Sorry to Bug Ya
August 26, 2016 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, "A crazed woman trying to sell crickets and worms on a D train suddenly threw them all over the crowded car, sending it into chaos during the evening commute." "The air conditioning shut off and the screaming passengers were all stuck inside the sweltering car with the woman, who then treated them to antics for half an hour as the crickets jumped on passengers. The worms just wriggled on the floor." Today, actress Zaida Pugh admits she staged the incident, calling it a "a performance art piece meant to highlight the way people with mental and emotional health issues are treated."
posted by sallybrown (210 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow that's not helpful
posted by thelonius at 4:07 PM on August 26, 2016 [140 favorites]


Yeah perhaps some performance art In the form of a community service sentence would be appropriate
posted by MikeHoegeman at 4:10 PM on August 26, 2016 [195 favorites]


“What would you do? That’s what I want people to think, and learn something,” Pugh explained. “Like in this instance, pulling the emergency brake is not the right thing to do. You should stay calm, call the police – not pulling the emergency brake.”
Uh, okay, perhaps you could put together a humorous PSA about the proper use of the emergency brake instead of spraying innocent commuters with crickets and urine
posted by Existential Dread at 4:12 PM on August 26, 2016 [28 favorites]


Well, you can spend years studying biochemistry, you can become a LICSW, you can stab fake babies and scatter live bait ... Lots of ways to help the mentally ill.

Personally, I think Pugh peaked when she kidnapped Princess Susannah.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:12 PM on August 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


This is colossally poor judgement, even taking into account that she's 21. Seems like this "artist" has a few problems herself.
posted by tel3path at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm definitely not a fan of the attitude that "art" is fine as long as it "makes people think" ... even if what they're thinking is "man, we should get Giuliani back in office to get all these crazies off the streets."
posted by uosuaq at 4:16 PM on August 26, 2016 [26 favorites]


So...she used the "social experiment" excuse in real life?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:17 PM on August 26, 2016 [67 favorites]


Oh I'm sorry I'm projecting my stress nightmares onto reality again
posted by The Whelk at 4:18 PM on August 26, 2016 [75 favorites]


Well if plagiarism can be art, why not assault? Is there a limit?
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:23 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


A group of teenagers pushed her, prompting her to freak out and toss the box of pests into the air, said witnesses. Straphangers then started screaming and crying, and all ran down to one end of the car.

yall new yorkers know crickets and mealworms are harmless right
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:25 PM on August 26, 2016 [31 favorites]


As a non-New Yorker, the most valuable lesson for me here is the revelation that the emergency brake is not for emergencies, and people who don't know this are morons. Which is some grade-A new guy trolling that evidently an entire city of millions has been conspiring about for decades
posted by middleclasstool at 4:25 PM on August 26, 2016 [31 favorites]


Seems like this "artist" has a few problems herself.

She might have mental health issues. If so, I'm not too comfortable gawking over this stuff or ripping into her. I hope she gets the help she needs.
posted by naju at 4:25 PM on August 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


frankly i'm not sure why you'd want joe blow in the third car to be able to bring the entire train to a screeching halt anyway
posted by Existential Dread at 4:27 PM on August 26, 2016 [11 favorites]


At least she was trying... Any line of attack that has crossed my mind, and there are several, would be better filed im the back of my mind under the heading "too easy". I know I'm personally better off thinking why I haven't put this much effort into changing something lately. Hopefully, I'll both get around to it and I wont miss the mark but its hard for the not-getting-around-to-its to judge the missed-the-marks.
posted by forgettable at 4:27 PM on August 26, 2016


Apparently she is the same one responsible for this fake "racist bus incident" video from a couple years ago that I vaguely remember causing a stir at the time.

I would have been genuinely freaked out (like full blown panic attack), I have a phobia of bugs that would be insanely riled up by being trapped in a tiny train car with a ton of bugs. Its one thing to see a few outside (or even outside) and another to be in some Indiana Jones style bug nightmare.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:28 PM on August 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


For any New Yorkers, there is one actual emergency instance where you should pull the brake and that is if someone is caught in the doors or between cars and could get hurt. I don't know why it doesn't say that on the sticker; I spent about two years wondering every time I saw it before I looked it up on the MTA site. For everything else, it's much better to handle the situation at a station, and you should use the intercom. Never seen anyone do that, though, but I have flagged down the middle conductor when someone passed out in a car.
posted by lauranesson at 4:28 PM on August 26, 2016 [15 favorites]




"It's Performance Art" seems to be up there with "Hey, just a joke!" as a half-assed excuse for otherwise despicable behavior.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:31 PM on August 26, 2016 [70 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 4:31 PM on August 26, 2016 [43 favorites]


As a non-New Yorker, the most valuable lesson for me here is the revelation that the emergency brake is not for emergencies

It is for emergencies that need to be solved by bringing the train to a halt. Stopping the train obviously does not solve the "there are bugs in the train" problem and whoever pulled the brake was a moron.

http://web.mta.info/nyct/safety/evacuation/home2.htm
posted by Mikey-San at 4:36 PM on August 26, 2016 [20 favorites]


Just think, with open-gangway cars the bugs will be able to get on everyone!
posted by praemunire at 4:37 PM on August 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


The asian guy with the black baseball cap and the black guy with the checkered short sleeve shirt are the real heros here
posted by gertzedek at 4:38 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh god. One of my (mild) mental health issues is a phobia of worms. I can't even read this article: the very thought is making me really anxious. If anyone ever throws worms at me on a crowded subway, i promise you, they will get more performance than they have fucking bargained for.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:39 PM on August 26, 2016 [21 favorites]


This does indeed highlight the way people with mental and emotional health issues ought to be treated.

Like, if you have actual mental and/or emotional health issues that cause you to lose control of your actions and reactions, you ought to be taken to a hospital for evaluation, not to jail. Which is precisely what happened here.

Or if it turns out that you did have full control of your actions and you had decided that it'd be a GREAT PRANK to throw crickets on random people on a subway car in the name of teaching them a Valuable Social Behavior Lesson, enjoy your trip downtown and your handful of misdemeanor charges.
posted by delfin at 4:40 PM on August 26, 2016 [53 favorites]


Or if it turns out that you did have full control of your actions and you had decided that it'd be a GREAT PRANK to throw crickets on random people on a subway car in the name of teaching them a Valuable Social Behavior Lesson, enjoy your trip downtown and your handful of misdemeanor charges.

Honestly, I can only conclude that the only reason she didn't get the shit beaten out of her was that people genuinely believed that she was mentally ill and thus didn't hold her responsible for her actions. If people had known she was doing it deliberately, there is a seriously non-zero chance she doesn't get off that car in one piece.
posted by praemunire at 4:42 PM on August 26, 2016 [35 favorites]


From the second linked article: "But the NYPD’s story diverged in several key ways from Pugh’s. The spokesperson said that Pugh was 26, not 21, for instance, and that the emergency brake was never pulled and the train never lost power."
posted by ferdydurke at 4:49 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nah, no one would have beaten her up. They would have been rightfully super angry, but they wouldn't have physically hurt her. Someone who was calmer would have stopped that. I believe in New Yorkers.
posted by lauranesson at 4:54 PM on August 26, 2016 [20 favorites]


They would have made good and sure to get her arrested, though.
posted by lauranesson at 4:56 PM on August 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


...there is a seriously non-zero chance she doesn't get off that car in one piece.

Not really. I mean maybe someone would've punched her (happens frequently enough) but uh group beatings aren't really a thing so much. Anymore, possibly.
posted by griphus at 4:59 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Clearly we need to persecute performance artists more.
posted by Artw at 5:04 PM on August 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yeah, the lady who got showered with crickets after the bowl was slapped into the air... not about to become a patron of the arts.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:10 PM on August 26, 2016 [13 favorites]


I mean, I like art pranks as much as the next guy - maybe a bit more than the next guy - but I'm not entirely sure that "I threw bugs on you and you freaked out because you are biased against mentally ill people" is what I draw from this. "You can panic people by unexpectedly throwing bugs on them", maybe.

I have mixed feelings about the whole idea that people are terrible if the don't "try to help" someone who has a chronic mental illness when encountering them on public transit. (Let's assume that it's not a crisis - no one is bleeding or seizing, they're just not right.) A couple of times I actually have intervened with ill/drunk/messed up people in public, mostly because they were hassling others, and you always get to the point of what do you do with this person? Like, it's not like you can just ring up Compassionate Social Justice Services and have them pick the person up for help and housing. You end up off the transit with someone who is varying degrees of ill and then you...take them home with you? Give them money and move on? Say goodbye in a compassionate manner? I mean, I've tried some of those approaches and they often end in tears. Also, sometimes they end with someone freaking out at you specifically and it can be scary. It's not that I would ever blame someone for flipping out when they're ill, but it can still be upsetting and frightening.

Honestly, if someone is miserable and ill but not in crisis, there's not always much you can do unless the person is specifically asking you for something. It's upsetting. If you ride public transit regularly (unless you ride one of the bougie express lines) you will have haunting and upsetting encounters with miserable and maimed people and there won't be anything much you can do. The problem is a systemic one and the solutions are the same old solutions that we know we need but can't seem to provide - housing, medical care, cash assistance, food, service providers.
posted by Frowner at 5:11 PM on August 26, 2016 [141 favorites]


Nah, no one would have beaten her up. They would have been rightfully super angry, but they wouldn't have physically hurt her.

If mattdidthat's video is what it professes to be, that is... not entirely correct. Looks like there was at least one serious insectophobe delivering the aforementioned "more performance than she bargained for."
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 5:12 PM on August 26, 2016


What they really needed was another performance artist to show up with a troupe of well-trained geckos.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:13 PM on August 26, 2016 [69 favorites]


I think the point is, she's NOT HELPING. Shorter Zaida Pugh:

"I'm going to pretend to be someone with this particular disability rather than letting people with a mental illness speak to the issue."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2016 [35 favorites]


I was gonna make an "opening up a can of worms" joke here, but...

... crickets.
posted by straw at 5:19 PM on August 26, 2016 [134 favorites]


Crickets and worms don't bite or sting or hurt humans. It's gross and annoying and definitely a shitty thing to do, and she should absolutely be arrested... but I don't really get why people would be so unable to remain calm and just let the train go to the next station. I've been on the D train and I know that particular space between stops is a little longer, but again, these are bugs that couldn't damage a human no matter how angry or scared they are. I'm a pretty panicky person and I feel like the only thing that would scare me in this situation is my fellow humans.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 5:21 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


... but I don't really get why people would be so unable to remain calm and just let the train go to the next station.

Different people have different phobias.
posted by erratic meatsack at 5:24 PM on August 26, 2016 [32 favorites]


I read this on Google News this morning. Fucked up thing is, it was believable, albeit with a "Wow, people are weird and thank God that wasn't my train" twist.

I agree that we need way more funding for meantal health issues in this city (and state, and nation), but this shit ain't helping. It may make things worse.
posted by jonmc at 5:25 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I kinda think the dude who tossed the bugs was in on the "joke"?
posted by lauranesson at 5:27 PM on August 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


I got 4 minutes into the video mattdidthat posted before realizing there were 14.5 minutes to go and stopping, but I feel like I can safely say that Zaida Pugh is Not Helping. Even if it was someone else who smacked the bowl of bugs out of her hand, this is why you don't bring a bowl of bugs on the subway.
posted by ejs at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't really get why people would be so unable to remain calm and just let the train go to the next station.

And the main action for "someone on train needs help" is to pull the emergency. "Someone brought vermin on to train and is now peeing in the aisle" sounds like someone who needs help.

What would have happened if she encountered someone who responded to her with help and kindness? She brought a film crew... would she have stayed in character and been escorted off the train (like she did after the cops showed up) or would she have escalated?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


No, like we've been saying, pulling the emergency brake would make things worse. It's a brake. It stops the train. It is totally a problem that the MTA doesn't really make it clear enough that braking in lots of kinds of emergencies makes things worse.

That's not really the issue at hand at the moment, though, right? I thought that the MTA and police had said that no one pulled the brake?
posted by lauranesson at 5:32 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


"It's Performance Art" seems to be up there with "Hey, just a joke!" as a half-assed excuse for otherwise despicable behavior.

I went to art school, and spent a decent amount of my college years at a precocious liberal arts college nearby that had a decent number of wannabe–radical revolutionaries who thought big attention–drawing events was the only way to make Politics happen. BONUS POINTS: one of my central areas of study was ludic art, including alternative reality games, and another of my areas of study was PR, including staging events to get media attention.

There are a decent contingent of young artists who misinterpret Warhol's modus operandi to mean that making people look at you, for any damn reason whatsoever, is the pinnacle of art. For them, if people start talking about a thing, then that thing has succeeded, and they don't have to bother observing the nature of those reactions because if they're the right reaction, then hooray, and if they're the wrong reaction, then motherfuckin' plebes don't understand motherfuckin' art, and they're probably cisscum anyway.

On the other side of the extremely fine–lined fence, you have people who feel like they're the spearpoints of a significant movement. Their politics are "right", in the sense that they care about causes that everybody ought to care about, and therefore literally anything they do counts as okay—and if a lot of people see what they're doing, then that makes them the best, and therefore they're important and ought to be rewarded. A lot of these people want to wrap themselves in the mantle of "artist", because as an artist you're not responsible for thinking about things like effectiveness, your controversial status makes you important to at least 50% of the viewing audience, and also artists are way more interesting and exciting than political activists, not to mention smarter and better–looking to boot.

Contra what naju says, I don't want to immediately assume mental health issues are the reason for this. This is a mode of artistic performance that garners a significant amount of social praise, and from multiple pockets of society at that. Trolls love this shit, because trolls. Radical politicos love this shit, because it's proof that society isn't ready to have this discussion, man. Warhol–wannabes love this shit, because it's a heck of a lot more exciting than conventional art, a heck of a lot less detached than YBA–style conceptualism, and it also lets you pretend like you're a theatre person, which makes you inherently better as a human.

Zaida Pugh was also responsible for this fun thing, in which she pretended to be a mother stabbing her baby to death to get revenge on her boyfriend. At the very least, she's a pretty skilled provocateur, which is to say she knows which lines definitely shouldn't be crossed and then she crosses them anyway. That one also garnered this commentary from Pugh, which I find really funny and maybe shouldn't:
Why did I do this video? Why do I do any of my videos. Because there's messages out there. I feel like I might be repeating myself a little too much. It's a wake up call. This is a call to the public. Hello? Wake up. This is actually something that is going on. This is something that we need to face and we need to make a change. Hello, this is a wake up call to everybody.
"BECAUSE THERE'S MESSAGES OUT THERE." I'm including this in every artist's statement I release from now on till the end of time. It's the perfect thing to say, ever.
posted by rorgy at 5:33 PM on August 26, 2016 [121 favorites]


To be fair, Ms. Pugh did not throw the crickets--at 0:40 a young man slaps the bowl from her hands and flings it across the train.

And that footage might be all that could save her, now that she's admitted to the stunt being intentional, from disorderly conduct and second-degree harassment violations and possibly a second-degree criminal nuisance misdemeanor. (I Am Not A Lawyer but the NYC penal code is online.) She's lucky that the chaos didn't cause physical injuries or property damage, just wasted time and a lot of discomfort, or she could be looking at more than that. Maintaining the fiction while in custody, all the way to the hospital and then slipping away might be sanctionable as well.

SHOULD she be locked up? Nah. In the end nobody got hurt and she was just one more fruitcake. But some kind of formal notice, now that she's admitted it was all an act, that "we know who you are now and the next time you pull a stunt like that you're facing charges" is certainly in order.
posted by delfin at 5:33 PM on August 26, 2016


JEsus that video is upsetting. From the start when the two guys push her down to the wailing. I don't know, it's true that some people treated her badly, it's also true that when you see someone wailing in great distress like that, it's really hard to know what to do. Especially in a confined space when everyone is panicking from the bugs. I don't know. I'm not sure I'd want to mimic that much distress and pain when you can see it for real every day. Horrible. Horrible memories of people in distress like that for real.
posted by Frowner at 5:34 PM on August 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


And the main action for "someone on train needs help" is to pull the emergency. "Someone brought vermin on to train and is now peeing in the aisle" sounds like someone who needs help.

I'm not sure about MTA trains, but up here in Toronto, there are bright yellow emergency alarm strips above all the windows that will alert train personnel to an emergency in that car. It is NOT an emergency brake and is intended for general emergencies that don't require the train to be stopped, including assaults, pickpocketing, and personal health issues.

Also note that the MTA specifically says not to pull the emergency brake in case of medical emergency as it makes it more difficult for medical personnel to get to you.
posted by chrominance at 5:36 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


As someone who is 100 per cent cool with earthworms, crickets and mealworms (we did an elementary school unit on mealworms where there was a big box of them in the classroom), and as someone who's cool with navigating urban subway systems (including NYC's), it's entirely understandable that people would be freaked out.

Also, buddy spiking the container of bugs down the car was NOT HELPING either. Unless increasing the level of freakout in a confined space is helping, in which case, let's look for the helpers.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:36 PM on August 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure about MTA trains, but up here in Toronto, there are bright yellow emergency alarm strips above all the windows that will alert train personnel to an emergency in that car.

NY subways don't have that; just the emergency brake.

It's not a great design.
posted by Itaxpica at 5:38 PM on August 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Saying anything more than, "What a horrible human being she is" just validates her attention-seeking behavior. So: What a horrible human being she is.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 5:38 PM on August 26, 2016 [17 favorites]


If this is performance art, then the dude jerking off on the 6 train is an interpretive dancer.
posted by dr_dank at 5:44 PM on August 26, 2016 [92 favorites]


I'd say the onus is on her, now that she's admitted this was a stunt for like, messages and stuff, maaaaaan, to prove that the guy that flung the bugs wasn't in on it. She's lost plausible deniabilty by admitting to it, to her accomplices, etc. I doubt that her initial plan was for those bugs to stay quietly in their jar in the first place.
posted by Existential Dread at 5:45 PM on August 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


No, like we've been saying, pulling the emergency brake would make things worse. It's a brake. It stops the train. It is totally a problem that the MTA doesn't really make it clear enough that braking in lots of kinds of emergencies makes things worse.

Yeah, no. Any and all responses to the artist's actions are on the artist. She went there with the intent to provoke a reaction. She owns the results. It does not matter how the train was equipped to respond to her behavior.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:46 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm still more grumpy about the idiot who pulled the emergency brake, but yeah, fuck your performance art nonsense. I'll stick to Improv Everywhere for my locally sourced imposed whimsy, thank you.
posted by SansPoint at 5:50 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


I Was Hit In the Face with a Fish on the G Train demonstrates that this performance was utterly unnecessary.

(Also, the phrase I was hit in the face with a fish on the G train scans nicely to Shakira's "Try Everything." Just so you know.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:56 PM on August 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


> I'd say the onus is on her [...] to prove that the guy that flung the bugs wasn't in on it.

For that matter, I wonder if the brake-pulling (if the brake really was pulled) wasn't part of the stunt as well, if only to ensure prolonged action.
posted by Westringia F. at 5:56 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


The right way to do this sort of thing
posted by hortense at 6:06 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the MTA is aware that there's basically no reason to let passengers stop a train, which is why newer trains don't have an emergency brake. All the D trains are the old model.

Also, this woman is a huge asshole.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:06 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


I hate this kind of thing because it means that people cannot believe the actions of other people in public. Every time something unusual happens, people will not be sure if they should act appropriately or look around for the camera.

It's going to get someone killed someday. Something bad will happen, and nobody will call 911 because they don't think it's real. Someone won't defend themselves from an attacker or escape a hazard. Or - the most likely, I think - someone will try to fake a kidnapping or an assault or something, and a bystander will shoot them.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:07 PM on August 26, 2016 [25 favorites]


The fun question here, for me, is how this same concept could be worked into an art piece that was interesting/effective and wasn't shitty.

For instance: what if this incident was faked? As in, what if they somehow spoofed a video that looked like an incident in a subway car, or else mentioned the event without any video whatsoever? And then it came out that a performance artist had spoofed the event, despite the event itself having never occurred?

At that point, a crafty artist could take to social media as the performance artist in question, and construct a persona who, despite themselves, reinforces the point of the "original" piece, in a way that rhetorically traps people who, I dunno, think that mental health issues are a big deal, but can't condone things that induce panic in public spaces like this? With a little tweaking, maybe you get those people to expose certain prejudices of theirs against the mentally ill that don't come out except for in pressured situations like this. I dunno, get them to reveal that there's a hypocrisy between the ideals they theoretically espouse and the performances they will (or won't) condone.

I don't think that's happening here, because I think the actual performance was seriously problematic, but a savvier artist could have constructed a scenario in which there're two layers of performance happening, and people who think themselves more ideologically sound than they actually are would find themselves the target of the show without realizing it. (For those of you who think this is artsy–fartsy nonsense, I'll point out that this is a common tactic of psychological experiments, such as that one where a person was asked to give a speech about the parable of the good Samaritan, had their speaking time pushed up 15 minutes at last minute, and passed an actor feigning a health crisis halfway en route to their speaking.)

In summary, performance art is really cool and really interesting because you can bake layers into it, delicious gooey layers of provocation and rhetoric, and serve it piping hot to people who swore they weren't fans of yolk–free batter but what's your excuse now, Terry, and anyway this thing right here is mostly not that, and also I'm kinda pissed off that this post got to stay up while my post about kids who throw gallons of milk up into the air at grocery stores got deleted a couple years back, since that wasn't artistically effective either but at least its sociopathy was hilarious
posted by rorgy at 6:08 PM on August 26, 2016 [12 favorites]


Michael Caine

Some men just want to watch the world burn get covered in crickets and meal worms

/Michael Caine
posted by Existential Dread at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm a pretty panicky person and I feel like the only thing that would scare me in this situation is my fellow humans.

You mean, like someone who periodically pulls stunts like this in public for no other apparent reason than for the attention?
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2016 [11 favorites]


Ugh. Raising awareness of mental health issues by pretending to be crazy on a subway is an awful lot like putting on black face and doing a step and ferchit routine to raise awareness of racial stereotypes. What an awful, awful idea.

Besides, it's really the mundane, less attention-getting but subtlely life destroying forms of situational mental illness that need a light shone on them. It's like society forgot normal people can be driven permanently or temporarily mad at some point and now mental illness is all about identity and tribal affiliation, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2016 [47 favorites]


Meanwhile, the owl that was struck by a D Branch Train and rescued by MBTA employees who personally drove it to the Tufts Veterinary Hospital is recovering nicely.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:14 PM on August 26, 2016 [48 favorites]


I don't understand, was the train stopped or not?
posted by bleep at 6:15 PM on August 26, 2016


Ugh. This isn't her first train-pee "prank"
posted by grippycat at 6:19 PM on August 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


Straphangers

Is it wrong of me that I pronounce this "straf-AN-jer" and think it may have been in one of the later Monster Manuals?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:22 PM on August 26, 2016 [25 favorites]


Is it wrong of me that I pronounce this "straf-AN-jer" and think it may have been in one of the later Monster Manuals?

Immune to screaming attacks while appearing to be engrossed in a paperback novel.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:24 PM on August 26, 2016 [23 favorites]


To be fair, Ms. Pugh did not throw the crickets--at 0:40 a young man slaps the bowl from her hands and flings it across the train.

She says in another article that several of the other passengers were friends of hers and the only thing that wasn't planned was someone pulling the emergency brakes.
posted by retrograde at 6:26 PM on August 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm thinking the passengers' correct follow up response to this "performance art" should be a performance art piece of their own: one that's called I've Hired A Lawyer, Here's A Lawsuit For The Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress.

Hope the judge is a patron of the arts.
posted by easily confused at 6:29 PM on August 26, 2016 [31 favorites]


the owl that was struck by a D Branch Train and rescued by MBTA employees who personally drove it to the Tufts Veterinary Hospital

because owl-saving tracks spontaneously appeared from the D Branch to the vet hospital, like the Giants Causeway but better.
posted by clew at 6:32 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Crickets and worms don't bite or sting or hurt humans. ..... but I don't really get why people would be so unable to remain calm and just let the train go to the next station.

I imagine that people weren't sure what exactly was being thrown at them - even if they could see one or two crickets and worms and were able to identify them as harmless, they couldn't be sure that only crickets and worms had been released into the car.
posted by bunderful at 6:33 PM on August 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is it wrong of me that I pronounce this "straf-AN-jer" and think it may have been in one of the later Monster Manuals?

Immune to screaming attacks while appearing to be engrossed in a paperback novel.


Can be driven away by party member wearing +2 Garment of Frottage.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:33 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


And some people have a phobia of worms or crickets. Someone close to me has a huge worm phobia and would have had a panic attack followed by weeks of nightmares/etc in this situation. Seeing a few bugs around is something you have to learn to cope with, but being showered with bugs in a subway is not something I think people necessarily have to be ready to deal with.

And if it were a different kind of bug (roaches) I would have gone berserk and basically lost my shit / control of myself. Even thinking about that scenario long enough to write this is freaking me out. For some people, worms are the same thing as that.
posted by thefoxgod at 6:38 PM on August 26, 2016 [24 favorites]


My god am I tired of people shooting candid videos of random strangers in public to prove one thing or another. "Watch how no one is stopping to listen to this famous violinist busking because we move through life too fast" or "see this video of people refusing to help a stranger unlike you, the viewer, who would totally help a stranger." I hate the thought that someone could film me and be like "it makes you THINK."

Also way to call attention to mental health by acting out your stereotyped fantasy of how someone with a mental health problem behaves.
posted by teponaztli at 6:39 PM on August 26, 2016 [73 favorites]


bunderful: I imagine that people weren't sure what exactly was being thrown at them - even if they could see one or two crickets and worms and were able to identify them as harmless, they couldn't be sure that only crickets and worms had been released into the car.

Plus, they don't know what the point of it all is. Is it a distraction while a couple of her friends pull out their guns? Is she legitimately crazy and about to pull out a knife and start stabbing people in the name of the lizard king? It's really, really disturbing to have a stranger acting completely unhinged in public.

As much as most mentally ill people are not dangerous, there have certainly been cases where they killed strangers on public transportation before. And many times people who fake disturbances in public are distractions for theft.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:44 PM on August 26, 2016 [32 favorites]


Really, it's the confined, trapped "audience" aspect of this that makes me so mad. Intentionally creating a shitty, uncomfortable situation for people who can't get away is not thought-provoking save the thought that you are a pretty shitty person. Especially considering the phobia thing many folks have mentioned.
posted by drinkyclown at 6:48 PM on August 26, 2016 [48 favorites]


This isn't her first train-pee "prank"

When, as an artist, you have opened yourself up to the possibility of schisms amongst your admirers fighting over which of your train–pee pranks is the best, you may want to reconsider your branding strategy and/or your target audience, is all I have to say about this
posted by rorgy at 6:49 PM on August 26, 2016 [20 favorites]


At the very least, she's a pretty skilled provocateur, which is to say she knows which lines definitely shouldn't be crossed and then she crosses them anyway.

So what's the over/under on how long before she's hired to run the Trump campaign?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:54 PM on August 26, 2016 [21 favorites]


I got into an argument a few months ago with friends online because there were street beggars showing up at a Toronto intersection, all with the same weirdly neat handscript on their signs asking for money, and all young and seemingly a bit too neat and well put-together to be actual street people in distress. I was suspicious that this might be some art-school project meant to reveal the heartlessness of big city people when dealing with the homeless, or whatever. I feel bad now for having my doubts, but after all of these "pranks" and "events" I've started second-guessing a lot of things I see out in the nearby world.

Is the man yelling racist shit on the subway crazy, or dangerous? Or is someone filming their friend "sending a message" and waiting to collect fake internet points or actual media attention? If the racist-shit-yeller and another passenger suddenly break out in to show tunes (there was a video of this on the r/cringe subreddit a few months back, can't find it right now) then I'm definitely not enlightened or entertained or improved as a citizen. I'm just angry. Like a lot of people on that train, I'm tired and I just want to get home without being dragged into someone else's business, scripted or otherwise. Or splattered with worms, for that matter.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 6:58 PM on August 26, 2016 [16 favorites]


There's her bus prank.
There's the mom and teenage daughter prank.
The fight with BF on bus prank.
And even even more.
You'd think she'd have a TV series deal by now.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:16 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


are we completely 100% positive that she isn't Nathan Fielder
posted by rorgy at 7:22 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


Overwormed in New York.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:25 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


The next time my FSA doesn't approve my mental health expenses from licensed providers while letting all others go through without no problem or delay? I am going to feel SO avant garde.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:29 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


As I mentioned in a recent AskMe, I fucking hate "social experiments".
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:30 PM on August 26, 2016 [14 favorites]


Ugh. This isn't her first train-pee "prank"

What's her beef with clean, safe public transit?

I just want to get home without being dragged into someone else's business, scripted or otherwise.

Seconded, and also I don't want my obituary to feature the words "trampled in subway worm stampede". This could have gone wrong in a lot of ways.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:31 PM on August 26, 2016 [25 favorites]


Because there's messages out there.

I actually prefer this to 15 of the last 20 artist's statements I've read.

Also, although she is probably an asshole, and I'm not a fan of vermin & also would have hated being on the train, and yeah there is something gross about her depiction of this kind of episode (which is kind of unnecessary in that something along those lines happens most days, somewhere, the only difference being, this was filmed) - I kind of liked it? I liked the idea of the nightmare getting all over everyone.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:31 PM on August 26, 2016


I feel like there is a family resemblance, or at least an overlap in a venn diagram, between how much people dislike this kind of performance art and how much they dislike mimes, but times a thousand.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:46 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


“I hate doing auditions, and I really like the reactions,” she explained. “I like it when it goes viral and people react and think.”

In other words, "I love attention, but I don't really want to do the hard work of making art with any real depth or insight." Also the "making people think" is the oldest line in the world to justify crappy art that is pointlessly provocative. It's such a tired ruse to cover a lack of talent and discipline. "Make people think" sure, but what are they thinking? Probably "who is that asshole acting up?"

"I love reactions" = art troll.

I really like political and social commentary in art but back when I was in art school, this kind of thing happened all the time in the 80s. Just attention-seeking half-assed bullshit.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 7:50 PM on August 26, 2016 [33 favorites]


Really, it's the confined, trapped "audience" aspect of this that makes me so mad. Intentionally creating a shitty, uncomfortable situation for people who can't get away is not thought-provoking save the thought that you are a pretty shitty person. Especially considering the phobia thing many folks have mentioned.

It's this, along with the strong sense of authority that some people feel they have to force people think, as if people in general can't be trusted to consider life's issues under more respectful terms. It's a pretty condescending type of "art". The performance is presented as a salvation that the world needs, and as such, the autonomy of others and their right to choose not to participate or observe is secondary to the righteousness of the cause.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:02 PM on August 26, 2016 [48 favorites]


right idea.
shitty delivery.
PERFORMANCE ART!
posted by not_on_display at 8:04 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, troll for sure; lazy and attention-seeking, 100%, and she is not 21. Despite that, there's something about the worminess and bugginess of it (the record of it, not the event) that's working for me. There's the visceral thing, also the idea of mental illness (or little wormlets of insane ideas/feelings) not being contained or containable, an ugly, creeping, persistent & insistent presence that could be anywhere - lurking under your deck, in your pipes, on your train, and at the same time, always there in plain view, but usually ignored. It isn't activism and probably isn't art, really, but idk, I did like it a little (in a poor man's Cronenbergy sort of way).
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:08 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


God, I am such an idiot. Here I spent 12 years of post high school education and 15 years' actual work with inner city mentally ill homeless people learning about the issues affecting them and how to help them by treating them with dignity and understanding, when I could have had some "artist" kid act crazy and throw worms on me to raise my awareness instead.

Go back to art school, kid, you don't know fuck-all you worthless piece of shit.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:15 PM on August 26, 2016 [86 favorites]


Weird how I never see passionate, dedicated advocates for people with mental illness deliberately antagonize people in public spaces. Maybe it's because they're too busy doing real work.
posted by space_cookie at 8:22 PM on August 26, 2016 [19 favorites]


For instance: what if this incident was faked? As in, what if they somehow spoofed a video that looked like an incident in a subway car, or else mentioned the event without any video whatsoever? And then it came out that a performance artist had spoofed the event, despite the event itself having never occurred?

tbh that would just make it even more obnoxious dumb and annoying
posted by poffin boffin at 8:25 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Basho would be pissed.
posted by clavdivs at 8:34 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Improve Everywhere isn't even trying anymore.
posted by themanwho at 8:39 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


This kind of shit right here is why people hate mimes. It's not that pantomime is an irredeemable art form--I was lucky enough to see Marcel Marceau perform in a goddamn theater and the man's a genius--it's that so many people have had it inflicted on them when they're just trying to get on with their day.
posted by zanni at 8:44 PM on August 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


This reminds me of this kid I knew who always had unwrapped candy in his pocket that would melt. A few times he literally had ants in his pocket. He would go around wiping ants on people. Like he'd just reach into his pockets and put ants on a girl's desk or something. Somebody would say something mean to him... ANTS! Can I have your salisbury steak? No, OK have some ANTS! It was like his superpower. Sometimes he would just flick ants at people in class. The teacher would tell him to stop flicking ants and everyone would laugh. One time the teacher got ANTS!

I was never sure if he was resistant to any bites or what. He would have some bites on his hand but they didn't seem to bother him.

His name was Anthony. He's dead now.
posted by guiseroom at 8:44 PM on August 26, 2016 [42 favorites]


He would go around wiping ants on people. Like he'd just reach into his pockets and put ants on a girl's desk or something. Somebody would say something mean to him... ANTS! Can I have your salisbury steak? No, OK have some ANTS! It was like his superpower. Sometimes he would just flick ants at people in class. The teacher would tell him to stop flicking ants and everyone would laugh. One time the teacher got ANTS!

So I'm not a comic book person . Thus this is almost exactly what I figured "Ant Man" was going to be about, but with Paul Rudd. And I want to tell you I was slightly disappointed it wasn't.
posted by thivaia at 9:00 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is how that Nazi villain made of bees got started.
posted by Artw at 9:01 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is a mode of artistic performance that garners a significant amount of social praise, and from multiple pockets of society at that. Trolls love this shit, because trolls. Radical politicos love this shit, because it's proof that society isn't ready to have this discussion, man. Warhol–wannabes love this shit, because it's a heck of a lot more exciting than conventional art, a heck of a lot less detached than YBA–style conceptualism, and it also lets you pretend like you're a theatre person, which makes you inherently better as a human.

All those things, but I also believe that there are people who just see opportunities to be assholes to other people and have a righteous cause as a blanket excuse. It's the "I care so much" method.

In summary, performance art is really cool and really interesting...

And that's where we disagree. I'm sure there are exceptions though. There's always exceptions.

It's this, along with the strong sense of authority that some people feel they have to force people think, as if people in general can't be trusted to consider life's issues under more respectful terms. It's a pretty condescending type of "art". The performance is presented as a salvation that the world needs, and as such, the autonomy of others and their right to choose not to participate or observe is secondary to the righteousness of the cause.

Couldn't say it any better, except to add; If you're 21 and you need to force the world to hear something they are too stupid to figure out on their own you are almost certainly wrong.
posted by bongo_x at 9:25 PM on August 26, 2016 [12 favorites]


Apparently, she never attended art school. She was an unemployed teenaged mom before she figured out she wanted to do this (may be 21, who knows); was thinking about getting her GED as of 2014, so who knows if she's placing herself in the Warholian tradition. (That baby-killing "prank" - that's what she says she's doing, "pranking" people - looks a bit different to me, now.) Should this be written off as someone having (or acting out) whatever issues? She's doing something intentional, if naive.

(Btw, the reason I like the bits of this I do is that the kind of mental illness that upsets people isn't unfamiliar to me [although not experienced by me], neither are the reactions of people to worms (or "worms"). I don't feel comfortable saying more than that. Something in this struck me.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:31 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


yall new yorkers know crickets and mealworms are harmless right

But crickets make that unholy terrifying SCREAMING sound of theirs when they bang into you
posted by Jacqueline at 9:34 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pugh claimed she wanted the prank to ultimately show how people in today’s society are “too worried” about catching moments on social media than actually helping folks.

I am fairly sure she failed in achieving this. It seems like the only people recording video were her accomplices, everyone else was just trying to get away from the worms and the crickets and the yelling.
posted by ejs at 9:34 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, going forward, can we just ignore this person? Obnoxious people behaving obnoxiously in order to get attention isn't exactly interesting or worth rewarding. If we keep giving her attention, in twenty years she'll be the Republican presidential candidate.
posted by biogeo at 9:36 PM on August 26, 2016 [22 favorites]


I'm pretty sure some of you will only be happy when innocent people are kidnapped from the street, brought to abandoned industrial sites, and forced into pens with other people so that they really get that opportunity to riff off that communal fear that they would otherwise miss in their daily lives. And if, after an hour of rat abuse, hosing, and shock treatment, they come around to the idea that all their assumptions about the world are false, they're let go, with a cute sticker, and a certificate declaring "Thank you for participating in [artist's] latest magical event".
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:49 PM on August 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm pretty sure some of you will only be happy when innocent people are kidnapped from the street, brought to abandoned industrial sites...

I am officially coming out in opposition to this. I realize that may make me unpopular with some, but sometimes you have to make a moral stand.
posted by bongo_x at 9:56 PM on August 26, 2016 [20 favorites]


Apparently, she never attended art school...Should this be written off as someone having (or acting out) whatever issues?

That's not a great way to frame this, as if her actions would be OK coming from stereotypical white art school kid with a degree from SCAD or RISD. Whatever her motivation, this is a shitty thing to do. As with any troll, we can feel free to not feed her appetite for attention.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:56 PM on August 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


His name was Anthony. He's dead now.

was it ant related
posted by poffin boffin at 10:08 PM on August 26, 2016 [17 favorites]


was it ant related

I'm more interested that kids at that school were served Salisbury steak tbh.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:18 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


That's not a great way to frame this, as if her actions would be OK coming from stereotypical white art school kid with a degree from SCAD or RISD.

If it were executed (or located) a little differently, it might be seen that way, I don't know. I'm saying I'd feel more justified dismissing this if it were more pretentious than earnest (for a prank).
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:28 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I didn't have a great pair of commutes today: two aggressive buskers, two unmedicated people having psychotic episodes. And this past weekend there was an old homeless man on the platform hectoring a kid so badly that I almost thought I was going to have to intervene, and I wasn't sure what the result of that would be. Mental illness isn't some secret vein of sadness running just below the surface of subway life; it's right there gushing out at you.

What I'm trying to say is: riding the subway already requires a fair amount of patience and endurance, and no one has any business increasing the drain on people just trying to live their lives.
posted by praemunire at 10:40 PM on August 26, 2016 [35 favorites]


OK wait, in the video linked by mattdidthat, she is pinned down on the seats and punched! Did I see that incorrectly?? At 1:05.
posted by bendy at 10:41 PM on August 26, 2016


So she's basically a female James O'Keefe.

Is it really too much to ask that public transportation not be a venue for your psychotic pretend act, heaving and pissing yourself like a seriously unstable mentally ill woman? There are enough people struggling to get through life without you adding to the perception that they are a possible danger to themselves or the world around them.

On preview, what praemunire said.


If it were executed (or located) a little differently, it might be seen that way, I don't know. I'm saying I'd feel more justified dismissing this if it were more pretentious than earnest (for a prank).


The difference between pretentious and earnest is nil to people wanting to just get to work or home without the normal annoyances one has to deal with when using public transportation. Intentions don't matter, whether she went to art school or not, no difference. Being an asshole for art means you're still an asshole.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:56 PM on August 26, 2016 [19 favorites]


Better title for this thread: "it's Showtime Ladies And Gentlemen!"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:32 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Poor crickets and worms didn't ask to be in on these Shenanigans. People don't need to drag animals along like that.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:46 PM on August 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


So I guess y'alls would not have dug the live cricket blower I built for distributing crickets into the audience at a SRL show n the 90's either.
posted by boilermonster at 12:07 AM on August 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


So I guess y'alls would not have dug the live cricket blower I built for distributing crickets into the audience at a SRL show n the 90's either.

"It's the 90s - go for it!"
posted by thelonius at 12:21 AM on August 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is like the obnoxiously loud Harley Davidson of performance art.
posted by Beholder at 1:16 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


OK wait, in the video linked by mattdidthat , she is pinned down on the seats and punched! Did I see that incorrectly?? At 1:05.

From retrograde's link in this thread, this is what she says:
“Basically the people that is attacking me is a part of the stunt,” she said, adding her friends “also do their own comedy skits online as well.”
Did you briefly emphasize with her plight? If so joke's on you. I think we've all learned a valuable lesson about caring for other people.
posted by mark k at 1:21 AM on August 27, 2016 [33 favorites]


Once I saw a (non-Asian) woman open a plastic bag in a Paris Subway car, pull out chunks of durian flesh from the bag and start eating them in a slow, deliberate fashion. As the horrible (but unfamiliar to most Parisians) smell took over the car, people started to move away from the danger zone, but had little idea that the woman was the source. Performance art or trolling, you decide.
posted by elgilito at 1:45 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe she just a real jones for durian right then?
posted by theorique at 2:46 AM on August 27, 2016


If someone threw a bucket of bugs on me in an enclosed space I would knife kick her in the neck and use the bucket to bludgeon her camera lackey. When you're deathly allergic to certain bugs, there's not exactly a leisurely amount of time to catalog a cascade of them into lethal and non-lethal piles. And when you're caged, your only strategy is to neutralize the threats starting with the most dangerous: the human who wants attention more than she wants safety for people or bugs.

This is possibly the first time I've ever reflected on US self defense policies and found them pleasing. They still suck for most people in most situations, but as a single woman who travels in enclosed spaces frequently, at least I know that if an attention-whoring loon throws centipedes on me I'll be able to stop her with whatever non-lethal force I can deliver and she'll be the one to go to jail, not me.
posted by SakuraK at 2:54 AM on August 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


Firstly: Antman and Catwoman - the charming story of two marginalised people, each with their own faunacentric obsession, that unites the two comic-book behemoths in a mutual frenzy of copyright litigation.

Secondly: I continue to be bemused by this notion that calling something Art somehow raises it above precisely the same actions that evade that classification. It's just stuff that people do. The gallery is just a context, in the same way that a theatre or a concert hall are. It's possible to say that the gallery makes anything put in it art, but that's a specious observation made best almost exactly a hundred years ago, so it's about time we got over it. There's something compelling about the work that Joseph Beuys did, or Yoko Ono, or Yves Klein, but it's compelling because of the work itself not because it somehow deserves the label "art". Watching the documentary about Marina Abramovic last year, I was struck very strongly by her work (I'm not a compulsive follower of that scene, so she'd just been a name floating around for me), but also by the fact that her performance acted as a honeypot for exhibitionist wankers, who wanted some of that sweet sweet attention to rub off on them. My (perhaps mean-spirited) rule of thumb is that if you ask an artist what they do, and they refer to "my work", then there's a chance they'll be interesting, but if they refer to "my Art" (especially if they get a slight choking through the sheer emotion of it in there somewhere), it's probably a good time to spot someone - excuse me! - that you just have to talk to just over their shoulder. None of which may be applicable here, but I've had coffee and got my rant on.

Thirdly: If you want to challenge people's preconceptions, you engineer a situation that contradicts what they would expect to happen in any situation. Duh.

Fourthly: Taking it on its own terms, I assume it's uncontroversial to simply say this is a very bad performance.
posted by Grangousier at 3:10 AM on August 27, 2016 [15 favorites]


She might have mental health issues. If so, I'm not too comfortable gawking over this stuff or ripping into her. I hope she gets the help she needs.

I had a grade school classmate who brought in pieces of earthworms to gross us out. As a first approximation it would be fair to say she had difficulty fitting in with "social norms", but while she was flicking earthworm pieces and putting it on her own clothes, our teacher was patient and above all, in front of us, did not react with anger or hostility to her behavior. Somehow our teacher took her aside and dealt with her privately. Later I would find out that the classmate, who I generally liked and was on friendly terms with, had other problems (that adults would consider very serious)—I was paired with her to do a report, except I ended up doing all the work, which again got the teacher to pull her aside and talk to her. We were 9 years old.

So I just can't get myself that upset about this. And looking back, I credit my current reaction to that teacher, who was able to stay emotionally calm and grounded, and model an appropriate reaction to an individual's problematic behavior. Education can really be a gift.
posted by polymodus at 4:50 AM on August 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


IMHO, practical jokes, "performance" art that forces people into dangerous or uncomfortable situations, and Trump's speeches ("I was being sarcastic") all fall into the same narcissistic, entitled, 'I don't give a fuck about social convention, truth, or other people' box.

This person should be jailed, just as someone who, as a joke, yelled "FIRE" in a crowded theater should be jailed. If she needs mental health care she can seek it at the end of her sentence.
posted by HuronBob at 4:52 AM on August 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


"So I just can't get myself that upset about this."

Perhaps that's because, unlike some people, you don't have phobias about creatures/bugs/worms that would have put you in a state of full on panic attack had you been trapped on that train in that situation.
posted by HuronBob at 4:54 AM on August 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


And if, after an hour of rat abuse, hosing, and shock treatment, they come around to the idea that all their assumptions about the world are false, they're let go, with a cute sticker, and a certificate declaring "Thank you for participating in [artist's] latest magical event".

If the certificate instead reads I Proved Myself A Coward Who Would Desert A Dying Man then you just described Cartilege Head's entire act, bub
posted by rorgy at 5:13 AM on August 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


HuronBob, I was relating a childhood story and talking about how adults model reactions for children when encountering new, problematic situations. In that context, me not being angry or upset makes a lot of sense, and yet you being angry at Zaida Pugh can be totally valid too, since we have different background experiences. The grade school teacher I talked about was a person whom I had looked up to, and so it makes sense that her staying calm and grounded during a classmate's problematic behavior, in the classroom, involving earthworms (their corpses, ew), would have had some lasting influence on me and possibly the rest of the class. Given this very specific context, and i.e. the exposure, as well as the adult role modeling involved, my reaction would not seem to generalize to yours or anyone else's in this thread.
posted by polymodus at 5:16 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Polymodus, it's great that you had a teacher that was instilling those coping skills, good on her.
Perhaps I misunderstood your statement, it didn't seem that you were saying that you wouldn't have been upset had you been present. I took it that you were saying that the fact that this "artist" subjected these people to a very unpleasant experience is not something you are upset about. If it was the former, I retract my rather critical comment, if it was the latter, I'll let it stand.
posted by HuronBob at 5:30 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


"According to Pugh, police removed her from the subway car, and escorted her—handcuffed—to a nearby hospital. There, she played along with the doctor’s questions, never breaking character. She said she was effectively let go at the hospital, where she was picked up by her camera crew."


I think a bunch of lawsuits to bankrupt everyone involved in this process would be real swell.

She wasted EMS and hospital time deliberately with intent to defraud at a time where wait times severaly affect health outcomes.
posted by lalochezia at 6:21 AM on August 27, 2016 [40 favorites]


I'm more fond of bugs than most people and as close as you can get to being 100% pro-spider, and I still wouldn't want someone to throw a bucket of crickets and worms on me. I know they're harmless, but seriously. And honestly, I'm not sure I'd want someone to throw a bucket of kittens/ candy/ drugs/ pirate gold/pixie dust/literally anything on me whilst standing on a crowded subway. No situation I can imagine ends entirely well.
posted by thivaia at 6:21 AM on August 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


A girl sat in the seat opposite, catching my eye, she peeled a scab off her elbow, put it in her mouth and started chewing. I just went back to my kindle because that's just an uneventful tuesday morning commute. So yeah, you can see mental illness on the train. It's not an art project it's reality. Has she even used public transport before?
posted by adept256 at 6:26 AM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Grangousier:
My (perhaps mean-spirited) rule of thumb is that if you ask an artist what they do, and they refer to "my work", then there's a chance they'll be interesting, but if they refer to "my Art" (especially if they get a slight choking through the sheer emotion of it in there somewhere), it's probably a good time to spot someone - excuse me! - that you just have to talk to just over their shoulder.
I don't think this is mean-spirited. As a matter of fact, I found it rather insightful. I'm not an artist in the visual arts sense, professionally, but I did have my sophomoric struggle with "what is art, man, i mean when you really come down to it." (Which lasts a good many number of years longer than anyone's actual sophomore year, of course.) Then in a year of personal crisis, I doubled down on a long-standing vague dabbling in calligraphy, and added drawing to it, and learned pixel art, and in general tried very hard to work on something at least once a week. What I had never realized before I read that comment is that all through that time, it never occurred to me to agonize over whether what I was doing was art or not.

Now, I'm not claiming that my... production with ink and paper... is quality, or worthwhile. But I've also been a lifelong musician, and that I'm serious about, and my work there does have a certain level of quality. And among the people I currently play with, pretty much the only time we use the word is sarcastically ("Do we have to wear all black on the stage? Oh how we suffer for our art.")

For a long time my definition of art was "something that engages people beyond the physicality of the object or immediacy of the action." By that metric this immature, thoughtless stunt qualifies. But that's not a definition of good art. This isn't raising any awareness about the plight of the mentally ill, it's only allowing the performer to crow self-righteously "I knew people wouldn't be compassionate! There's a rot in our society!!11!" Yeahno—that conclusion is a non sequitur, her interpretation of people's completely normal and expectable reaction is unsubstantiated and unjustified, and in so far as she has thought through this, her train of thought has ended somewhere wrong.

Also, I'm arachnophobic, triggered by the size of the animal and the way it moves, and I wouldn't be able to tell the crickets from spiders there. I'd be engaged beyond the action all right, only, as was pointed out above, in the legal arena.
posted by seyirci at 6:36 AM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Metafilter : this is why you don't bring a bowl of bugs on the subway
posted by panama joe at 6:48 AM on August 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


To piggyback off seyirci and Grangousier's excellent comments:

I am, as more than one MeFite has learned IRL to their dread, absolutely the kind of give–a–shit capital-A Artist when it comes to things that I try to create. To me, the act of creating a thing can't be a wholly self–centered act; I find it hard to even keep a diary if it doesn't exist in a public space, promising to spark conversations and discussions. (I started keeping one intermittently over the last year or so, and that felt like a major leap forward in shit–togetherness for me.) The individual aspects of the craft matter less to me than where that work winds up taking you; in a similar way, I'm pretty damn good at writing programs that do useful things but my code itself is shit.

So I read a line like this:
I continue to be bemused by this notion that calling something Art somehow raises it above precisely the same actions that evade that classification. It's just stuff that people do. The gallery is just a context, in the same way that a theatre or a concert hall are.
...and what my mind immediately jumps to is that the lack of context, or the unexpected context, is partly what defines interesting art for me. That, if you expect the thing you're about to experience, it has somehow failed to be Art, because it hasn't managed to expand or enrich your life or thoughts or feelings in any significant sense. I have pretty strong feelings about both this loose definition and about the importance of things that match it; there's a meme going around that you should only date people or take jobs or whatever whatever whatever that make you say Fuck Yes to them, and while that meme is generally problematic I think it's very useful, and hopefully harmless, to apply that standard to things you consume, or experiences that you set out to have.

A lot of discussions about art are frustrating because people go in assuming that their immediate takeaway from that art is all that matters. What the artist intended, or how the work is meant to operate, isn't as important as their instant takeaway. I get that—and I'm frustrated as hell when people assume I don't "understaaaand" the things I don't like—but ignorance definitely gets in the way of appreciating stuff, and I usually prefer knowing why a thing exists the way it does before I start to judge it.

But that same frustrating take on things, that unwillingness to know why things are made the way they're made, doesn't just infect audiences. It affects artists, too. Art by definition needs to involve some amount of grappling with the unknown, lest it grow predictable or trite, but too many artists use ignorance as their excuse to let everything remain a mystery. They're drawn to messy, poorly–defined boundaries, which they proceed to refuse to define, because for them the excitement and allure comes from their not knowing how a thing works, and hoping nobody else knows how that thing works either. (Flashbacks to my straight male musician friend who absolutely loves writing songs about exotic lesbians. Same principle as we're dealing with here, just gross in a more straightforward manner.)

Over time, art has acquired this reputation wherein if you don't understand it, then it must be profound. People talk about "mindblowing" art, and sometimes you notice that the art in question blew their mind a decade ago but they still consider it the ne plus ultra of an artistic experience. (Meaning, they still don't understand it, not that they nostalgically recall the experience as pretty damn perfect. The latter is choice.) It keeps art in this woo–woo mystical territory, rather than using art as a tool to explore the mystic and make it substantially de–wooed. And artists, I think, enjoy this reputation, because artists are as lazy and incurious as the rest of us are, even as they wrap themselves in this unearned cloak of visionary profundity. (Silicon Valley has the same problem, on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.)

This takes us to stuff like this, where the artist in question defends her work by explaining that she doesn't entirely know why she makes what she makes, except "THERE'S MESSAGES OUT THERE." Never mind that it's trivially easy to discuss this work, because it's a trivially–simple work: woman, bugs, audience, PANDEMONIUM. You don't have to be remotely sophisticated to talk about what the effects of this work would be, or about what trains of thought might take off afterwards. But it requires you to think about what you've done, and to think about it in terms of depth, rather than merely breadth.

The advantage to going for breadth of coverage, though—and this right here is why I took an 8–year–and–counting break from publishing work anywhere other than comment sections on cool web sites—is that when you cast a wide net, you can more easily snag at least a handful of people who think you're brilliant and visionary, and will tell you everything you've ever wanted to hear. From there, it's easier than you'd think (and I say this from experience, I'm afraid) to expand your audience rapidly, as your initial fans are likely to know exactly who else is inclined to fall for your brand of bullshit. And then media outlets write about you because anybody with X,000 fans has got to be significant, and at that point onlookers have no idea who's doing genuinely interesting art and who's just loudly trumpeting how important they ought to be, at which point you can see the latter's work and convince yourself you've been impressed because you know that art shouldn't be easy to understand the meaning of, and this art sure as shit isn't instantly making you think anything either way which means it's got to be pretty damn good.

I think that pretentious artists of all stripes should condemn nonsense art like this, because it's the antithesis of what ambitious, aspirational art ought to be.
posted by rorgy at 7:07 AM on August 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


adept256: A girl sat in the seat opposite, catching my eye, she peeled a scab off her elbow, put it in her mouth and started chewing.

"And that, children, was how I met your Grandmother. "
posted by dr_dank at 7:08 AM on August 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


I find myself wishing someone would do a really in-depth interview with this woman - even as I think the bug prank was pretty awful. It sounds like this is a woman from a working class background with no formal training and she's interested enough in art and improve to do these bizarre pranks that take some planning, coordination and physical force. I mean, I was struck in that video by how she was projecting her voice and how genuinely disturbing her presence seemed. Also, for someone who wants to be famous on the internet, she sure isn't going about it in ways that are generally approved for women. It seems like she's doing something where she's playing these despised-woman roles - the madwoman, the violent mother, the filthy/contaminated woman.

I feel like art is so often reserved for middle class/upper class people with leisure, materials and training, and it's interesting to see someone breaking into a kind of art that requires only a couple of collaborators plus an internet connection. I am a little bit reminded of some of the provocateur artists from New York in the early eighties - I read this big book of interviews with friends of David Wojnarowicz (and it had some older interviews with him) and while no one was throwing bugs on the subway, there were definitely some working class art provocateurs who were doing performance and graffiti (not least because those methods were cheap). And honestly, I bet some of them were pretty annoying in the moment, no matter how much glory they've gotten now.

I'm not saying "wow, these pranks are wonderful ideas, I sure would like to be trapped on the subway with this woman when she breaks out a new one, also they are genuinely sticking it to the man and revealing all our moral and intellectual shortcomings". I think that especially with the bug prank, someone could easily have been trampled or otherwise hurt, I don't think that using up EMT time is a good idea...in general, I'm a pretty stodgy person and don't like being pranked, plus I think the whole "everyone is filming all the time, is this person who appears to be in need even real" dynamic is really messed up....but I would still like to hear more about what this woman feels like she is doing.
posted by Frowner at 7:09 AM on August 27, 2016 [16 favorites]


Artists like this literally think they are uniquely superior to most other people. Condescension and smug superiority are their spine. There's no difference between the attitude behind this kind of stunt and the "sheeple" mindset. Nobody has a right to forcefully invade another person's mind with their ideas. If you have something important and meaningful to say, why not respect your audience enough not to try to mind-fuck them, and if you're going to mind fuck people, at least make sure you actually have a coherent, valuable message you take responsibility for. This artist is so dissociative, the messages she wants to deliver aren't even something she cares enough about to actually take responsibility for--just vague messages "out there" floating in space that those masses of others need Artists like her to assault them over.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:21 AM on August 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think the art pretty much speaks for itself.

What it says is "this person is a boring jackass with nothing to say, ignore and avoid to whatever extent possible."
posted by Artw at 7:54 AM on August 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


One time I took a couple boxes containing 40,000 bees on the 2 train, because I needed to get them from the pickup location to my hives and I was pretty sure no cab was gonna take me. Only after the doors closed did I realize how fucking bad it would be if the boxes somehow broke. Like if I lived to 100 my obit would say 'NYC's notorious Bee Lady dead at 100.'
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:34 AM on August 27, 2016 [53 favorites]


Only after the doors closed did I realize how fucking bad it would be if the boxes somehow broke.

"Attention all passengers. This 2 train is now a bee train."


Yes, of course I'll show myself out.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:49 AM on August 27, 2016 [42 favorites]


"Who put these motherfucking worms on this motherfucking train?"

Where's Samuel L. Jackson when we really need him? That's probably the real question we should all be asking ourselves here.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:10 AM on August 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pugh claimed she wanted the prank to ultimately show how people in today’s society are “too worried” about catching moments on social media than actually helping folks.

Actually, I was impressed by the level of care and concern random strangers in the video did express. There were two individuals, as mentioned upthread, who seemed to do all they could to calm her down, to intercede when they thought she was going to harm herself, and to remain with her as she was transferred into the custody of the police.
posted by layceepee at 9:22 AM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel like art is so often reserved for middle class/upper class people with leisure, materials and training, and it's interesting to see someone breaking into a kind of art that requires only a couple of collaborators plus an internet connection.

This artist may be working class, but her prank did nothing but prey on exhausted working class people trying to get through their day.
posted by maggiemaggie at 9:56 AM on August 27, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd want someone to throw a bucket of kittens/ candy/ drugs/ pirate gold/pixie dust/literally anything on me whilst standing on a crowded subway

Yeah, while kittens are cuter than bugs, throwing a bucket of kittens on someone is roughly equivalent to throwing a bucket of razor blades on them. Very cute razor blades, but still.
posted by thefoxgod at 10:09 AM on August 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not to mention that it would be a bummer for the kittens.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:12 AM on August 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


This prank also reminds me of another art project gone awry in the subway from 2002 - Art Student's Project On 'Fear' Becomes A Lesson in the Law.

There is a special place in hell for people who do this to people on the subway.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:26 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think her history of previous 'pranks' nullifies her 'stupid kid' excuse. I hope they throw something with actual consequences at her.

Ironically, I bet the worst thing they could charge her for is public urination. Can they get you for that if you don't expose yourself?
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:29 AM on August 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


This makes me incredibly frustrated. Her performance is mainly a large number of stereotypical beliefs about how people who struggle with mental illness behave. I work in a major city at a public library. I see people struggling with mental illness on a daily basis.

I feel like this woman's view of what it means to have a mental illness was based on an undeveloped brainstorm along the lines of "I'm going to pretend to have a mental illness to see how people respond. What do people like this do? Throw up on people, pee on trains, shout a lot, wear a mostly normal outfit but with one thing off kilter, maybe something outlandish like trying to sell something gross. Yeah that all sounds strange enough."

Mental illness manifests in much more complex ways than Ms. Pugh seems to realize or care about. If she really wanted to draw the public's attention to the plight of those struggling with mental illness, there are so many better avenues than caricaturing their challenges.
posted by donut_princess at 11:09 AM on August 27, 2016 [28 favorites]


When I heard about this, my first thought was that she had been inspired by this. Then I realized that was ten years ago, so probably not.
posted by KathrynT at 11:34 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


But more seriously! I'm a classical singer, and among the works I love the most are 20th and 21st century avant-garde choral works, more like the Ligeti Requiem than the Mozart Requiem. When you perform a lot of new music, particularly a lot of premieres, you get exposed to a lot of crap, just pretentious circumflatulation put out by people who are hoping that their audience will be confused enough by the novelty to nod along and pretend to get it.

When I'm evaluating an avant-garde piece for quality -- which is different than deciding whether or not I like it, there's lots of great contemporary art that is not to my taste but which is nonetheless great -- I have three criteria: it must be provocative, it must be deliberate, and it must be interesting. By "provocative" I mean it must have a specific emotional or intellectual response it's seeking to evoke, beyond just "let's try this shit and see what happens." By "deliberate" I mean that the artist must have clearly and effectively made choices in the service of that goal. And by "interesting" I mean that either the response or the methods should be relatively novel; maybe not completely groundbreaking, but definitely not treading on well-worn ground. It's not a perfect rubric, but it's a decent way to evaluate art that doesn't depend on an aesthetic response that may be more about the taste and history of the audience rather than the skill of the artist.

So, applying this test to Cricket Lady: Is it provocative? Possibly, but I'd say it's arguable. It's definitely confrontational, but her stated aim of "getting people to think about their attitudes towards mental illness" is a little unfocused. If she had gone with something more specific like "What is the dividing line between disgust and fear?" or "What is the role of predictability in the definition of acceptable public conduct?" I would be more inclined to give this to her. Enh, let's be generous, half credit for this one.

Is it deliberate? Imma give this one a firm no. The space in which the soi-disant art takes place is both completely uncontrolled and completely non-consensual; there are too many confounding variables at work for any of the artist's choices to have any kind of effective or predictable result. Deliberateness is impossible in such an environment.

Is it interesting? CHRIST no. It's not novel; there's nothing here that Grand Guignol didn't do better. The mark she's aiming for isn't on target for her stated goals, since she is acting from her own internal caricature of how mental illness presents rather than from any kind of reality-based construct. Nothing about this breaks any new kind of ground, artistically or socially.

In summary: Despite partial credit for the first criterion, I deem this performance gross, mean, boring, and NOT ART.
posted by KathrynT at 12:10 PM on August 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


Trump School of Performance Art
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:37 PM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


The thing is that there has been some experimental public and performance art that has been good and the hacks get all the coverage so it makes people hate the avante garde. Like that Banksy link upthread was hilarious; Banksy also did a thing of bringing a live elephant into a small room so that it would "make people think" about the Elephant in the Room...get it? get it? God it was so bad.

And like people upthread said, it's a manipulative trick to pimp an issue for a self-aggrandizing self-promoting public piece so that they can hide behind the issue should they receive criticism.

Time to bring in Art Crimes Detective Nathan Adler... there are definitely art crimes here.

But again, it just makes me mad/sad that actual art does not receive this kind of attention. Such as Jenny Holzer or a former professor at my college, Lynn Hershman Leeson, who adopted a new identity and rented out a room in a low-level motel to explore urban anonymity, disconnection and transience. Another artist in NYC created miniature cityscapes on window sills; (don't know exactly what it meant but it was rather poetic.)

And on her being working-class, in another thread there was the janitor at customs who photographed the personal objects of immigrants. It was rather poignant. I don't think art has to be high-falutin' academic theory-laden stuff to reach people (in fact that is less likely to reach people). And I don't think being working class means you are unable to be thoughtful in your work. Lots of artists are self-taught.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 1:13 PM on August 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


I have three criteria: it must be provocative, it must be deliberate, and it must be interesting.
Maybe I'm a neanderthal, but I always want to see craft excellence as well, an indication that the person is technically excellent at whatever mode is being used to present the art.

This comes up a lot in paintings for me. I think someone like Magritte or Max Ernst or Dali are worth paying attention to because all three are superb painters irrespective of what they are painting. I may or may not like any particular work but I always respect them.

On the other hand, I have no time for Jackson Pollock. By the same token, I have no time for Philip Glass or John Cage. There's no craft excellence in those works. I know this is an unpopular opinion but 4'33" is pretentious nonsense IMHO. Yes, I understand what it's about, but it's not profound and there isn't any craft excellence in it.

Too much "modern art" is simply a scream "Stop Ignoring Us!" But spectacle isn't necessarily art. And too often spectacle is a disguise for lack of skill. But most of all, spectacle is often simply a way of forcing people to pay attention, which is the case here.

Being a troll doesn't automatically make you an artist worthy of respect.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:45 PM on August 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


By the same token, I have no time for Philip Glass or John Cage. There's no craft excellence in those works. I know this is an unpopular opinion but 4'33" is pretentious nonsense IMHO. Yes, I understand what it's about, but it's not profound and there isn't any craft excellence in it.

I'm gonna pretend your comment here is an attempt at performance art itself because if not this would have to be PISTOLS AT DAWN, SIRRAH

posted by rorgy at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Rorgy, I mean every word of it. It didn't take any craft to write 4'33", all it took was astounding amounts of chutzpah.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:23 PM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you'd like some real nice performance art on the subway that doesn't involve any bugs, take a look at this.

(Safe for everyone, except perhaps those with aulophobia)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 4:55 PM on August 27, 2016


Rorgy, I mean every word of it. It didn't take any craft to write 4'33", all it took was astounding amounts of chutzpah.

You are aware that Cage wrote music in multiple modes over decades, providing a complex (although often challenging) context for the one piece that everyone's heard of?

As for your comments about Glass, I can only assume that you don't actually know who he is. Because, whatever definition of "craft excellence" you're using, I feel that a composer of operas, symphonies, film scores etc, etc, etc, must surely meet it.

I'm not convinced that your view on 20th century music is founded in a firm knowledge of the subject matter.
posted by howfar at 5:01 PM on August 27, 2016 [19 favorites]


I feel like whether you love or hate something like 4'33", it's your choice whether you're going out to hear it or not. I despise performance art (or "performance art") like this because the woman basically forced people to participate without their consent. One the bugs and worms actually touched people, even before we get to the giant pain in the ass that was the train halting and the urine and the screaming and the panic, she violated people's consent about being in her show.
posted by TwoStride at 5:39 PM on August 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


I don't know which makes me more angry: the fact that this is so stupid, or that it's so exploitative.

"I'm just doing this to raise awareness! Here's:

-Further information on the issue? Nah.
-Sources or links for further information? Nah.
-Ways that you can take action or donate money? Nuh-uh.
-A place for us to continue the dialogue? Nope.
-A link to my Facebook page. Follow me for more pranks? Yep!

Fuck you, lady.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:45 PM on August 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


Both John Cage and Philip Glass are absolute MASTERS of their craft. Watch Living Room Music and try to tell me any different. 4'33" is an exceptional piece in a lot of ways, it only truly makes sense within the context of Cage's entire oeuvre of stretching the bounds of what is considered "music."
posted by KathrynT at 9:56 PM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I used to like Phillip Glass but after awhile it came off as a sort of formula that could be reworked over and over with different instruments or vocals plugged in for variety.
I prefer Moondog I find his style to be more varied and complex.

But back to the discussion (sort of)
This is like the obnoxiously loud Harley Davidson of performance art.

No this is more like the obnoxiously loud Harley of art the V1.
posted by boilermonster at 11:10 PM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


evidenceofabsence, I find that most "awareness" campaigns on social media have the same problem - it's some kind of dippy stunt which people say is designed to "raise awareness" of some issue, but no one ever posts any links to further information, talks any more about the issue, or has suggestions for what people can do about it. And usually it's about something I already know happens in the world, so it comes across like someone doing a song and dance to remind me "hey! The sky is blue!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 AM on August 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I feel like if the Yippies threw bugs at traders instead of dollar bills, and urinated on the floor of the NYSE, then sure it wouldn't have been nearly as funny, and Abbie Hoffman would have been remembered as the wily poet prankster who pissed on Wall St and made the country really think about our indifference to mental illness for once, meaning we would have obvs fixed it by now, so before you talk about how gross bugs are think about society and how disappointed Abbie Hoffman would be with you right now.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:35 AM on August 28, 2016


I'm not sure I'd want someone to throw a bucket of kittens

i would love a bucket of kittens but i would definitely be v concerned about the welfare of the kittens in a bucket that some tiresome asshat is throwing at people because they personally want attention for themselves while pretending to care about the plight of socially marginalized people
posted by poffin boffin at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


i would keep the kittens and train them to attack performance artists, prolly
posted by poffin boffin at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


Pretty sure a basket is the correct container for kittens.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on August 28, 2016


I prefer a sweater of kittens.

Or jacket.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:25 AM on August 28, 2016


sorry but that violates the terms of your probation, cruella
posted by poffin boffin at 10:45 AM on August 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I for one would happily contribute to the fund to train a herd of attack-kittens which would adorably set upon any irritating, self-indulgent subway performance artists. Can someone set up a Go Fund Me page?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:48 AM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


sorry but that violates the terms of your probation, cruella

I meant as a carrying mechanism. I didn't even fathom your interpretation until you pointed it out.

I should've stuck with 'a jumper of kittens', but I thought to try and be more understood. That clearly took a left turn...
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:55 AM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I find that most "awareness" campaigns on social media have the same problem - it's some kind of dippy stunt which people say is designed to "raise awareness" of some issue, but no one ever posts any links to further information, talks any more about the issue, or has suggestions for what people can do about it. And usually it's about something I already know happens in the world

So true. Aren't we all aware of cancer? Doesn't anybody who lives in a major city regularly cross paths with mentally ill homeless people? We're already aware of these things. I hate awareness activism; usually it just feels like Fundraising Inc and an excuse to not provide direct service. And what others have said about the condescension of artists who think we have no awareness, that we have to have things shoved down our throats to 'think'. As if 'thinking' is going to do anything.

Also, I always felt that it's hard enough for good art to change the world, pretty sure crappy art won't make a dent.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 7:10 PM on August 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I hate awareness activism; usually it just feels like Fundraising Inc and an excuse to not provide direct service.

The first thing I think of when I think of "awareness activism" is some guy (and it is almost always a young guy) funding his bicycle trip across America by "promoting awareness of childhood cancer" or something and if you raise an eyebrow at that, well gee, guess you don't care about kids getting cancer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:47 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


more like the Ligeti Requiem

ITYM "super-advanced alien monolith language".
posted by aught at 9:43 AM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I meant as a carrying mechanism.

ooh, so like a fishing vest with a zillion pockets but instead of fly-tying accessories there are kittens

yes good
posted by poffin boffin at 11:14 AM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


And you don't need fly-tying accessories. You can just dangle kittens from the end of your line and let them do all the work.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:26 PM on August 29, 2016


Have we gone fishing together?
posted by bongo_x at 1:58 PM on August 29, 2016


Depends if you're in Maine.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:05 PM on August 29, 2016


Well, you obviously do need a ball of wool in each pocket for the kittens to adhere to.
posted by tel3path at 3:24 PM on August 29, 2016


The first thing I think of when I think of "awareness activism" is some guy (and it is almost always a young guy) funding his bicycle trip across America by "promoting awareness of childhood cancer"

I briefly worked at a breast cancer org and their chief activity was mountain climbing and hikes. The main finance guy said "you can't call fundraising a program, you have to have a program to fund". They started funding some services & activism then some staff said "we're doing too much" as if a foundation couldn't fund all kinds of activities. Without those programs it's just fundraising to have more fundraisers, which involve fun vacation/outdoorsy activities. I wonder how much of that happens with vague non-profits.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 5:30 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


The first thing I think of when I think of "awareness activism" is some guy (and it is almost always a young guy) funding his bicycle trip across America by "promoting awareness of childhood cancer"

I'm talking more about things like "turn your Facebook avatar into a picture of a kumquat to promote awareness of tooth decay" or things like that. It accomplishes literally nothing in the realm of "awareness" of anything, it just turns Facebook into a kumquat picture collection and makes people feel like they accomplished something so they don't feel the need to do any more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:39 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm talking more about things like "turn your Facebook avatar into a picture of a kumquat to promote awareness of tooth decay" or things like that.

I've heard that called "slacktivism", in one of the best portmanteaus I've heard in a while.

The idea being, it's a very easy action that you can take that is largely self-serving and virtue signaling ("Look at how good and concerned a person I am for changing my Facebook avatar to the socially approved thing! Please recognize me as a virtuous person like all the other people who did this!")
posted by theorique at 8:18 AM on August 30, 2016


You know, I personally am not really thrilled that there's a police hunt on for a young Black woman artist over an art prank. Even if it was a dumb art prank. I am not thrilled that this young woman will have a police record. I am not thrilled that she will have to negotiate an interaction with a dangerous and sometimes homicidal arm of the state.

Gotta wonder, too, if everyone would be flipping out if this were a white art prank, or if it were equally unsettling and inconvenient but in a clearly "high art" register.

I think folks should be a little careful about calling down punishment given the types of punishment that we as a society have made available.
posted by Frowner at 9:11 AM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Gotta wonder, too, if everyone would be flipping out if this were a white art prank

She threw insects at people in a confined space causing people to panic, and also decided to double-down on this by urinating in the carriage. She could be Kate Middleton and I would still want her actions investigated.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:52 AM on August 30, 2016 [10 favorites]


over an art prank.

Though I do grow skeptical about whether something can still be called a "prank" (which connotes harmlessness) when it involves deliberately showering people with insects they may have phobias about, or (in earlier art "pranks" by Pugh and her group) public urination and defecation, or publicly "acting" the part of people with mental illnesses as part of their "art".
posted by aught at 10:57 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I too am skeptical about loosing our psychotic justice system on anyone but reckless endangerment is exactly what she did. I dont want to see her life ruined but something must be appropriate here.
posted by bleep at 1:09 PM on August 30, 2016


I don't really see this as an art prank either. Having her participants punching her and physically involving strangers without their consent crosses the line.
posted by bleep at 1:10 PM on August 30, 2016


Gotta wonder, too, if everyone would be flipping out if this were a white art prank, or if it were equally unsettling and inconvenient but in a clearly "high art" register.

One example from a couple of years ago: one year after the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings, an art student left a backpack around the finish line. His 'white privilege' did not save him from arrest, nor did it protect him from being regarded as an offensive jerk by a great many people.
posted by theorique at 1:14 PM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


About art pranks: if you look up that Re/Search publications book about pranks - helpfully called "Pranks" - a lot of those are pretty creepy sounding, IIRC.

Also, there's a long history of artists doing unexpectedly assholish stuff to people in the audience. On the one hand, those people did go to the show, but...let me tell you about the one I witnessed: I was in a medium-sized, crowded room in a crowded, old building packed with people, puppets, signs, costumes and all the flammable impedimentia associated with a semi-famous small local theater company. It was cabaret night! One of the city's famous, confrontational, truculent performers was doing a really rather funny though rude "puppet" sketch using shoes and other things as puppets. As part of the sketch, he started to set off fireworks. Inside. In, literally, a crowded theater. One of the puppets hanging on the wall behind him went up in a sheet of flame. Luckily, it was extinguished before panic ensued and we all trampled each other in a race to the door.

That may have been the single most dumbshit thing I have ever witnessed in the flesh. We could literally all have died. That building was attached to several others, including a mosque and a small apartment building. A raging fire in that space would have done enormous damage.

And yet - lo, the guy wasn't arrested. Everyone laughed (not me) and kept watching the show. That dude continued to have a career as an art prankster around town. He performed at that space many times afterward, as far as I know.

Was he white? He was white!

If anyone should have been arrested for reckless endangerment, it was him. He literally could have been responsible for multiple deaths and millions of dollars worth of damages.

And while I was in the audience, I sure fucking wouldn't have been if they'd said "this show will involve indoor fireworks and spontaneous fire" when I paid at the door.

This dude is not the only guy to do kind of shitty, dangerous, inappropriate stuff under the aegis of art, either.

My point is that what we read as art and what we read as reckless endangerment depends quite a lot on who the artist is.
posted by Frowner at 1:20 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess it depends on who "we" means. The general public, I don't think so. The criminal justice system & the art world, apparently.
posted by bleep at 1:31 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, everyone in that theatre had the opportunity to make a police report but apparently no-one did. It is extremely weird that the theatre didn't stop him from performing there ever again. Even the world's shittiest pub theatre takes fire regulations seriously in my neck of the woods.

And it is very VERY weird that you were the only one in the audience who didn't laugh. WHAT. I would have been as perturbed as you.

But in that case, it's the letting it slide that's the inappropriate reaction. I wouldn't wish US criminal justice on anyone, including most criminals. But legally speaking Ms Pugh seems to have committed every one of those offences.
posted by tel3path at 2:06 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean, technically other people maybe didn't think it was so funny - this was years ago, and it was just my impression that everyone else thought it was fine. Plenty of people thought it was fine, though, I can say that with certainty.

But it was really "hey, we're awesome artistic people, we don't blink when something dramatic happens, we're not afraid of a little out of control fire in a building stuffed to the brim with flammable stuff, we're too cool for that!!!" And that's precisely what I mean by response depending on the artist, and why I am a little bit skeptical about how this woman deserves to be arrested for her foolery.

About the law - as you observe, someone has to decide to lower the boom, either the police or people who call the police. People break all kinds of laws every day. Society would shut down in ten minutes if we expected every instance of law-breaking to be punished by the state, even if we only included times when people were aware that they were breaking the law.

Let there be equal lawlessness or equal law, as GK Chesterton observed.

Also, seriously, her prank was some nonsense, yeah - but picture how scared she must be right now and how much financial and employment trouble she is going to face probably for the rest of her life because of this. And then ask yourself whether the price of being dumb and immature on the subway ought to be a lifetime of diminished employment and the ensuing economic insecurity.
posted by Frowner at 2:34 PM on August 30, 2016


She hasn't even been arrested yet, (eta: my bad, she has been arrested) let alone tried or convicted. Like I said, I wouldn't wish US law enforcement on anyone, but the worst hasn't happened to her yet.

How much she suffers for this in the future may turn out to have more to do with the publicity about it, which she was actively seeking.

It also looks like the police department is being just as performative about it and I can't blame them for that in principle.

Whereas your puppet-arsonist didn't even make the local gossip mill. There's not much we can do about that now, though, other than speak out against puppet arson culture wherever we find it. No seriously, I get it, the same action carried out by two different people will get unfairly different reactions, but that doesn't mean this other kind of disturbance of the peace should be tolerated lest it become a genre. If they let her off with a "just kidding!" and bind her over to keep the peace or whatever you call that in her jurisdiction, I'd think that a proportionate response.
posted by tel3path at 2:55 PM on August 30, 2016


Yeah, reading some of the press makes me really hope they let her off. Sounds like she got the return message.
posted by tel3path at 2:59 PM on August 30, 2016


the price of being dumb and immature

She, and her friends, planned this. Her friends assaulted her to get a reaction. When the plan failed she soiled herself. That's not being dumb or immature. That's premeditation, and why she's up on charges.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:47 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


That puppet fire sounds about as funny as cancer. 12 years ago in Rhode Island a similar thing happened at the Station nightclub during a live show and 130 people died in the ensuing fire.
posted by theorique at 4:02 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


bugs sold as pet food are pretty much as bad as fire tho
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:06 PM on August 30, 2016


Also, seriously, her prank was some nonsense, yeah - but picture how scared she must be right now and how much financial and employment trouble she is going to face probably for the rest of her life because of this. And then ask yourself whether the price of being dumb and immature on the subway ought to be a lifetime of diminished employment and the ensuing economic insecurity.

She's already facing this from putting the video up online, and she did that herself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:47 PM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am a little bit skeptical about how this woman deserves to be arrested for her foolery.

It's remarkable how you manage, in the same breath, to argue that someone who discomfited you should have faced consequences while someone who discomfited others deserves leniency. The grounds on which you render your decision elude me.

Personally, I'd be happy to see this person escape with no other consequences than a renewed determination to take up painting, but to argue that she doesn't deserve to face more serious consequences on account of being "dumb and immature" (and on account of not receiving the satisfaction you wanted) seems like the essence of special pleading.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:55 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]



It's remarkable how you manage, in the same breath, to argue that someone who discomfited you should have faced consequences while someone who discomfited others deserves leniency. The grounds on which you render your decision elude me.


See, you're assuming that I think that someone should have the cops called on them, and if it's not this woman it should be puppet dude, and that's inconsistent, etc. I think you could make a case that almost starting a massive fire and killing people is more worthy of arrest than just totally fucking up people's commute, but I'm not really interested in that either.

What I'm saying is that people in the aggregate have a lot more patience for bad artistic behavior, some of which is far more dangerous than what this women did, when it's in a high art register and performed by a white artist, and that this is a problem. I'm making an argument not that my puppeteer should have been thrown in the clink but that "art" is so constituted as to exclude many Black working class artists.

For me personally, I'm not much on the punishment for most things and I don't think fear of punishment is actually what makes most people tick most of the time. If a person does a fool thing and no one gets hurt, I'm willing to let them go with a little short-term public condemnation as long as I have plausible reason to believe that they won't do the same thing again.

In terms of my personal puppeteer, well, if I were my age now instead of young and insecure I would probably have yelled at him in the hopes of shaming him in public and I would have complained to the theater company. (Holy fools that they were, I can't imagine it would have done much good.)
posted by Frowner at 5:22 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm making an argument not that my puppeteer should have been thrown in the clink

I would.

If a person does a fool thing and no one gets hurt, I'm willing to let them go with a little short-term public condemnation as long as I have plausible reason to believe that they won't do the same thing again.

There's a huge difference between doing a foolish thing and purposely doing a foolish thing to other people that puts them in possible danger. If she gets 10 years in jail then we can voice outrage.

We have no reason to think she wouldn't do it again, she's done similar things many times before and wasn't punished, was she? And honestly I think the condemnation of white art students would probably be harsher. Maybe not where you live, but that's hardly the group that receives the most sympathy.
posted by bongo_x at 5:49 PM on August 30, 2016


What I'm saying is that people in the aggregate have a lot more patience for bad artistic behavior, some of which is far more dangerous than what this women did, when it's in a high art register and performed by a white artist ...

Citation needed.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:29 PM on August 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but your argument seems to be that this person had a right to frighten people because it was "art" and that the only reason anyone would dispute that is because they fail to recognize the right of people of color to be provocative artists who frighten people on trains.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:38 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


If a person does a fool thing and no one gets hurt
Who decides whether anyone got hurt, though? Is there a particular level of emotional distress that qualifies as hurt? Insect phobias are pretty common, and it is very likely that for some people on that train, being trapped in a confined space with a lot of crickets would cause considerable anxiety. Who are you to say that isn't hurt?

I also think that the whole stunt played into stereotypes about mental illness and reinforced stigma, and that is also a form of hurt.

I don't necessarily think that criminal prosecution is the right response to all obnoxious behavior. But I think that people were hurt by this stunt, and I think that being an asshole on the subway is bad behavior no matter who does it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:41 PM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess my reaction comes down to the fact that hurling a bunch of unidentified insects on unsuspecting commuters in a crowded subway car seems like a great way to get a stampede reaction, and Ms. Pugh may be fortunate that no one got hurt.

Possible arrest should have been part of her calculus. If it wasn't, then I'm sure this is an unpleasant surprise, but she's an adult and posted the footage online herself.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:30 PM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


If a person does a fool thing and no one gets hurt, I'm willing to let them go with a little short-term public condemnation as long as I have plausible reason to believe that they won't do the same thing again.

I work in risk management and this is a very common fallacy, but it is a fallacy. If somebody does something dangerous, that's what matters and that's the behavior that needs to be addressed. It's great if nothing actually goes seriously wrong, but if that's due to luck/other people having their shit together, it doesn't affect the severity or recklessness of the original dangerous act.

In the case of flaming puppet guy, since nobody was killed or injured it wouldn't make sense to invoke criminal charges. But if the facility has policies about doing hazardous things as part of performance, it would be reasonable and advisable of them to give him whatever penalties the policies call for (you're banned; you're banned until you pass a theatre safety exam; you're allowed back but future performances get pre-cleared by theatre management; etc.).

For the record, I am essentially humorless when it comes to life safety issues like uncontrolled fire.
posted by Lexica at 8:40 PM on August 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


If somebody does something dangerous, that's what matters and that's the behavior that needs to be addressed. It's great if nothing actually goes seriously wrong, but if that's due to luck/other people having their shit together, it doesn't affect the severity or recklessness of the original dangerous act.

Drunk driving.
posted by bongo_x at 8:49 PM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Frowner: And then ask yourself whether the price of being dumb and immature on the subway ought to be a lifetime of diminished employment and the ensuing economic insecurity.

If it was just a one time thing I would say no, but she's done this sort of thing over and over again. At some point, there have to be consequences so the person will stop what they are doing. What she is doing is dangerous enough that she will eventually cause meaningful harm.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:53 PM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


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