Playing Pranks: Traditions, communities & co-creative cultural performance practice

Hadley, Bree J. (2014) Playing Pranks: Traditions, communities & co-creative cultural performance practice. In Avant Garde, Tradition, Community - Performance Studies international (PSi) Conference 2014, 4-8 July 2014, Shanghai Theatre Academy, Shanghai. (Unpublished)

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Pranks, hoaxes and practical jokes are co-creative cultural performance practices that appear across times, contexts and cultures. These practices include everyday play amongst families, friends and coworkers, entertainment programs such as Prank Patrol, Punked or Scare Tactics, and aesthetic and activist pranks perpetrated by situationist artists, guerrilla artists, and, most recently, culture ‘jammers’ or ‘hackers’ intent on turning capitalist systems back on themselves. Although it can, in common usage, describe almost any show off behaviour, a prank in the strictest definition of the term is a performance that deploys a very specific set of strategies. It is an act of trickery, mischief, or deceit, that must be taken as real, and momentarily cause real fear, anger or worry for an unwitting spectator-become-performer, who is meant to play along until the trick is revealed and their response can be represented back to the prankster, other spectators, or society as a whole, either for the sake of entertainment or for the sake of commentary on a cultural phenomenon. A prank, in this sense, deliberately blurs the boundaries between daily and dramatic performance. It creates a moment of uncertainty, in which both the prankster’s ability to be creative, clever, or culturally astute, and the prankee’s ability to play along, discern the trick, discern the point of the trick, and, in the end, be duped, be a good sport, or even play/pay the prankster back, are both put to the test. In this paper, I consider a number of pranking traditions popular where I am in Australia, from the community-building pranks of footballers, bucks parties and ‘drop bear’ tales told to tourists, to the more controversial pranks of radio shock jocks, activists and artists. I use performance, spectatorship and ethical theory to examine the engagement between prankster, pranked spectator, and other spectators, in this most distinctive sort of community-driven performance practice, and the way it builds and breaks status, social and other sorts of relationships within and between specific communities.

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ID Code: 83555
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Identity Performance, Pranks, Spectatorship
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Drama Theatre and Performance Studies (190404)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Past > Schools > School of Media, Entertainment & Creative Arts
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Bree Hadley
Deposited On: 14 Apr 2015 23:25
Last Modified: 14 Apr 2015 23:26

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