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

Aviv Ovadya and the Coming “Infocalypse”

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, The Future of Pranks

In a far-ranging, frightening, and fascinating interview, Buzzfeed News catches up with engineer and tech prognosticator Aviv Ovadya, who anticipated the current scourge of “fake news” and says we haven’t seen anything yet.


“He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.”
By Charlie Warzel
Buzzfeed
February 11, 2018

In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse”

The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation. The presentation was largely ignored by employees from the Big Tech platforms — including a few from Facebook who would later go on to drive the company’s NewsFeed integrity effort.

“At the time, it felt like we were in a car careening out of control and it wasn’t just that everyone was saying, “we’ll be fine’ — it’s that they didn’t even see the car,” he said.

Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact.

But it’s what he sees coming next that will really scare the shit out of you. Read more.

A Novel Approach to Money Laundering

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

What do you get when a fake author using a stolen identity publishes a gibberish-ridden novel on demand and then buys scads of them at high prices with dirty money? Clean money. h/t BoingBoing


Money Laundering Via Author Impersonation on Amazon?
Krebs on Security
February 20, 2018

Patrick Reames had no idea why Amazon.com sent him a 1099 form saying he’d made almost $24,000 selling books via Createspace, the company’s on-demand publishing arm. That is, until he searched the site for his name and discovered someone has been using it to peddle a $555 book that’s full of nothing but gibberish.

Reames is a credited author on Amazon by way of several commodity industry books, although none of them made anywhere near the amount Amazon is reporting to the Internal Revenue Service. Nor does he have a personal account with Createspace.

But that didn’t stop someone from publishing a “novel” under his name. That word is in quotations because the publication appears to be little more than computer-generated text, almost like the gibberish one might find in a spam email.

“Based on what I could see from the ‘sneak peak’ function, the book was nothing more than a computer generated ‘story’ with no structure, chapters or paragraphs — only lines of text with a carriage return after each sentence,” Reames said in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity.

The impersonator priced the book at $555 and it was posted to multiple Amazon sites in different countries. The book — which as been removed from most Amazon country pages as of a few days ago – is titled “Lower Days Ahead,” and was published on Oct 7, 2017.

Reames said he suspects someone has been buying the book using stolen credit and/or debit cards, and pocketing the 60 percent that Amazon gives to authors. At $555 a pop, it would only take approximately 70 sales over three months to rack up the earnings that Amazon said he made. (more…)

Harvey’s Casting Couch Immortalized

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

Artists Plastic Jesus and Joshua “Ginger” Monroe bring the Hollywood casting couch out of the shadows, just in time for the Oscars.


Gold Harvey Weinstein Casting Couch Appears Near Oscars Venue
by Emmet McDermott
Hollywood Reporter
March 1, 2018

The piece is the work of Plastic Jesus and Joshua “Ginger” Monroe, the artist behind the infamous naked Donald Trump statues.

A robe-swaddled Harvey Weinstein statue, sitting arms spread on a golden chaise lounge urging pedestrians to sit beside him, appeared in Hollywood on Thursday days before the 90th Academy Awards ceremony.

The sculpture, located on Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, is a collaboration between street artists Plastic Jesus, best known for his annual Oscar season installations that take aim at the dark side of show business, and Joshua “Ginger” Monroe, the artist behind the infamous naked Donald Trump statues.

The piece was intentionally crafted to allow passersby to sit beside Weinstein and take photos with him. Clenched in Weinstein’s right hand is an Oscar statue, strategically placed near his groin.

“For many years the exploitation of many hopefuls and established names in the industry was brushed under the carpet with their complaints of harassment and sexual abuse being ignored or worse,” Plastic Jesus tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Hopefully, now in the light of recent allegations against many leading figures in Hollywood the industry will clean up its act.”

Plastic Jesus does not give his name but has said that he is a former London photojournalist who moved to L.A. many years ago to explore installation art as a way to tackle sociopolitical issues. His works include last year’s Kanye West crucifixion sculpture, on which he also collaborated with Ginger, and 2015’s coke-snorting Oscar statue. Ginger is a Las Vegas-based artist. His naked Donald Trump statues were installed across multiple cities in 2016.

According to the artists, the life-size Weinstein sculpture took two months to produce. A casting was initially taken from a friend of the artists, and Ginger subsequently molded the face to match Weinstein’s. (more…)

The Art of Getting Even

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Parody, Prank News

Don’t get mad get even. Interlochen Center for the Arts prankees prank back… with a flourish.


Art Prank At Museum Fundraiser Goes Viral
by Beth Milligan
Traverse Ticker
Feb. 27, 2018

Instructors in the Visual Arts department at Interlochen Center for the Arts stole the spotlight at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum A-Ha! Fundraiser this weekend with a prank on one of their colleagues – a stunt that went viral on the Internet.

Mindy Ronayne and Megan Hildebrandt, both Interlochen instructors and members of the Great Lakes Children’s Museum board, snuck a last-minute addition into the fundraiser’s silent auction Saturday. The duo submitted a parody painting inspired by a famous portrait of Gerard Andriesz Bicker, painted by the Dutch artist Bartholomeus Van Der Helst in the 17th century and exhibited at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The head on the parody painting was of Andy Schmitt, director of information technology at Interlochen. The bid card for the painting read:

Portrait of Andrea D. Schmitty: First President of the Grand Traverse Feline Association and sister-in-law of Ann, the wife of lumber baron and Father of Traverse City, Perry Hannah. Andrea was also a successful game hunter and lifelong advocate in the fight to stop the cat skinning trade. Widely known as a tinkering enthusiast.

(more…)

Sailor J Shares Her Suggestions on What You Can Do With Your Thoughts and Prayers…

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks

Sailor J Demonstrates Her New “Thoughts and Prayers” Makeup Line


Read more at Allure

Watch the T & P Makeup Look video here:

h/t BoingBoing

What the World Needs Now… Crying Therapy

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fact or Fiction?, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Stress reduction via The Handsome Man…


Japanese women pay handsome man to make them cry, then dry their tears
BoingBoing
January 23, 2018

Here’s a short National Geographic video about a crying therapy service. Women pay a “handsome man” to make them cry, then gently wipe their tears away. The practiced is said to relieve stress.

Entrepreneur Hiroki Terai … is the founder of a group crying service that encourages people to cry together while a \”handsome weeping boy\” wipes their tears away. Known as rui-katsu or ‘tear-seeking,\”™ the practice is especially popular with women and is said to relieve stress levels. In Crying with the Handsome Man, filmmaker Darryl Thoms explores this unusual practice and why its founder believes it is bringing people together.

Announcing NYC’s 33rd Annual April Fools’ Day Parade

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

Come one, come all and help make this the largest military parade ever!


The New York April Fools’ Committee Is Proud to Announce:

NEW YORK CITY’S 33rd ANNUAL APRIL FOOLS’ DAY PARADE

“TAKE A KNEE!”

New York\”™s irreverent April Fools\”™ Day Parade poking fun at the past year\”™s displays of hype, hypocrisy, deceit, bigotry, and downright foolishness, returns! For the 33rd year, participants will bring outrageous floats and dress up in colorful costumes to mirror the folly of the nuttiest politicians, corporate leaders, celebrities and whoever else has proved to be a total fool in the past year. If it rains, marchers are encouraged to decorate umbrellas with slogans or images so their messages can be seen by people looking out their windows from above. Nothing is sacred. Our satire knows no bounds.

The theme for this year\”™s parade is \”TAKE A KNEE!\” The parade will begin at 5th Avenue and 59th Street at 12 noon, Sunday, April 1, 2018. The procession will march down 5th Avenue, pause at Trump Tower at 56th Street and 5th where participants will, in spirit with Colin Kaepernick, \”take a knee\” in solidarity against police abuse. It will then proceed downtown to Washington Square Park for the climactic crowning of the King of Fools.

Last year\”™s April Fools\”™ Day Parade \”Trumpathon\”\””the world\”™s largest gathering of masked Donald Trump look-alikes was so successful that organizers vowed to repeat it. Get your Donald Trump look-alike mask here. Print it, cut it out and wear it to the parade: http://aprilfoolsdayparade.com/trumpmask.pdf. The parade committee will have hundreds of extra masks on hand in case you need one. We\”™re going for a new world record for the largest assembly of Donald Trump look-alikes. Please tweet @artoftheprank and invite all your friends to this Second Annual Trumpathon! (more…)

Real Magician’s Never Reveal Their Tricks?

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

Dead pan parody of a magician’s nemesis revealing all of the tricks. h/t Neatorama


It’s enough to make you pull your hare out! Magician’s thrilling secrets are revealed by his stony-faced assistant
by Joe Sheppard
Daily Mail
October 13, 2017

As traits go, honesty is not really the best policy for a magician’s assistant.

This amusing video shows a prankster revealing all his budding sorcerer friend’s best tricks.

The series of clips filmed by Chinese internet star A Gan shows him attempting a few illusions which are intended to show floating hands, bending bottles and levitating taps.

But each time he tries, the mood is instantly broken by his purple-haired pal, who steps in to reveal the hoax. Read the whole article here.

Short video:

Longer video:

RIP Jim Hosking, 1941-2018

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Filed under: Art Pranks, The History of Pranks

Sad to say, friend and co-conspirator Jim Hosking passed away.

Jim Hosking (l) with Joey Skaggs (r), E. 3rd Street, NY, 1965

Brutal Japanese Elevator Prank

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

Where does the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Humans stand on this?


Japan TV show pranks unsuspecting people with elevator problem
Rob Beschizza
BoingBoing
January 30, 2018

Even by the hilariously sadistic standards of Japanese prank shows, this is outstanding.

Watch the video

Terror Pranking, a Brief History

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Filed under: Hoax Etiquette, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, What Makes a Good Prank?

There’s a huge difference between socially revealing satirical commentary and scaring the shit out of everyone…


Inside the world of extreme ‘terror pranking’
BBC
February 11, 2018

Fake bombs, staged murders, stunts that resemble acid attacks – as competition for eyeballs on YouTube gets fiercer every day, popular vloggers are resorting to extreme pranks to get clicks.

Arya Mosallah’s video channel had more than 650,000 subscribers. But his YouTube career came skidding to a halt with a video titled “Throwing Water On Peoples Faces PT. 2”. In it, he approaches several people, and after a brief conversation, throws a cup of water in their faces.

Many viewers thought the prank in the video looked like an attempt by the British social media star to mimic an acid attack – amid a recent increase in such crimes in London and across the UK.

YouTube deleted Mosallah’s channel – and then a second channel he set up. He told the BBC he had not meant to reference acid attacks – but that he would continue to produce prank videos.

But Arya Mosallah is certainly not the first YouTuber to get into trouble for prank videos. His story, along with the controversy over hugely popular Youtuber Logan Paul joking about a suicide victim to his young audience, have put a spotlight on extreme content on YouTube.

But although it appears to be on the rise – and is getting more attention from news outlets – extreme pranking is not an entirely new phenomenon. For some time, vloggers have been faking bomb attacks and murders, tricking and frightening friends and members of the public in an attempt to up their view counts. Read the rest of this article here.

Speaking of Artificial Intelligence…

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

Friendly foes seek world peace at the Olympics but are shown the door instead.


\”˜Trump\”™ And \”˜Kim\”™ Thrown Out Of Opening Ceremony
Reuters
February 10, 2018

\”We wanted to surprise everyone and bring world peace and then we\”™re being escorted out by security guards, which I think is really unfair.\”

PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA – FEBRUARY 09: Impersonators of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un pose during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – People dressed up as U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un caused a commotion when they appeared in the stands at the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony on Friday before swiftly being shown out by security staff.

\”We\”™re getting along great,\” said the Kim lookalike, who declined to give his name.

\”We wanted to surprise everyone and bring world peace and then we\”™re being escorted out by security guards, which I think is really unfair,\” he added. \”Doesn\”™t everyone want peace?\”

The ceremony was marked by a show of unity between North and South Korea.

Athletes from both countries entered the arena under a flag depicting a unified Korea as American Vice President Mike Pence and Kim\”™s sister, Kim Yo Jong, watched on from a VIP box.

\”Is my sister getting the same treatment?,\” the Kim lookalike said as he was escorted out of the stadium.

Deepfake: AI-Assisted Porn

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Pranks, Prank News, The Future of Pranks

Hey! What’s my face doing on a porn star’s body?


Everything You Need To Know About The Face-Swap Technology That’s Sweeping The Internet (And Getting Banned Everywhere)
Digg
February 8, 2018

Gal Gadot’s face on someone else’s body. Image: Screenshot from SendVids

In the past couple of months, “deepfake” has gone from a nonsense word to a widely-used synonym for videos in which one person’s face is digitally grafted onto another person’s body. The most popular \”” and troubling \”” type of deepfake is artificially produced porn appearing to star famous actresses like Gal Gadot, Daisy Ridley and Scarlett Johansson. Sites like Reddit and Pornhub have made moves to ban pornographic deepfakes in recent days, but it’s never been easier for anyone with an internet connection to make disturbingly real-looking porn by mapping almost anyone’s face over those of porn performers. Here’s what you need to know.

‘Deepfake’ Celebrity Porn First Emerged In December

In an only somewhat hyperbolically titled article called “AI-Assisted Fake Porn Is Here and We’re All Fucked,” Motherboard’s Samantha Cole interviewed the first Redditor to post convincing face-swapped videos, who called himself “deepfakes.” (“Deepfake” which has since become a term used the doctored videos produced by the technology.) “Deepfakes” explained how he created a porn video appearing to star Gal Gadot. Read the rest here.

Pothole Gardening

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

A new spin on urban gardening…


Prankster plants trees in NYC potholes
by Danielle Furfaro
New York Post
February 2, 2018

New York City\”™s potholes are getting filled.

Professional prankster Coby Persin took to New York streets earlier this week to do what he claims the city Department of Transportation won\”™t \”“ fill potholes. But he\”™s filling them with flowers, plants, and trees as a clear warning for drivers.

\”Two days ago, when I was driving around New York City, I hit a pothole with my car and my tire popped and I had to buy a new one,\” Persin, who has more than 3.7 million subscribers on his channel, said on the video. \”The city doesn\”™t clean them up until the summer. So I was thinking that had a seen a plant inside the pothole, I would have driven around the plant and not hit the pothole.\” Read the rest here.

Bicyclist (aka the FCC) Throttles the Streets in Front of the FCC (aka the Internet) to Create Priority Access

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

An allegory for our times. Rob Bliss “throttled” the road in front of the FCC so he could charge $5/month for priority access to protest Agit Pai and the FCC’s recent repeal of net neutrality.


Hero bicyclist narrows streets near FCC and offers drivers $5 “Priority Access” so drivers can “choose the plan that best suits their needs”
by Cory Doctorow
BoingBoing
February 2, 2018

An act of heroic trolling from Net Neutrality advocate Rob Bliss, who “throttled” access to DC’s 12th Street by traffic-coning all but one lane, then cycled slowly up and down the remaining lane with a sign offering drivers “priority access” to his “fast lane” for $5/month.

Watch the video by Rob Bliss

Bliss was making a pointed statement about Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who insisted that he alone could see the looming problem of network management that could only be fixed by allowing ISPs to use their publicly subsidized infrastructure to limit who could get to the network services they wanted to visit.

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