09.04.08 at PNCA
2008 Time-Based Art Festival, PICA
Photo by Patrick Sullivan
All Rights Reserved, PICA
Posted by Dusty Hoesly
Standing before a crowded public in the PNCA central lobby, The Yes Men survey their audience. Andy asks, “What do you want to do?” People sit quietly and a man asks a question. “How do you avoid the drift into success?” he asks. “Failing a lot,” Mike answers. “Failing is the key to some forms of not being successful.”

Perhaps best known from their 2003 film documenting their forays into corporate culture and global institutions, The Yes Men embrace absurdity and direct action as they invade the hearts and biles of the worst organizations to expose their malfeasance. Usually posing as CEOs or government operatives, they take ideas to the extreme only to find their audience wanting more. They showed us videos of their infiltration of a Heritage Foundation luncheon and their makeshift use of an unattended live mic; their proposal for making candles using vivolium (oil harvested from human corpses) at a Canadian oil forum where they pose as Exxon Mobil execs; their ruse as HUD employees announcing the reopening of public project housing in New Orleans; and their “survival ball” invention presented at a catastrophic loss conference and purportedly produced by Halliburton. The stories behind these interventions are as hilarious as the footage itself.
The Yes Men have learned a few keys to success:
1. Choose your target and get research (usually from non-profits active on this issue, and who’ve already done the work for you).
2. Create a website (mimic the target’s website in a satirical way; this also allows you to have an official-looking email address).
3. Buy a pay-as-you-go cell phone and get business cards.
4. Register for a conference or weasel onto the roster (pose as a PR agency who represents the target corporation and offer the target’s CEO, saying that person couldn’t make it at the last minute and offering yourself as a substitute)(and don’t be afraid of being discovered since the conference organizers never check rosters for legitimacy).
5. Perform your intervention/speech.
6. Issue a press release (have this prepared beforehand, written just as you would wish to see the article appear in a newspaper since journalists rarely stray from the “facts” presented in a press release).
7. If you receive cease and desist letters, respond with a press release that you are removing the offending material and include a plug for your satirical website; if you don’t receive a cease and desist letter, you may want to issue a press release anyway, posing as the aggrieved target corporation. The more publicity the better.
In addition to the ideas they outlined, it’s clear that tech skills (creating credible websites), acting chops (performing without laughing), corporate vocabulary (“we’re going to demo some product today”), and humor (for mass appeal and to defuse criminal/civil sanctions) are necessary.
Later, The Yes Men and audience members workshopped a gate-crashing event for the upcoming LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) pipeline being proposed for Oregon. Others met to discuss ideas for the upcoming election. Keep an eye out for the coming army of Yes Men and Women and the new Yes Men movie.
Posted by Dusty Hoesly