I first heard about police shutting down parts of Interstate 93 because of a bomb scare last Wednesday morning, but it wasn’t until I watched Fox 25 News’s breathless report that night (is there a better place to learn about fake news?) that I witnessed the circus that resulted from what turned out be Turner Broadcasting’s advertising stunt. Or perhaps it should be called the invasion of the low-res cartoon moon men.
The bomb-squad guys in spacesuits blowing stuff up was pretty cool, and hilarious. Shutting down the whole city’s transportation system seemed a little over the top though. It was simultaneously one of the best and one of the worst art events of the young year.
Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Monday that Turner Broadcasting and New York guerilla marketing firm Interference Inc. will pay $2 million to settle potential civil and criminal claims against the companies for paying a couple local schlubs 300 bucks each to plaster Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville with 38 battery-powered Lite-Brite-style signs depicting Cartoon Network’s Mooninite characters flipping us the bird. As of press time, Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky, who are in their late 20s, still face charges of disorderly conduct and placing a hoax device in a way that causes panic.
The signs and Stevens’s and Berdovsky’s post-arrest performance-art-press-conference (“I want to redirect this to hairstyles in the ’70s because I want to educate myself about this a little bit more”) were stupid. I get the joke, and appreciate the attempt — but that doesn’t mean it was funny. The whole plan was kind of stupid, or cruelly exploitive. What are they going to do next: sneak ticking, blinking “art” onto airplanes in their shoes to bring attention to some Turner cartoon show? Still, I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for these two knuckleheads, the low men on the totem pole who became the public faces of the corporate prank. I hope and expect the attorney general will plead them out soon, with no jail time for anyone.
What made this incident rise to the level of art was Boston officialdom’s unwitting collaboration and the questions it raised about local art and fear. Initially the city’s reaction struck me as one more example of Boston’s stodgy dull seriousness and inability to get a joke, no matter how much the city tries to play that it’s hipper than in the old puritanical “Banned in Boston” days. Police shut down parts of Interstate 93 after an MBTA worker found one of the Mooninite signs stuck to the understructure of the highway in Charlestown sometime around 8 am Wednesday. Fearing it was a bomb, state police destroyed it with a water cannon. Additional finds prompted officials to shut down Storrow Drive, the Red Line, the Orange Line and part of the Charles River.
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