Art Pranks

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Norman Savage, RIP

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

Norman Savage was a poet, author, friend and long-time co-conspirator. In addition to participating in performance pieces, he also doubled as me, even though we didn’t look or sound at all alike, on numerous occasions.

He was always game for some sly fun.

Here’s a brief journey through some of our hijinks together.



In 1986, Norman played the part of a diet commando in my Fat Squad hoax, where you could take out a contract on yourself and commandos would keep you on your diet.

In 1988, when Entertainment Tonight asked me to appear for a story promising the inside scoop on great hoaxes and hoaxers—how the news media falls for their stories, what to watch out for, and how not to be fooled—I sent Norman to appear as me.

In 1990, Norman played a “Hair Today, Ltd” scalp donor in a photo taken for Mark Dery’s article “The Merry Pranksters and the Art of the Hoax” in The New York Times.

(more…)

If Your Medical Bills Make You Sick, Sell Them.

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Here’s a creative prescription for managing your medical bills.


Oversized hospital bill paintings sold to pay off medical debts, by Oscar Holland, CNN, October 5, 2020

An art collective has come up with a novel way of paying off three people’s medical debt: turning their hospital bills into huge paintings and selling them to collectors for thousands of dollars.

The paintings were sold for the same amount owed on each bill, with the money used to pay off the applicants’ medical debts. Credit: MSCHF

New York-based MSCHF, which is known for its irreverent art projects, identified Americans with sizable medical debt, including one with a bill for over $47,000. The group then hand-painted the invoices on 6-foot-tall canvases and sold them on the art market for precisely the amount owed.

Beyond settling these individuals’ debts with the money generated, the artists aim to make a wider commentary about the US health care system. Over 137 million people in the United States reported medical financial hardship, a 2019 study found.

Read more here.

As Bugs Bunny would say: Comment Ca Va, Doc?

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

Whether you’re raising awareness about food waste or trying to keep people from smoking, tons of carrots seem to be the way to do it…


32 tons of carrots dumped on London street for art installation, by Ben Hooper, September 30, 2020

Angry French tobacconists dump tons of carrots on Paris streets, by Robert Myles, July 24 2015

New Listing!

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Vote and evict him! h/t DJD

Statues That Should Be Torn Down

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“There shall be no golden idols…”


Golden ‘Statues’ Memorializing Donald Trump’s Most Divisive Moments Have Popped Up Around Washington, DC, Courtesy of an Ad Guru, Sarah Cascone, ArtNet News, July 21, 2020

Bryan Buckley hopes to remind voters of just how poorly Trump has handled the challenges of 2020.

Bryan Buckley, Now Go Back to School. Photo courtesy of the Trump Statue Initiative.

Big, shiny, gold statues of Donald Trump sound like they would be right up the president’s alley—but a new art project, titled the “Trump Statue Initiative,” uses the figures to instead memorialize his worst moments of 2020.

Street performers painted head-to-toe in metallic gold paint posed as still as stone atop massive plinths that hailed Trump as the “destroyer of civil rights and liberties.” The trio of “statues” appeared over the weekend in sites across Washington, DC.

Filmmaker Bryan Buckley decided to stage the project in part because of the way public statues have made headlines all summer, with activists outraging Trump with their efforts to remove memorials to Confederate leaders and other problematic historical figures. In response, the president has not only beefed up the law against vandalizing statues, but also issued an executive order to create a “National Garden of American Heroes.”

Bryan Buckley, The Bunker. Photo courtesy of the Trump Statue Initiative.

“I noticed that Trump was obsessed with statues,” Buckley told AdAge. “I felt like the best thing we could do was to create these very honest statues of the legacy he’s living right now, that let the world see exactly who he is.” Read the whole article here.

Here’s Why New York City Parks Close at Dusk

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Reminding us about the good old days, artist Joseph Reginella just placed statues around New York commemorating Mayor Ed Koch’s (1978-1989) strategy for ridding the city of taggers by releasing wild wolves in the subway yards. According to Joseph, they’ve since multiplied and are roaming the city’s nether regions. H/T Felipe.


Sculptures of wolves mauling tourist appear in New York City parks
by Rusty Blazenhoff
BoingBoing
October 10, 2019

This is weird.

A series of identical monuments depicting a tourist being mauled by a pack of wolves have surreptitiously been installed in different New York City parks with plaques that read:

Dedicated to the many tourists that go missing every year in New York City.

And a reminder as to why the parks close at dusk.

Erected by the Ed Koch Wolf Foundation and the NYC Fellowship.

A brilliant prankster with mad sculpting skills is taking credit.

Watch the video:

Here’s Mayor Koch pontificating on his brilliant idea:

Read the full story here.

Banking on Banksy

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Banksy conquers retail with a storefront selling satire.


Banksy Opens London Art Shop Same Week He Sets $12M Auction Record
by Naomi Polonsky
Hyperallergic
October 4, 2019

The anonymous artist has opened a shop in the south London borough of Croydon to showcase some of his characteristically humorous items.

photos by Naomi Polonsky

LONDON — Banksy has always had a complicated relationship with the art market. His unsanctioned street works deliberately challenge the idea of art as a tradeable commodity, but often still end up at auction, commanding astronomical prices. A stunt last year during which his “Girl with a Balloon” (2006) self-destructed at a Sotheby’s sale seemed like a rebuke to the art market, but in fact simply doubled the piece’s value.

But as of this week, Banksy has officially gone into business. A new installation of his work, unveiled on Tuesday, features a storefront filled with branded merchandise. Although Banksy has exhibited his works in storefront installations before, this is the first time that the items are for sale. All of the products will go on sale online in a couple of weeks with prices starting at £10. Gross Domestic Product, which is located in a disused carpet shop in the south London borough of Croydon, includes old and new works by the artist including the iconic stab vest worn by the grime artist Stormzy at Glastonbury last year…

Playing on the double meaning of “gross,” Banksy’s store stocks various disturbing and unsavoury items, such as a rug made from the skin of Tony the Tiger, who has died of diabetes after eating too much Frosted Flakes cereal. A label, written in Banksy’s characteristically irreverent tone, explains that “the floor covering makes quite the conversation piece — especially if the conversation centres around the UK spending over £7.8 million a year on tooth extractions for the under 5s.”

3.8 Million Years Later…

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Behold humankind’s most primitive man. h/t Naomi.


Skull of humankind’s oldest-known ancestor unearthed
Associated Press
August 29, 2019

NEW YORK — A fossil from Ethiopia is letting scientists look millions of years into our evolutionary history — and they see a face peering back.

The find, from 3.8 million years ago, reveals the face for a presumed ancestor of the species famously represented by Lucy, the celebrated Ethiopian partial skeleton found in 1974.

Read the whole (real) article here.

Stephen Barnwell’s Outrageous and Exquisite Moneyart on Exhibit Through September 8

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Congratulations to artist, activist Stephen Barnwell whose “Capital Offenses” moneyart will be on display at Monmouth Museum, 765 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ, as part of the NJ Emerging Artists Series, now through September 8, 2019.

Lawless John Law Revealed

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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

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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

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

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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.

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

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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.

Speaking Truth to Power in DC

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Street theater is flourishing in the era of Trump.


DC’s many prankster activists turn anger into street theater
by Ashraf Khalil
AP
February 18, 2019

Mike Green and Adam Eidinger with Radical Matriarchy

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the nation’s capital, it can be hard for protesters to stand out. A group of 50 people — or even 500 — holding signs and shouting hardly merits a second glance in this city of protests.

That’s why Washington activists have to get creative. There’s an ethos of performative prankster-style protest wired into the District of Columbia’s history, dating back decades.

This confrontational street-theater school is flourishing with the Trump administration as its nemesis. Each month brings new acts of political theater — some confrontational, some deliberately absurdist.

“It can take a serious issue into more of a playful place,” said Robin Bell, who regularly projects disparaging messages onto the outside of the Trump International Hotel. “Oftentimes we visualize the absurdity of the situation.”

In January, a group of activists associated with political pranksters The Yes Men passed out dozens of fake Washington Posts, with detailed articles depicting President Donald Trump resigning and fleeing the White House. For about a month last fall, a Robert Mueller investigation-themed ice cream truck roamed Washington, passing out free scoops with names like IndictMint Chip and Rocky Rod Rosenstein.

While some protests are designed to get attention, others hide in plain sight like Easter eggs for the observant. Within sight of the White House, a realistic-looking street sign declares the street Khashoggi Way, after Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. About 10 of these signs have been scattered around Washington.

Read the rest of this article here.

Criticizing Dirty Money

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Protestors target opioid drug money that funds major museums.


Nan Goldin Leads a Protest at the Guggenheim Against the Sackler Family
by Masha Gessen
New Yorker
February 10, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum is crowded after five on a Saturday, when the price of admission is “pay what you wish.” Even in below-freezing weather this weekend, the ticket line snaked around the corner. People came in groups, couples, and alone. As happens in large crowds, at times the noise level rose spontaneously, as though something or someone were demanding attention, but immediately subsided. At any given time, there were people milling around in the lobby, looking at the door as though waiting for someone and up at the galleries as though planning something. Some of them were.

A bit after six, a group went up to one of the galleries. They were people of different ages, from their late teens to their sixties. They could have been New Yorkers or visitors; some of them looked like they might be artists, and some looked like they were probably students. They were all of those things. If one looked closely, similar groups of between a half-dozen and a dozen people were coalescing on all levels of the museum.

A few minutes after six-thirty, the photographer Nan Goldin appeared in the lobby. There was a flurry of hugs and hellos, and several people snapped photos. It could have been a celebrity sighting—Goldin, whose work is in the museum’s collection, is a Guggenheim type of celebrity. She stood in the middle of the lobby, visible from almost any point of the great round building. Then the noise level rose and did not subside.

Small flyers started falling, as though from the glass dome, swirling like snow as they descended the six stories. Within minutes the floor was coated in white. The sheets of paper were prescriptions, made out by a “Robert Sackler, MD,” to a Solomon R. Guggenheim, for eighty-milligram pills of OxyContin, to be taken twenty-four times a day. Each script contained a quotation: “If OxyContin is uncontrolled, it is highly likely that it will eventually be abused. . . . How substantially would it improve our sales?”

Read the rest of this story here.