-life humans who distribute lies for money. Fake It to Make It describes itself as “a social impact game about fake news.”

By that definition, it’s less a celebration of fake news and more a socially conscious dissection of it. Well, that’s at least what it’s intended to be, as its creator Amanda Warner explains.

“I think that better understanding how and why we are manipulated by others, for profit or power, is worthwhile knowledge to have,” she told The Verge.

The game takes you through a journey that mirrors the stories of real-life fake news creators. For instance, it starts by asking you to choose a purchase you want to make, like a $1,000 used car or $400 for a deposit on an apartment (deals we think questionably exist IRL). Read more.


In a Troubled Country, a Novelty Candidate Gains a Following

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

In the run-up to Serbia’s April 2nd presidential election, flamboyant joke candidate Luka Maksimovic has piqued the interest of disillusioned voters eager to shake up the system. On the international stage, Maksimovic is unique in that a) he displays some self-awareness, and b) he probably won’t win.


“Parody politician is new star in Serbia’s presidential race”
by Jovana Gec
AP
March 27. 2017

Ahead of Serbia’s presidential election on Sunday, a political parody has emerged as a true star.

His real name is Luka Maksimovic, but the 25-year-old student bidding to become the Balkan country’s next leader has won fame — and public support — appearing as a grossly exaggerated politician, complete with a white suit, oversized jewelry and a man bun.

Campaigning as a sleazy, loud character who makes wild promises and whose triumph is foretold by fortune tellers, Maksimovic has won over many in crisis-stricken Serbia, which has been plagued by political corruption and is eager for new faces and ideas.

Opinion polls have predicted that Maksimovic could win around 11 percent of the vote Sunday, trailing the powerful populist Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic but surpassing several other established candidates.

This, analysts say, already is a huge success for a newcomer with scarce political experience, no infrastructure and slim funds.

“It’s just my charisma!” the communications student joked in an interview with The Associated Press. “Citizens are so anxious to see me that I must sneak in unannounced to avoid huge crowds descending on me!” Read more.


An Off-the-wall Immodest Proposal

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

Part of a proud tradition of construction-themed pranks, these morbid Canadian satirists have got a smoking hot deal for Donald Trump.


“Canadians’ Satirical Border Wall ‘Solution’ Designed to Drive Trump Up the Wall”
by Jim Brunner
Seattle Times
March 17, 2017

No, dead Nazi Albert Speer is not really bidding to build President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. But a group of Canadian pranksters who ‘figured some kind of parody submission was in order’ has created and submitted one in Speer’s name.

More than 700 businesses have signed up for possible work on President Donald Trump’s proposed “big, beautiful” wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But not everyone registering for the early-stage federal bidding process is serious. Some are looking to satirize or protest the controversial project.

Take “Trump Wall Solutions,” a firm ostensibly based in Toronto, Canada, which has signed up as an “interested vendor” in response to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) online solicitation.

The company’s listed principal? That would be Albert Speer, the Nazi war criminal who was Adolf Hitler’s personal architect. Speer, who designed the infamous Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg, died in 1981.

Trump Wall Solutions is actually a small group of Canadian pranksters mortified by the Trump administration and the border-wall plan, according to two men involved in the project who spoke with The Seattle Times by phone Friday.

“We just thought it was a bit absurd, this whole wall proposal. We figured some kind of parody submission was in order,” said Matt, one of the organizers, who said he works in architecture in Toronto. Read more.


In the White House, Fake News Is Good News

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

The Trump Administration loves good satire at its own expense… as long as it doesn’t get the joke. #45 isn’t just parody-proof; he’s literally unbelievable. Satire is dead.


“White House Shares Parody Article as Real News in Daily Briefing”
by Ryan Grenoble
The Huffington Post
March 17, 2017

On Friday, as part of its regular “1600 Daily” email briefing, The White House included a roundup of links of news friendly to President Donald Trump’s administration, as it regularly does.

First on the list was a Washington Post article titled, “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.”

If that headline sounds suspiciously servile to you, there’s a good reason why: It’s satire.

The column, written by Washington Post humorist Alexandra Petri, employs a clearly satirical tone in an attempt to justify President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to various departments.

“We don’t need to fund historic sites,” one section reads. “Those parks have sassed the administration enough and they must get what is coming to them.”

So either the Trump administration didn’t bother reading the actual article itself, or, even more troubling, read it but failed to distinguish it as parody. Read more.

CNN Barred from the White House, but Remy Tries to Prove them Wrong

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Satire

ReasonTV presents:

Watch the video here: Remy: Fake News


Impeachara: The Antidote for Trump-Induced Malaise

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Filed under: Satire

Talk to your doctor to see if this medicine may help with symptoms of T.I.A.D. WARNING: Side-effects may include normalization.

Thanks Nancy, Erin & Deborah!

Banksy Enters the Travel Business

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The Prank as Art, The World of the Prank

The often-imitated, never-duplicated, street art legend Banksy opens The Walled-off Hotel in Bethlehem.


“Banksy Opens Dystopian Hotel Near Bethlehem Separation Wall”
by Tara John
Time
March 3, 2017

Graffiti artist Banksy has opened a new inn in Bethlehem, located right by the barrier wall that separates Palestinian territories from Israel.

The ten-roomed Walled-off Hotel opened on Friday and is littered with the anonymous artist’s work. As the Guardian reports, Banksy’s team hopes the hotel will become a source of revenue for the town — whose economy has languished due strict Israeli controls. The rooms will be open for bookings on its website later in March, according to the Guardian.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Banksy reportedly said: “Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before Trump made it cool.”

The hotel was built in secrecy over the past 14 months and was converted from a pottery workshop. Styled to look like to “an English gentlemen’s club from colonial times,” the Walled-off Hotel hopes to spark dialogue, evidenced through its choice of artwork: Every room has what is touted as the “worst view in the world,” which is the 8-meter high concrete barrier.

There are also statues chocking on teargas, a painting of Jesus with a laser target on his forehead, a trophy wall of security cameras and an exhibition dedicated to the wall, that features art made by Israelis and Palestinians. Read the whole article here.


Meet New Alt-Right Media Power-Broker Robert Mercer

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

He made his money in tech and he’s investing it in new toys — data analytics and international politics. With his sights set on the media, his ultimate target is your heart and mind.


“Robert Mercer: The Big Data Billionaire Waging War on Mainstream Media”
by Carol Cadwalladr
The Guardian
February 26, 2017

Robert Mercer very rarely speaks in public and never to journalists, so to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he channels his money: a series of yachts, all called Sea Owl; a $2.9m model train set; climate change denial (he funds a climate change denial thinktank, the Heartland Institute); and what is maybe the ultimate rich man’s plaything – the disruption of the mainstream media. In this he is helped by his close associate Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager and now chief strategist. The money he gives to the Media Research Center, with its mission of correcting “liberal bias” is just one of his media plays. There are other bigger, and even more deliberate strategies, and shining brightly, the star at the centre of the Mercer media galaxy, is Breitbart.

It was $10m of Mercer’s money that enabled Bannon to fund Breitbart – a rightwing news site, set up with the express intention of being a Huffington Post for the right. It has launched the careers of Milo Yiannopoulos and his like, regularly hosts antisemitic and Islamophobic views, and is currently being boycotted by more than 1,000 brands after an activist campaign. It has been phenomenally successful: the 29th most popular site in America with 2bn page views a year. It’s bigger than its inspiration, the Huffington Post, bigger, even, than PornHub. It’s the biggest political site on Facebook. The biggest on Twitter.

Prominent rightwing journalist Andrew Breitbart, who founded the site but died in 2012, told Bannon that they had “to take back the culture”. And, arguably, they have, though American culture is only the start of it. In 2014, Bannon launched Breitbart London, telling the New York Times it was specifically timed ahead of the UK’s forthcoming election. It was, he said, the latest front “in our current cultural and political war”. France and Germany are next. (more…)

R.I.P. Gustav Metzger

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

Gustav Metzger, a fiercely political artist, challenged and mocked consumerism and inspired several generations of creative “auto-destructivists”. He was 90 years old.


“Gustav Metzger, Pioneer of Auto-Destructive Art, Dies at 90”
by Mark Brown
The Guardian
March 1, 2017

Gustav Metzger, the inventor of auto-destructive art who spent a lifetime baffling, infuriating and thrilling audiences, as well as influencing generations of younger artists, has died aged 90.

A spokeswoman for the artist said he died at his home in London.

Metzger was born in Nuremberg to Polish-Jewish parents in 1926 and arrived with his brother in Britain on the Kindertransport in 1939. Much of his immediate family, including his parents, were murdered in the Holocaust.

He studied art in Cambridge, London, Antwerp and Oxford, and by the late 1950s was heavily involved in anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist movements, as well as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

This political activism was the motivation for his auto-destructive art manifesto of 1959 – which he described “as a desperate last-minute subversive political weapon … an attack on the capitalist system … an attack also on art dealers and collectors who manipulate modern art for profit”. Read more.