The Yes Men is a spectacular act of hijacking corporate culture and its exploitative nature. It is on the surface–all the things we might consider satirical and comedic, yet driven by an important “anti-establishment” “stick it to the man” resistant attitude that is meticulously and even sometimes artistically executed. By exposing the WTO and those alike for its complete disregard of its own citizens, environment etc. we see a type of performance that is definitely reminiscent of detournement and a type of post production enacted. How else do we hold our powers accountable? How do we escape the mundane realities that we so easily accept into our lives?
The Yes Men and artists alike work to keep these questions at bay, and try to point to a more hopeful answer when faith in much of our governing powers is lost.
The genius behind this is the fact that they are so detail-oriented in their presentation of their “identity correction” schemes. While it may seem like they are just joking around at how they are consistently able to pass as their alter-academic-corporate selves–they realize the platform they are given at each conference and do not take anything lightly. The playful names seem to mock the typical white american male in power. Why not give themselves absurd names for equally absurd displays of influence? They are extremely methodical and even tactical in their presentation of laughtivism–
“We call this sort of thing “laughtivism” because, well, it’s funny. And it’s activist: the theory is, we’ll laugh bloodsuckers into oblivion and thus save the world.”
However, the most interesting aspect of their M.O. is the complete lack of “correct” response from which their ridiculous and absurd acts receive. This failure to “awaken” even some of the most highly educated individuals in the world might not be exactly what The Yes Man hope for, but it is a perfect example of just how powerful corporations can be, and often are without our consent. We have passively “allowed” for obstruction of social justice, for vastly unequal treatment and compensation of labor, and The Yes Men bring this reality to the forefront of our imaginations.
Sometimes, I feel like subversive art and performance like this is the only way to “get through” to the masses. We are hyper-connected and hyper-aware that we’ve become consumers of information, not necessarily producers of culture (one that we are not in control of). So we need art, we need dissent in order to level out the playing field that is a capitalist democracy. Without people like The Yes Men, springing into laughtivism, I don’t believe we would be having this dialogue. We might live in a censored world, unable to think beyond the standards our own government sets forth. Perhaps The Yes Men didn’t know exactly what they set out to do when they began and that is the beauty of this art-activist work at play. We set out to achieve, to be heard, to make an impact– and the art that does this well is the type that entices us to think and feel a little bit uncomfortable. To invite us to question our own role, even our own identities in this entire ecosystem.
These are two instagram accounts that are artfully driven and seem to often remix not only image but ideas…