Ashton Kutcher Punk’d for Punk’s Sake

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Filed under: Prank News, Pranksters

From, May 12, 2009:

Blog Buzz or Art News? Jonah Peretti Punks Ashton Kutcher

kutcher_peretti-200The Internet is a buzz! Jonah Peretti punks Ashton Kutcher by pretending to be an outraged twitter fan who didn”™t have one of his tweets returned, and Kutcher calls him to discuss the matter. The prank follows a lineage of previous like minded Peretti works “”, a satirical website dedicated to assuaging white guilt, the nike sweatshop emails, a series of correspondence in which Peretti debates with an anonymous Nike representative over why the company couldn”™t fill his request to print “sweatshop” custom Nike iD sneakers, and the Rejection Hot Line, a phone number leading to recorded multiple choice rejection options. Each employs entertainment as a means of engaging audiences.

Peretti”™s latest viral project piques AFC interest because unlike his days at Eyebeam, when such “pieces” were labeled “art”, the press now describes the Kutcher punk as a “prank”. Are we simply looking at a shift in semantics due to a change in professional fields, or is this shift indicative of the shrinking distinction between art and everything else? Given the unlikeliness of the Kutcher tweet ever seeing the light of day at the New Museum or MoMA, the flattening effect of the Internet still seems questionable at best. But I am reminded of photographer and art historian Jeff Wall”™s 2006 lecture in which he claimed the fusion of art and non-art is an illusion leaving institutional art fully intact, because arts professionals seldom leave their professional circles. In this case, he”™s only half right; dealers, curators and academics tend to stay within their field where as artists frequently maintain and shift multiple careers out economic necessity, mirroring their increased tendency to work in a variety of mediums and draw from different sources. In this light it would seem a flattening of art almost certainly exists, but for the Fine Art world to see those effects significant pedagodical and institutional change will have to occur.

UPDATE: TWhid points out Jonah Peretti never conceived his original projects as art. Of course, the New Museum did.

*Notably, I was first introduced to the story via New Museum curator and Rhizome”™s Executive Director, Lauren Cornell.

UPDATE 2: From Jonah Peretti: I am just interested in how ideas spread, how the media works, and how the web is changing the answers to those questions. I have never tried to play the art game or make a living from doing art so the label never fit.