In stealing $1,000 and calling it artwork, Joe Gibbons assaulted reality like a Dadaist poet – or The King of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin
Performance art is a kind of madness. Its greatest exponents in their greatest works often seem on the edge of some psychotic meltdown in which reality itself is exposed as a cosmic lunacy. Think of Chris Burden getting himself shot in the arm, or Vito Acconci masturbating under an art gallery floor. Or go right back to the origins of performance at the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916 when the Dadaist poet Hugo Ball babbled inchoately at the nighthawks of Zurich.
When you think of this history – and let’s not forget the riots deliberately induced by Futurist Evenings before the first world war – it seems reasonable to claim that not only was film-maker Joe Gibbons genuinely staging “performance art” when he robbed a New York City bank, as he claimed, but that it was some kind of masterpiece.