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Bank-Robbing Performance Artist Faces Real Jail Time

Experimental filmmaker Joseph Gibbons is currently awaiting sentencing for performance art bank robbery.

by Charlie Schmidlin
Jul 6 2015, 8:30pm

Filmmaker Joseph Gibbons at the New York Chinatown branch of Capital One. Photo Credit: NYPD

When your previous experimental work counts “shooting heroin, shoplifting, being counseled by a parole officer, and being analyzed on a psychiatrist's couch”—a bank robbery may seem like just another natural line item.

But according to The Washington Post, experimental filmmaker and former MIT lecturer Joseph Gibbons recently took a very real plea deal from New York Justice Laura Ward: burglary in the third degree with one year in jail, decided upon after Gibbons was arrested for robbing a New York bank, as well as another similar incident in Rhode Island not long before. His weapon? A video camera, filming footage claimed as part of an upcoming art project. The loot was substantial, though: $1,002 from a Chinatown Capital One branch, and allegedly $3,000 from a Rhode Island bank last November.

A still from Gibbons’ 2002 film Confessions of a Sociopath. Screencap from artist’s website

Since Gibbons’ arrest in January, support from the art community has been swift. An Indiegogo campaign dedicated to Gibbons’ “legal, health, and food-clothes-and-shelter needs” recently ended with $8,799 raised. Meanwhile, according to the New York Post, a Queens Museum curator has offered to screen Gibbons’ bank robbery film upon his release (a formal sentencing is due to occur July 13th.)

Filmmaker Vincent Grenier told The Boston Globe that the “boundary between reality and fantasy” is where Gibbons likes to reside, and the briefest of glances at the 62-year-old artist’s work is able to back that claim. In the majority of his more than 30 films, there is Joseph Gibbons, and then a warped, neurotic, self-destructive version of “Joe Gibbons.” 

“[It’s] everywhere now: the Memoir—people telling the stories of their lives,” Gibbons explained in an interview with Big Red and Shiny. “But I couldn’t do that anyway, I just can’t be that sincere. So I really push things to extremes, but I try to maintain some sort of verisimilitude, so it might get taken for the truth.”

A Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship recipient and four-time Whitney Biennial exhibitor, Gibbons has also showcased his work at the MoMA, Centre Pompidou, and Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. Arguably his most well-known film, 2002’s Confessions of a Sociopath, presents those elements of confession, comedy, and first-person discomfort that coarse through his filmography.  

You can view an excerpt from that film below, as well as segments from two of his other works, The Doppleganger Clinic and The Genius Maker—the latter of which being a work-in-progress filmed over five years.

See more of the artist's work here

Related:

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German Cops Slapped a Ticket on an Art Installation

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Performance Art
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bank robbery
Joseph Gibbons