Pranking the Pranker: From The Man Who Convinced Everyone He Created Dumb Starbucks
Artist Jeanette Hayes so aptly puts it in her video, Jeanette’s Internet | VFILES TMI, “when you put something on the internet it’s mine.”
I teach an internet studio art class at USC. Yesterday, fittingly, I was lecturing about appropriation and hijacking. A ton of people had been asking me if I was behind the Dumb Starbucks project based on my past work, The National Dinner Tour, The Signature Series, Errand Feasibility Study, The Advice of Strangers, 7 Days in a Sentra, Google Maps Road Trip… So I fit the profile.
In class, as an experiment and lesson, I posted a tweet and a Facebook post both reading “my project is causing quite a stir – lol,” and linked to two news stories about Dumb Starbucks.
I felt like a terrorist staking claim to a lingering bombing. But it was so easy. The creators of Dumb Starbucks had left a gaping hole. It was like logging onto someone’s account with the password 123. There was a huge void and I filled it in 10 seconds.
My wording was careful though, “my project” and “lol” were imperative. This IS my project — appropriation, staking claim. And lol is a gesture at diffusion and joking.
I had only one follow-up post in the day, “Would love to do interviews about #dumbstarbucks — just waiting for @TODAYshow or @jimmykimmel.” Again, key wording, “about.” If interviewed I would talk about my commandeering the situation and taking advantage of the media frenzy around it, like I am now.
Right place, right time. I had good timing and took advantage of the fact that most people glaze over their feeds, liking and reposting. In this case, most people made the quick parallel between my name and dumb starbucks.
I felt bad that my friends were in the dark about who did what though, but i had to keep it under wraps. I didn’t communicate with anyone after my posting; I just sat tight and waited to see what would unfold, as this was the experiment.
It was amusing to see how fast and powerful the trajectory of this one tweet/ facebook post was. It blurred authorship and caused confusion within the media hysteria. With this simple gesture, I was able to steer the global media discussion around Dumb Starbucks. I would even say it forced Nathan Fielder to reveal himself early.
My project is about social media appropriation. In art, there is an entire history of appropriation; from Picasso to Duchamp to Rauschenberg to Warhol to Richard Prince to Jeff Koons to Christian Marclay. So dumb, but so fitting — “appropriation has been defined as ‘the taking over, into a work of art, of a real object or even an existing work of art.’” Well…
I’m just doing to them what they did to Starbucks. A sort of, Marc Horowitz pranks Comedy Central (Viacom) pranks Starbucks.