Joe Gibbons, the Bank-Robbing Filmmaker

by Ezra Buckley on May 23, 2017

For this former MIT instructor, art imitated life—a life of crime. Is Joe Gibbons an artist who robs banks—or a thief who makes art?

Before he became a bank robber, Joe Gibbons had made a name for himself as an artist. At 62, the avant-garde filmmaker is a 30-year veteran of Boston’s underground film scene: He spent nearly a decade teaching video and visual arts at MIT, his short films have appeared in the art world’s prestigious Whitney Biennial, and he has won a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. After his arrest, cinema programs in six cities, including New York, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, held screenings of his films, with ticket sales meant to help him get back on his feet once he was released from jail. READ FULL STORY HERE

In 2001 Joe Gibbons made Confessions of a Sociopath: “Joe Gibbons lays bare his alter ego’s ruminations and treads a thin line between an improvisational performance and psychic disintegration.”

Review: The experimental film world was blown away (“shocked” is not the right word, really) by the news just this month that acclaimed and singular filmmaker Joe Gibbons had been arrested for robbing a pair of northeastern banks.  Not only that, but the only weapon he had employed in doing so was one with which he had extensive familiarity: a video camera, almost certainly documenting the robberies for inclusion in an in-progress work.  The New York Post, in their condescending coverage of Gibbons’ apprehension (“Bank Robber Appears to be Screwball Former Professor”), referred to his “art” and his identity as a “visual artist” exactly like that – in quote marks.  Well, to hell with the New York Post and to hell with the banks, Joe Gibbons is not only an artist, but a truly great artist, one who has for decades blended autobiography and fantasy into a richly confessional, bitingly hilarious, unparalleled first-person media/dream-fulfillment.  The “Joe” in Gibbons’ films is not simply Joe Gibbons, and the already blurry distinction between his movie identity and real-guy Joe is smeared out of proportion and recognition the more of his work you see.  He pushes deep, carefully hidden buttons of shame, hilarity, discomfort, and incredulity within us as his viewers/friends/victims/confidants, unpacking his neuroses and pretensions like a weird-smelling, slightly overstuffed carry-on bag being disallowed on the plane. Ultimately Joe Gibbons is the underworld king of the filmic first-person; there are scant few pretenders to his throne – no one even wants to try or would know where to begin. (Mark Toscano) – LA Film Forum

Excerpt from Confessions of a Sociopath


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