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Review: “Pranks 2”

A. Pestalozzi

V. Vale's Pranks 2 is original, unique, and provocative. A sequel to Pranks! originally published in 1987, the current volume brings the possibilities of cultural subversion up-to-date with the inclusion of people like computer hacker Marc Powell. Underlying the rationale for reporting on pranks is the Situationist model of the "society of the spectacle," or the spectacular commodity society as articulated by theorists like Ferdy Pearlman and Guy Debord.

Consumer culture exceeds itself. It bleeds into the meanings of education and public policy, into the landscapes we see when looking out a bus window and on the urban streets we walk. Consumer culture bleeds into all that is not culture; into the workings and meanings of the world system; into our imaginations whether we know or it or not, whether we like it or not.

The task of the prank, as is clear from Vale's introduction and the insightful responses of the interviewees, is to make apparent these excesses-to spotlight the spaces in which commodified culture and the world fly away from their fixed borders, in which aesthetics and geo-politics meet-in order make us aware of the historical changes and transformations that have reduced most people to passive spectators of the world scene. In an election year and in view of the possibility that elections will be cooked, the prank is the most appropriate response short of insurrection.

Pranks 2 brings into consciousness the links between consumer capitalism and consumer culture and illuminates what these connections reveal about culture and everyday life in the globalized USA. By virtue of its public nature pranking challenges unconcern with humor. It attacks institutions and confronts people as well. It personalizes the critique of mindless consumerism so that habitual and mechanical responses are not easy.

The book is divided into five parts, from "Cultural Hacking" to "Art as Pranks," and among thos interviewed are Jihad Jerry (aka Jerry Casale of DEVO,) Jello Biafra, Reverend Al, hacker extraordinaire Marc Powell, Margaret Cho, Paul Krassner, John Waters and a joint interview with Lydia Lunch and Monte Cazazza . Pranks 2 is a virtual handbook of ideas for and examples of cultural deconstruction and resistance all done in the spirit of good subversive fun.

Pranks 2 (RE/Search Publications, 8x10", 196pp, 200 photos, glossy paper, $19.99) is now available from www.researchpubs.com or call (415) 362-1465 to order. E-mail info@researchpubs.com