Wednesday, May 19, 2010

DAMage Report - Faking It

One of the more popular and memorable stories I did earlier this year included mention of a performance art piece called "The Rape Tunnel." (

It turns out that the concept was a hoax designed to generate dialog. Not about rape but about contemporary art. Now art should generate dialog, but what about non-art or art that isn't. Does this make the hoax itself art? Or just viral marketing?

It interesting that psychologists had a field day with this one.
The artist, the galleries, the project were all fictional. But it is interesting to note that for a cursory check the designers of this hoax had photos online of the artist, of the tunnel and the multiple stories published about the topic lent it immediate validity... at least for the short term. (On a side note - it is also interesting that when doing research we tend to rely maybe a bit too heavily on google to find our facts, not taking in account lag time for links to related stories. If google finds it, it must be real, right?)

Hoaxes and art are age old partners.

In 1998, William Boyd published a biography about american artist Nat Tate. Gore Vidal, John Richardson (Picasso's biographer), and David Bowie all participated in the elaborate ruse. One of the participants said "We were very amused that people kept saying 'Yes, I've heard of him'. There is a willingness not to appear foolish." The entire project was apparently a satire aimed at poking fun at the New York art scene.

Another was the abstract artist phenomenon Marla Olmstead - a four year old who created a media frenzy in the art world. Turns out daddy may have given her a little bit of help.

This one is one of my favorites, dating from 1064: "previously unknown avant-garde French artist Pierre Brassau exhibited at an art show in Goteborg, Sweden. Art critics from Swedish papers praised the works. Brassau paints with powerful strokes, but also with clear determination. His brush strokes twist with furious fastidiousness. Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer." Pierre was a chimp.

Oh and that blood art with the girl aborting herself: "Aliza Shvarts, a Yale art student, proclaimed she'd been working on a project by repeatedly impregnating herself, self-aborting, and then planned to encase the remnants of the abortions in a glass cube as "art." It made the blog rounds after being reported in the Yale student newspaper, and then made the jump to the mainstream media before she admitted the project was "creative fiction" intended to stir debate."

The excuse "used to create debate or dialog" seems to be the safety net everyone is using with these hoaxes. And what exactly is the difference between a lie and a hoax? If you lie while laughing behind your hand, it's a hoax? Granted, some media such as the Onion or paraody shows play off the fictional but then they don't pretend that what they are serving up is real. The need for an artist and for media to create "stories" or promotional opportunities is a Pandora's box. Don't get me wrong - I have a great sense of humor and i love a practical joke. However, as a society, if we are lied to enough, we become jaded and disbelieving, to the point where we may dismiss without thought anything that falls outside the "normal/acceptable" box. True in life and true in art, the lessons of the boy who cried wolf (also know as balloon boy) need to be tattooed on the heads of some idiots.

So can i lose the nickname "Rape Tunnel" Phillips now?

Ref Stories:
and just for fun:

Museum of Art Hoaxes:

DAMage Report Today on Hollywood Outlaw Radio ( at 2pm PST/5pm EST

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