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

Political Prank Topples the Austrian Government. Joey Skaggs Swears He Didn’t Do It! [English & German]

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Joey Skaggs visited Vienna, Austria, in June. Coincidentally, a surreptitiously filmed video had just been released showing the far-right Freedom Party’s leader and then vice chancellor of the Austrian government, Heinz-Christian Strache, scheming to overthrow the rest of the government.

In the video, Strache, thinking he’s talking to the niece of a wealthy Russian oligarch with connections in high places, offers her a controlling share in a national newspaper and sweetheart construction contracts in return for hefty (and illegal) campaign donations. Turns out she wasn’t who she said she was and the video shows him to be an ambitious, scheming fool.

The video caused a loss of confidence in the entire Austrian government and resulted in its total collapse. In essence, the Austrian government had just been toppled by a prank. What timing. Joey swears he had nothing to do with this!

Joey’s presentation at FH-Wien University in Vienna prompted interviews with FM4, Austria’s national radio network, and NJOY 91.3, the FH-Wien University radio station. It was a great opportunity for him to talk about the power of the political prank, President Trump’s fixation with “fake news”, and the unsettling potential of deepfakes, which he had predicted in a 1986 interview in Pranks! (RE/Search No. 11). Check out page 41.

The FM4 radio interview with Felix Diewald is no longer available, however its web page (in German) is terrific.

The NJOY 91.3 radio interview with Michel Mehle is fun and edifying. It starts out in German and switches to English at 2:11.

Lawless John Law Revealed

by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

John Law, co-editor of Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, is a pioneering adventurer who defies gravity and the status quo. From the Suicide Club to Burning Man to the Billboard Liberation Front to the Cacophony Society and beyond, John is a true inspiration to artists and activists. He’s also a helluva driver. I’m glad to call him a friend. His one-man show “SIGNMAN: John Law” is at the Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland until August 24.


John Law, iconic Bay Area prankster, now has his own ‘art’ show
by Angela Hill
Mercury News
July 5, 2019

A famed Bay Area prankster and underground artist just got his first exhibit

Here’s the way one of John Law’s longtime cohorts describes an early encounter with the neon artist/prankster/culture jammer/urban adventurer/enigma:

It was 1982 and Mark Pauline got a phone call from Law saying he had a bunch of body parts in the refrigerator at his house and they had to get them out of there before the cops came. “Sure enough, he had a big plastic bag full of human body parts, preserved in formaldehyde,” says Pauline, director of performance art group Survival Research Labs (known for building things that spew fire and blow stuff up).

“John was in the Cacophony Society and those guys would go in abandoned buildings and do adventures,” Pauline says. “They’d gone into an abandoned mortuary college and found all these body parts left in these tubs there, so they took ‘em.”

Frankenstein-style, for another pal to tattoo and display in a big Lexan case which hung around for a while and eventually cracked and rats got in and ate all the skin. But that’s a story for another day.

“That is one of my hundreds of John Law tales,” Pauline says. “At least one we can talk about in public.”

Indeed, if you add up all the pranks and adventures and happenings Law’s been part of over the decades, it becomes a cacophonous calculus, an astronomical amalgamation of mischief in the Bay Area’s underground arts scene.

Now, Law has gone above ground for his first art show, “SIGNMAN: John Law,” a retrospective of his four-plus decades of devilish deeds, on view at Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland through Aug. 24. All this despite the fact that he doesn’t really consider himself an artist and uses air quotes whenever he talks about his “work.”

So who is this man? Culture jammer? Gentleman joker? Prankster with a purpose?

“I’m an unindicted co-conspirator,” he says, a sly smile curling above his silver goatee. “But I guess I’m an artist now, since I have an art show.”

Read more…

JR Brings the Immigrants’ Plight to Ellis Island

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Pranksters

Artist JR has augmented his earlier haunting installation of immigrant photos pasted in the derelict Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital with new photos pasted on the outside of the building. This time, he altered the faces of the 19th and 20th century migrants to the faces of current day Syrian immigrants he had photographed in a refugee camp in Jordan. Asked what the project’s commissioners thought of this unsanctioned transformation, he said, “No one noticed.”


Artist’s hidden message on Ellis Island
by Brit McCandless Farmer
CBS News
July 07, 2019

The street artist JR has brought his trademark oversized photographs to an abandoned immigrants’ hospital, but there’s more than meets the eye

The building is derelict. On the walls, paint peels, illuminated only by what sunlight peeks through the grimy windows. Time has worn the floors. The filing cabinets, covered in dirt and dust, have been sitting empty for decades. Rust peppers the metal lockers.

But turn a corner, and see something remarkable: A group of men, dressed in fine hats and overcoats, appears to ascend the stairs. The sound of the wooden steps creaking under their weight is almost audible. Close a shabby door, and a young girl stares back, her hands folded calmly in front of her. In another vacant room, a family of three gazes out the window. Over their shoulders rises the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of a new life just out of reach.

These black-and-white photographs feature some of the 12 million immigrants who passed through New York Harbor from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. They’re part of an installation by French street artist JR, who blew them up to life-size and pasted them in the former Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, where they bring new life to the abandoned building. He also used photos of doctors and nurses who worked at the hospital.

Read more about this second phase of the project

Michael De Feo’s Flowers

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

I love telling success stories about my former SVA students. I now have the opportunity to boast about Michael De Feo. His book, “Michael De Feo: Flowers“, was just released by Abrams Books.

Michael De Feo’s dedication and singularity in the use of his iconic flower image has taken him on a creative adventure of self-discovery in a very public arena.

Michael paints flowers on walls and other public spaces. He has also appropriated advertisements, transforming them, much like billboard liberators, taggers, and graffiti artists do, to dramatically change one message to another. His choice to violate these public spaces with his decorative flowers has great irony. It’s non-threatening. One could paint bullet holes. Michael paints flowers. Bullet holes are obvious. You don’t have to think much about the message. But a flower…

The greater irony is that Michael’s work has now been appropriated by the advertisers whose campaigns he altered because of the positive attention he brings to their work. From my perspective, Michael has created a new meaning to the phrase “flower power.”

r/Place: Recollections of a Pop-up Online Subculture

by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, The World of the Prank

r/Place, an incredible 2017 reddit experiment with a simple premise and strict parameters, stands out for the spirit of challenge and community it ignited. It brought the best of collaborative street art into the heart of the digital realm, it earned its place in the annals of internet culture, and it’s worth revisiting and remembering. Here’s how it went down, through the eyes of one very engaged participant.

(If you’re unfamiliar with reddit, here’s a pretty good primer.)


“The story of r/Place. As told by a foot soldier for r/Mexico.”
By Arturo Gutierrez
ART + Marketing
April 3, 2017

I’m sure other historians can tell you who was the first. Others much more knowledgeable than me who can pinpoint where exactly in the vast Canvas did the cursors of hundreds aimed themselves into a singular area, and willed order out of the chaos. But I’m not the one to tell.

Instead, what I saw as a bystander that April 1st was the emergence of life, color, and memes of all sizes and kinds growing almost by magic. And as the hours passed, as I laid a pixel here, waited, and laid another pixel there, the whole Canvas evolved and grew between each of my visits. It was an amazing sight to behold. An inspiring feat of human ingenuity, humor, and improvised politics in slow motion.

Yes, that’s right. For even in these early hours, even before the dedicated subreddits, the forums, Discord channels and massive bot armies of the later days, a silent, wordless body of politics was being established right before our eyes. Read more.

Hats Off to the Peace Collective!

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

An ad from Peace Collective, a clothing store with a cause, unravels the MAGA hat stitch-by-stitch and gives it a new meaning.

Watch the video: #Unravel Hate by Peace Collective

JR’s Ephemeral Art at the Louvre

posted by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic, Prank News, Pranksters

Lori Dorn, from Laughing Squid, reports on a magnificent, ephemeral work of art created by French artist JR


Street Artist JR Uses 2,000 Sheets of Paper to Turn The Louvre Pyramid Into an Incredible Optical Illusion
by Lori Dorn
Laughing Squid
April 3, 2019

Three years after he made the Louvre disappear into the facade of the Paris Museum, the remarkable award-winning French street artist and photographer JR created an equally stunning optical illusion centered around the I.M Pei designed Louvre Pyramid itself, in celebration of its 30th anniversary. Over 400 volunteers help the artist paste over 2,000 sheets of specifically designed paper strips onto the [Napoleon] Court, making it appears as if the pyramid was submerged in a rock quarry.

…The images, like life, are ephemeral. Once pasted, the art piece lives on its own. The sun dries the light glue and with every step, people tear pieces of the fragile paper. …This project is also about presence and absence, about reality and memories, about impermanence.

Unfortunately, the installation only lasted for a single day…

Read the whole story here.

Trump Swears There Was No Parade!

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

See more photos here.

Watch the video:

Canadaland Podcast Interview with Joey Skaggs

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Podcasts, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

From Jesse Brown, host of Canadaland Podcast:

The greatest media prankster alive talks to Jesse for our April Fools episode.

In Review: April Fools’ Day 2019 Branding, Marketing, and Media Stunts

by
Filed under: All About Pranks, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hype, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, Spin, The World of the Prank

Before April Fools’ Day 2019 even began, the tech giant Microsoft announced that it would not be indulging in any branded foolishness this year. And that sort of set the tone for the day.

From the rise of the internet and social media through the election of Donald Trump, distinguishing truth from fiction in the online landscape has become less about comedy and more about horror. Even the cutest and cleverest April Fools’ publicity stunts are not as well received as they may have been in the past. The overall online mood is darker, more skittish, and more reflective. Still, there’s still some levity to be found in the chaos and desperation.

A few editorials addressed the cynicism and fatigue around April Fools’ Day from high-level perspectives.

Of the branded pranks that did go down, the most interesting had satirical or meta-comedic elements.

Others were just plain, dumb, silly, marginally self-aware fun. Here are the best of the rest:

And there was even some good news!

As with any holiday, the best way to spend April Fools’ Day is probably not on the internet, but engaged in revelry and camaraderie IRL, fighting the forces of oppression and no-fun-ness in the company of loved ones and loved ones you haven’t met yet. So naturally the best news of the day was the annual April Fools’ Day Parade – see the highlights [HERE].

Get Ready, Cause Here We Come!

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

NYC’s 34th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade and 3rd Annual Trumpathon steps off at Noon sharp from 5th Avenue and 59th Street (West side of the street) on Monday, April 1, 2019. JOIN THE FUN!

Watch the video:

Microsoft Preemptively Forfeits 4/1 Prank War

by
Filed under: Media Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

Large tech companies aren’t popular right now, and their branded April Fools’ Day stunts haven’t been well received in awhile. So Microsoft has banned all 4/1 hijinks, shenanigans, and monkeyshines, company-wide. Or – sigh – maybe it’s a setup.


“Microsoft exec bans company from pulling any dumb April Fools’ pranks”
By Peter Bright
Ars Technica
March 27, 2019

April 1 has long been a spectacularly annoying day to be alive, with brands falling over themselves to be “funny” and usually revealing themselves to be anything but. This was almost tolerable in the days when we were talking simply fake advertisements in print media, but it has taken on a new dimension online, as companies have actually modified the services that we rely on daily in an attempt to be “funny.”

This was particularly striking in Google’s 2016 mic drop feature on Gmail, where clicking the “mic drop” button sent a recipient a gif of a Despicable Me minion—a vile affront to humanity in and of itself—and then muted and archived the conversation, thus hiding any responses to it. Cue widespread complaints from users who clicked the button by accident, denying themselves jobs and offending their bosses.

Microsoft, for one, wants no part of this. In a move that can only be welcomed, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela sent a company-wide e-mail (leaked to the Verge) imploring staff to refrain from creating any public-facing April Fools’ Day stunts. Capossela writes that according to the company’s data, the stunts have “limited positive impact” and can result in “unwanted news cycles.” Read more.

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Silver Team Up to Help Solve the Corruption Crisis

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism

From RepresentUs:


Unbreaking America: A NEW Short Film about Solving the Corruption Crisis:

Our government is broken, and we have to fix it. RepresentUs board member Jennifer Lawrence and Director of RepresentUs Josh Silver, walks through three lines that show what’s wrong with legal corruption in our government, how we fix it and what you can do about it.

Watch the video:

How to Detrumpify Your World

posted by
Filed under: Political Pranks, Satire

From Stephan: Someone wrote a browser-extension called “Detrumpify” that inserts automatically generated insults every time Narcissistic Goldfish’s name appears. It also replaces all photos with your choice of kittens, puppies, or (my fave): Scary Pumpkins.

Details are at toolsofourtools.org. Read more about “Voldemorting” on WIRED here.

Get Ready for the 34th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade!

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

Join us at the 34th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade and 3rd Annual Trumpathon, April 1, 2019. The theme this year is “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.” The Grand Marshall, once again, is Donald Trump, who will be wearing flaming pants and pushing his Trump Kool-Aid Cart.

Watch the prep video here:

Chased by a mob of fact-checkers screaming, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Trump will steer the parade to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue where the crowd of Trump look-alikes will toast his greatness while drinking his Kool-Aid.

The parade leaves from 5th Avenue & 59th Street at 12:00 Noon and will make one stop at Trump Tower to toast the President with his own Kool-Aid.

Read the details and print a Trump mask to bring to the parade here:
https://joeyskaggs.com/april-fools-day-parade-press-release.