Creative Activism

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Community Rallies to Save Gem Spa, Center of the Universe

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

The legendary Gem Spa received a satirical make-over as “Schitibank” after rumors that Citibank was angling for its location (which Citibank then denied). The event morphed into a “cash mob” as friends and neighbors mobilized to help save the East Village icon from debt and disaster. Read Jesse Jarnow’s Gothamist article here: Gem Spa Rally Turns Beloved East Village Institution Into Mock “Schitibank”. h/t Josh Jasper

Gem Spa, on St. Marks Place and 2nd Avenue in New York, has always been the go-to spot in the East Village; the place where everyone meets everyone else (“Meet you at Gem Spa!”).

In 1968, Joey Skaggs launched the Hippie Bus Tour to Queens from Gem Spa. This was his parody cultural exchange tour, which is memorialized in Artsy on the occasion of its 50th anniversary: When Pranks Become Works of Art.

And, in 1969, Skaggs, his pretend-wife, and a gang of bicyclers held a mock Hell’s Angels wedding parade in front of Gem Spa.

For a terrific historical perspective on St. Marks Place in the East Village, check out “St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street” by Ada Calhoun.


3.8 Million Years Later…

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Political Pranks, Satire

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.

Trump-the-Vampire Unveiled in Slovenia

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

“Some critics denounced it online as a ‘waste of wood’…” h/t Boris & Nancy


Slovenia Has Another Trump Statue. This One Has Vampire Teeth.
by Palko Karasz
The New York Times
Aug. 31, 2019

The figure under construction in Sela pri Kamniku, Slovenia. A local architect said he designed it “because people have forgotten what the Statue of Liberty stands for.”CreditCreditJure Makovec/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LONDON — It is not often that President Trump follows in the footsteps of his wife, Melania Trump, but he has received a wooden statue in his likeness in her homeland, Slovenia, after the same, dubious honor was bestowed on her in July.

Like the effigy of Mrs. Trump carved with a chain saw and unveiled on a riverside near her hometown this summer, this new work — a slatted structure nearly 26 feet tall — has its share of detractors. (more…)

Right-Wing Website Dosed With Own Medicine

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

The op-ed site Quillette has risen to prominence in the Trump-era conservative firmament by condemning progressive orthodoxies around race and gender, providing a platform for accused sexual predators, defending “Google Memo” author James “Fired4Truth” Damore, and promoting the “Sokal Squared” hoax, an effort to discredit academic disciplines by categorizing them as “grievance studies.”

This week, the site took a blow to its own credibility when left-aligned mischief-maker “Archie Carter” submitted a critique of the Democratic Socialists of America littered with lies, cliches, and errata. The piece was promptly published and promptly retracted by Quillette, leaving leftist publications Alternet and Jacobin (along with broad swaths of Twitter) to gloat over the fallout.

Will Sommer, a journalist/provocateur focused on far-right movements, scored an interview with the hoaxer.


Quillette Duped by Left-Wing Hoaxer Posing as Communist Construction Worker
by Will Sommer
The Daily Beast
August 9, 2019

Construction worker and avowed Leninist Archie Carter has plenty of gripes with the Democratic Socialists of America, the left-wing group that’s enjoyed a new wave of popularity during the Trump era.

In an essay published Thursday on the conservative op-ed website Quillette, Carter declared that DSA had been overrun with overeducated, oversensitive college graduates, blinding itself to the true needs of the working class.

“DSA is doomed,” Carter wrote.

Carter’s piece seemed like exactly the kind of argument that’s turned Quillette, a self-described “platform for free thought,” into a hotbed for the right-wing online “Intellectual Dark Web” movement. Carter had impeccable blue-collar bona fides, with his Quillette bio describing him as a committed union member who’s always “watching the Mets blow a lead.”

But there’s one problem with Carter’s story: He doesn’t exist.

DSA members started picking holes in Carter’s story almost as soon it went live on Quillette. New York City’s DSA local couldn’t find any record of a member, current or former, named Archie Carter. And while Carter claimed to have participated in sit-in protests as part of his DSA work, the group hadn’t organized sit-ins in New York in years.

By Thursday evening, Quillette had retracted Carter’s essay, saying Carter had failed to “supply answers to our follow-up questions in timely fashion.” Read more.


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

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Challenges, Political Pranks

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.

Citroën’s WWII Subterfuge Remembered

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Political Pranks, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction, Urban Legends, You Decide

True or not, this is an inspiring bit of sabotage.


Citroën Sabotaged Wartime Nazi Truck Production in a Simple and Brilliant Way
by Jason Torchinsky
Jalopnik.com
July 24, 2019

Citroen

In case you forgot to change the batteries in your calendar, you may not be aware that this year is the 100th anniversary of Citroën. We’ve been shooting a Jason Drives special mini-series for this centenary, and while doing some research I happened to stumble upon a fascinating bit of wartime Citroën lore. It involves screwing with Nazis in a genuinely clever and subtle way that nevertheless had big repercussions. I’ll explain.

So, when France was occupied by the Germans in 1940, major French factories like Citroën were forced to produce equipment for the Nazis. Citroën president Pierre-Jules Boulanger knew he couldn’t just refuse to produce anything, but he also knew there’s no way in hell he’s going to just roll over and build trucks for a bunch of filthy Nazis. Pierre had a plan.

John Reynolds’ book Citroën 2CV describes Boulanger’s sabotage efforts. Of course, he instructed workers to set a nice, leisurely pace when building trucks (likely Citroën T45 trucks) for the Wermacht, but that’s fairly obvious. What was brilliant was Boulanger’s idea to move the little notch on the trucks’ oil dipsticks that indicated the proper level of oil down just a bit lower.

By moving the notch down, the trucks would not have enough oil, but German mechanics would have no idea, because, hey, the little notch on the dipstick says its just fine. Then, after the truck has been used for a while and is out deployed somewhere crucial, whammo, the engine seizes up, and you’ve got a lot of angry, stranded, vulnerable Nazis, balling up their little fists and redly barking curses in German.

It’s such a fantastic act of sabotage: it’s extremely cheap to implement, it’s subtle, there’s no way to see something amiss is happening as the trucks are being built, and it delivers its blow away from the site of the sabotage and when it will cause the most inconvenience and trouble.

I suppose it could be apocryphal, but this is one of those cases where I’m going to choose to believe.

That’s some mighty good sabotaging, Pierre.

Trump’s Fake Presidential Zeal Augmented by Befittingly Fake Presidential Seal

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

The writing’s on the wall. Fake as fake can be. President Trump unknowingly stands in front of a fake presidential seal. Hilarity ensues. Says Charles Leazott, the person who designed the seal as a joke years ago, “There’s no way this was an accident is all I’m saying,” adding that whomever is the culprit is “my absolute hero.” h/t Kate.


Washington Post: Former Republican designed fake presidential seal that appeared behind Trump
by Veronica Stracqualursi
CNN
July 26, 2019

Washington (CNN)– A former Republican voter from Virginia is the man who made a parody image of the presidential seal that was shown behind President Donald Trump at a conservative teen summit, according to The Washington Post.

Graphic designer Charles Leazott, 46, created the fake presidential seal that features a two-headed eagle — lifted from the Russian Federation coat of arms — clutching a set of golf clubs in its talons, according to the Post.

“This is the most petty piece of art I have ever created,” Leazott told the Post.

Leazott, who dislikes Trump and says he voted twice for George W. Bush, created the fake seal after the 2016 election as

“just a goofy thing for some people I knew,” the Post reported.

Trump spoke on Tuesday at a summit for conservative students hosted by the group Turning Point USA, and for a brief moment, the President appeared before the doctored seal evoking imagery of the Russian coat of arms on stage.

Read the whole story here.


Paul Krassner, RIP

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

Sadly, my friend Paul Krassner, satirist, activist, comedian, author, and publisher of The Realist, has passed away. Since the 1960s, he was always there for me, as I was for him.

Paul was with me on my Hippie Bus Tour To Queens and was part of my Vietnamese Christmas Nativity Burning in Central Park, both in 1968.

In 1969, he published a photo of himself standing with my Grotesque Statues of Liberty on the back cover of his book How a satirical editor became a Yippie conspirator in ten easy years.

Paul used his voice to draw attention to social injustice, inequality and challenges to our freedom. I’ll miss his satirical wit.

Here’s his full obit in The New York Times (for people who can’t access it).

[Editor’s note: The New York Times covered my Hippie Bus Tour to Queens in 1968 when it happened. Years later, in 1992, they misattributed it to Abbie Hoffman and had to print a retraction. They’ve now done it a second time in Paul’s obit. Paul was one of 60 hippies who accompanied me on the tour (Hippie Bus Tour to Queens Remembered 50 years later! by Joey Skaggs, Artsy.net). I know he’d want to set this record straight.]


Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87
by Joseph Berger
The New York Times
July 21, 2019

Paul Krassner, right, in 1969 with, from left, Ed Sanders of the rock group the Fugs and Abbie Hoffman. Mr. Krassner helped start the Yippie movement and was the founder of The Realist magazine. Credit The New York Times

He was a prankster, a master of the put-on that thumbed its nose at what he saw as a stuffy and blundering political establishment. (more…)

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

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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

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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

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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

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.

Hats Off to the Peace Collective!

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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

Trump Swears There Was No Parade!

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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

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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.