Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Peña

The Year of the White Bear and Two Undiscovered AmerIndians Visit the West

Kai Norwood

Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez Peña are both passionate Latino performance artists whose work is influenced and embodies the use of the medium new media. Gomez Peña was born in Mexico City and moved to the United States in 1978, where he displayed the North and South Borders cultures through multimedia media, such as installation art, performance photography, experimental radio and video. Fusco was born in New York City and is currently the Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Parsons The School for Design,  combines performance art with electronic media, including live performances streaming online, large scale projections, and interaction with the audience through live chat. What these two have in common is that they both collaborated on a piece call The Year of the White Bear and Two Undiscovered AmerIndians Visit the West (from 92-94). It premiered in Mineapolis, MI at the Walker Arts Center and was unlike any piece I have ever viewed. The theme was to display humans as the “other”, an unknown specimen of the Guatinaui people, performing traditional and custom native tasks and wearing primitive costumes. Gomez-Peña wore a leopard skin wrestling mask and a breastplate, whereas Fusco braided her hair, wore a baseball cap, a grass skirt and a leopard bra. Both artists were in a 10ft by 12ft cage and inside they performed tasks, such as sewing voodoo dolls, eating bananas that were passed to them through the cage by a security guard, and other primitive tasks. The goal of the piece was to allow the audience to interrupt and use their creativity of what the two artists were and why they were locked up in such a vast cage.

The Yes Men

The Yes Men

The Yes Men is a group of activists who pose as representatives for large, well-known organizations and corporations in order to satire them. Some of their prominent targets have included former President George W. Bush, Dow Chemical, the World Trade Organization, and ExxonMobil.

The first prank the Yes Men played involved a fake website for the then-presidential-candidate George W. Bush. The site featured several references to hypocritical statements Bush made while campaigning for office. The site drew attention from the press and was later issued a Cease and Desist order from the Bush campaign.

In their 2003 movie “The Yes Men,” the two founding members, under the aliases of Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum, document their exploits as they pose as members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). They began by creating a website identical to that of the WTO. Successfully fooled conference organizers would then contact the Yes Men via email and ask them to speak at an event. They were first contacted by a Finnish group who asked them to give a speech at a textile conference. The Yes Men accepted and delivered a speech about the future of the textile industry which began very convincing, later dipping into absurdity. They explained that the North had destroyed America’s textile industry by waging the Civil War in the 1860s. They went on to explain and promote the benefits of slavery in the textile industry by outsourcing work to third world countries. Finally, they displayed a golden bodysuit with a large golden phallus protruding from the crotch which housed a monitor on which a manager or supervisor can control the workers remotely via electric shocks. To their surprise, the Yes Men were not met with questions and comments, but silence from the audience. Later, they present a speech at a college about recycling human waste into food and feeding it to starving people in third world countries. This speech was met with outraged students who began throwing trash at the Yes Men. They later explained that they were glad people reacted the way they did and that it was expected. In the film’s final prank, they gave a speech in Australia which stated the disbandment of the WTO and an organization with a focus on humans rather than economics would be replacing it. The speech drew press attention from around the world.

The Yes Men released a second film in 2009 and continue to prank some of the world’s largest organizations.

The NET.ART.PRODUCT was an Internet drama in art using real life situations, for entertainment, showing individuals how the relationship of power has changed.  The situation was a battle over a domain name turned into a legal dispute over the similarity between the Internet site of retailer and the very similar domain name of, belonging to a European digital art group, etoy, established as a corporation in 1994.   The retailer, eToys Inc., one of the most powerful e-commerce toy retailers since 1996, commenced with suing etoy.Corporation for trademark infringement and asked them to shut down their website due to potential confusion over their similarity between their domain names, vs.  The art group, etoy.Corporation, founded the site in November of 1999.  They began this movement as a resistance site to prevent the hostile takeover of the etoy.ART-BRAND domain name.

The project was designed as a playful game to bring together artists, lawyers, university professors, business groups, DJs, etc., all of whom created their own separate accounts with ToyWar to expand its domain and movement.  DJ-Toys, for example, created an original soundtrack for their sector, Toywar.lullabies.  They created over 50 songs relative to an opposition CD, which was uploaded in a matter of weeks.  Toywar also created a game-esque campaign called The Twelve Days of Christmas, which aimed to intercept eToys on the busiest holiday of the year.  These were just some of the many projects etoy created to cause devastation to the eToys stock.

Etoy provided a way to construct an efficient and entertaining resistance scheme against eToys.  After several weeks, eToys dropped the lawsuit and etoy’s website resumed operation shortly after.  eToys’ stock fell a drastic 40% and reportedly declared bankruptcy after the legal debate.  The ToyWar has often been called “the most expensive performance in art history” (, eToys’ marketing loss of almost $4.5 billion dollars during the clash.  They began an e-mail campaign led by Internet activists including agents at etoy who developed the Toywar website.

Now known as one of the most successful, and possibly one of the most famous, art product movements, ToyWar has become a monument to reiterate that power relations have changed and still are changing.

Reverend Billy

The character of Reverend Billy is acted out by performance artist, Bill Talen.  A man who is now 60 years old and has been performing and staging street theatre in various areas throughout the country.  He is said to be on a mission – a mission to stop the world from shopping.

Reverend Billy uses satire, sarcasm and comedy to try and convince consumers to stop shopping so much. He stages his act in front of large corporations and shopping centers such as Wal-Mart, the Disney store and even Starbucks. He is against consumerism, mass media and the large amounts of money people spend, especially during the holidays. He even created a “Don’t Shop at Wal-Mart Day” to try and get people to at least not shop there on the day he was protesting.

He doesn’t appear to have a concern about “Christ” not being a part of Christmas just that the meaning is lost because the emphasis is on the shopping experience as opposed to what is really important.

Reverend Billy dresses in a white suit coat and slacks with a black t-shirt and is said by some to resemble Elvis with his hair style and character traits.  When he is in character people surround him and heckle, laugh, and often encourage him on. Reverend Billy is loud and boisterous and often shouts until he is annoying or is arrested.  A gospel choir consisting of 34 singers are also in support of his mission and not only appear on his website but they also perform with him.

Elizabeth Sisco, Louis Hock and David Avalos

Elizabeth Sisco, Louis Hock and David Avalos have a reputation for causing trouble in San Diego. Their collaborative art projects have received a lot of attention. Specifically a work called Art rebate in 1993. This piece refunded 450 undocumented workers 10$ along the Us and Mexican border. Included with the money were fliers in English and Spanish that said “This $10 bill is part of an art project that intends to return tax dollars to taxpayers, particularly ‘undocumented taxpayers.’ The art rebate acknowledges your role as a vital player in an economic community indifferent to national borders.”

Most of Hock’s, Sisco’s and Avalos’s other collaboration projects are much like this one. While none of the artists claim to want to “empower” anyone, they hope to raise awareness about the misconceptions about undocumented workers. This particular art exhibition was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego and Centro Cultural de la Raza as part of the “La Frontera/The Border” exhibition. It outraged many people because they were given an artist grant of $5000 dollars and had given most of it away. The other $500 dollars went to making the flyers. What some did not realized was the part that illegal immigrants play in stimulating the economy. After receiving a 10 bill signed by each of the artists, many illegal aliens take the money and put it right back out into another business. Due to the controversy surrounding this artwork the agency now follows a routine examination on how the grant money is spent.

You tube David Avalos on Chicano art

New York Times Article on Art rebate

Interview with Elizabeth Sisco, Louis Hock, and David Avalos

William Pope L.

William Pope L. Is an African American visual artist whose art focuses on social class, consumption, masculinity, and how they all relate to race. A quote about his work Pope L. said,”I am a fisherman of social absurdity, if you will… My focus is to politicize disenfranchisement, to make it neut, to reinvent what’s beneath us, to remind us where we all come from.”

The Black Factory is one of Pope L.’s installation pieces. It is an interactive performance on wheels that tours the United States. The Factory arrives at a city or town and sets up its workshop on the street. People will then bring objects that represent blackness to them. The Factory’s workers use these objects in tightly rehearsed but loosely performed skits to stimulate a conversation — a flow of ideas, images and experiences. Most objects are photographed and put in the Factory’s virtual library, while some are housed in the Factory’s archive to be used later. Some are even broked apart in the workshop to make new products available in the Factory’s gift shop. All the proceeds from the Factory gift shop go to the charity “Places for People.”

As the creator of The Black Factory, William Pope L. Says this, “The Black Factory does not make blackness, it makes opportunity; the chance to imagine a future we’d like instead of one imposed on us. The Factory is a conversation piece on wheels. It’s a chance for folks to open up their hearts and minds, laugh and talk freely, maybe even disagree about what brings us together as well as what divides us.”

On the Black Factory website, a banner comes across the screen that reads, “The Black Factory contends that blackness is limited not by race but by our courage to imagine it differently”

The site also includes photos taken at the black factory of some of their products

This is a quote from William Pope L. that I chose after reading the CEO notes on the website. It speaks volumes about what Pope L. does and why he does it. “Knowing anything fully, that is perfectly, can prevent a real grasp of knowledge. Ignorance can be caused by what we do know as well as what we do not. It is when a person knows only partially that they have the opportunity to gain their own knowledge as well as respect for the adventure of aquiring it. Failure and trial and error are a necessary part of this process. Knowledge is a lie if one does not understand it is always provisional.”

A documentary was made about the Black Factory.  Here’s the site with some images and a trailer.

The Black Factory Website

Krzysztof Wodiczko

by Rachel LaFontaine

Krzysztof Wodiczko was born in 1943 in Warsaw, Poland, and immigrated to Guelph, Ontario in 1977.  Wodiczko does work with large scale slide and video productions focused on politically charged images. Wodiczko uses architecture to reflect on moments in history. His art focuses on the notion of human rights, democracy, and truths about the violence, alienation, and inhumanity. Examples of his art include projections onto buildings of hands or faces of people who speak about personal experiences or crimes they have suffered. His installations are featured around the world from Germany to New York.

As an artist, Wodiczko received the 1999 Hiroshima Art Prize for his contribution to world peace. He also won the 2004 College Art Association Award for Distinguished Body of Work. Currently, Wodiczko works in New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 1980, Kryzysztof has created over 70 large scale installations.

One of Wodiczko’s famous installations is “If you see something.” In this exhibition there are 4 large scale frosted windows with video images and sound. Each projection is 13’4” x 48” and each one tells a different story about society’s fear of “the stranger.” Some of the narratives include people being beaten by an authority figure, or a family wrongly accused of terrorism. Wodiczko uses dark figures behind frosted windows to show the distinction between “us” and “them,” what is assumed and what is reality.

Craig Baldwin

Craig Baldwin was born in Oakland, California in 1952. He studied at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of California at Davis and finally obtained an MA from the San Francisco State University in 1986. Baldwin’s films have formal concerns as well as make some kind of political commentary, usually concerning the exploitation of countries and people under imperialism, capitalism, or other forms of government. His work is often characterized by his use of recontextualized  film elements, called “ephemeral films”, educational and industrial films chiefly made in the period between 1945 and 1975. He was drawn to the practice of collage and used cheap, readily available Super-8 dubs of Hollywood B movies that were for sale in the 60s and 70s. From these, he would assemble “compilations”, mixing and matching scenes from various productions to create new stories.

A few of the films he is known for include  “Wild Gunman (1978)” which is a meditation on the Marlborough Man, a compilation of images and associations designed to deconstruct this image of masculinity and consumer addiction. Not only the Man himself, but the entire myth of the cowboy and the West are its targets. One of his most famous films is “Tribulation 99 (1991)”. The full title is “Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America- the Shocking Truth About the Coming Apocalypse”, pretty much sums it up. A great deal of the narration is based on the occult, biblical, mystical, and pseudoscientific material that describes a readily verifiable history of American intervention in Central America from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.It is mixed with vampires, voodoo, and killer robots, but it is there.

Billboard Outlaws is part of the movie Sonic Outlaws, which is a documentary about making pranks. It is an high energy discussion on modern day controversies concerning copyright infringements, “fair use”, and culture jamming. Stemming from the infamous Negativland-U2 suit, this dense montage of interview, music, and stock footage spirals out into activities by John Oswald, the Tape-beatles, the Emergency Broadcast Network, the Barbie Liberation Organization, the Situationist and others working with “found” sound. The film included 13 parts; Introduction, The Letter U and the Numeral 2, Religion is Stupid, Radio Radio, Police Scanner As Artistic Tool, R.U. Sirius & Negativland Ambush, Billboard Improvement, Taking Commercial Messages seriously enough to deface them, Hacking, Jamming and Slashing, Copyrights and Wrongs, Micropower Radio, Plunderphonic, and Sonic Outlaws, Finale. The film includes practices fo phone-pranking, billboard alteration, media hoaxing, and the digitalization of itellectual property, seen in light of the law in a period of rapid artistic and technological change,  foreground emerging tensions beween imagination, authorship, autonomy and the marketplace.  Sonic Outlaws becomes a veritage collage problematizing relations between “conversion” homage, pastiche, parody and criticism regarding the all consuming electronic environment under increasing corporate control.

Baldwin uses the medium of film to critique power and its abuses and chooses to present these idea through the texture of film in all its scratched and dirty glory and does so when most of his contemporaries are using digital technology.

Craig Baldwin

scene from the film Coronado                                 example of Billboard Outlaws- billboard defacing

Above scenes from Craig Baldwin’s popular film, Tribulation.

Above scene from Craig Baldwin film, Wild Gunman



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: