Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

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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

Michael De Feo’s Flowers

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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

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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

JR’s Ephemeral Art at the Louvre

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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.

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.

Get Ready, Cause Here We Come!

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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:

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.

Nina Katchadourian’s Airplane Art

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic, Parody

Artist Nina Katchadourian gives new meaning to the Mile High Club.


How Nina Katchadourian Uses Airplanes as Her Studio
by Julia Wolkoff
Artsy.net
March 16, 2019

In 2010, Nina Katchadourian was awaiting takeoff on her flight from Atlanta to New York’s LaGuardia airport when she had a thought that would irrevocably alter her creative production.

“I have two-and-a-half hours ahead of me,” she recalled thinking in a recent interview with Artsy. “Why does it feel like this time already doesn’t count?”

The multidisciplinary New York–based artist was repulsed by the pervasive sense of powerlessness in the face of air travel. Determined to maximize her time on the plane and remain engaged during what is often a numbing experience, Katchadourian developed a kind of game to create things throughout the entire flight—an expansive project that has come to be called “Seat Assignment” (2010–present). “As an artist, I’m always looking at what more there might be in our mundane, everyday surroundings if we pay it interest, give it a second look,” she said. She hadn’t brought materials with her, so she began playing with whatever was at hand on her tray table, and documented the results with her camera phone.

Two-hundred-and-seventy-five trips later, Katchadourian is still making the most of in-flight magazines, complimentary peanuts, and cocktail napkins. She’s created hundreds of compelling photographs—including those in the project’s sub-series “Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style,” which became a riotous viral sensation—as well as video animations and a handful of surreptitious music videos filmed in airplane bathrooms. A good portion of the results from her creative experiment are now the subject of “IFICATION,” an exhibition on view at Fridman Gallery in New York through March 31st.

Read the rest of this article here.

Volunteer Trash Art

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Publicity Stunts

“Trucks of Art” is a contest seeking volunteer artists to paint New York City’s recycling trucks to promote sustainable living.


Sanitation Dept. Launches ‘Trucks Of Art’ Contest For Trash Vehicles
CBS New York
March 15, 2019

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York’s Department of Sanitation wants to transform its fleet of recycling trucks into works of art. The agency announcing the launch of its “Trucks Of Art” project and contest.

To enter, the Sanitation Department is asking volunteer artists to submit their ideas for how they would redesign the drab, 23-ton collection trucks into inspiring works of art.

The agency says that they want the newly designed trucks to inspire people and to promote sustainable living.

DSNY’s executive director Robin Brooks talks with CBSN New York’s Dana Tyler about the new project and contest.

For more information on how to enter a design, see the Department of Sanitation website.

LinkNYC Mister Softee Prankster Comes Clean

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

Payphone performance artist/activist drops a dime on himself…


My Summer of Softee Prank
by Mark Thomas.

In this year of 2019, I use payphones regularly. As such, I feel fortunate to live in New York City, where thousands of old-fashioned landline payphones still line the streets.

A few years ago, when news came that the City decided to replace every single outdoor payphone with LinkNYC Internet kiosks, preëmptively pronouncing this unproven replacement the “payphone of the future”, I felt a bit of an affront. How could a decision reaching so deeply into the social fabric of New York be made? Was public input ever solicited regarding this decision that all payphones must be replaced by an unproven, unneeded alternative?

I gave LinkNYC a chance but soon came to loath not only the program but, in almost all respects, the so-called “Smart City” itself. Born of unearned municipal privilege, the arrogant ineptitude of the LinkNYC rollout at times made me cringe.

To express my sentiments about LinkNYC, I subverted their intended purpose. I regarded these kiosks as unwanted, unneeded irritants and turned the machines themselves into irritants, using them as a broadcast platform, blasting ridiculously loud noises and music out of the kiosks’ loudspeakers.

This became a social media engineering project for me for most of 2018. (more…)

Speaking Truth to Power in DC

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

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.