In Print

Yes Men Fans of the World Unite!


An excerpt from Keep It Slick, a catalog featuring the work of culture jammers The Yes Men

In October 2009 PNCA, in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University, hosted the first major exhibition of the controversial artist-activist group The Yes Men. Since then a catalog has been produced and a feature length film The Yes Men Fix the World has been released. Featured here is an excerpt from Keep It Slick, the just out catalog focused on the work of these perennial culture jammers.


The Yes Men state on their website, in a worksheet for teachers: “When trying to understand how a machine works, it helps to expose its guts. The same can be said of powerful people or corporations who work hard to make themselves richer—regardless of consequence for everybody else.” [1] So, how do The Yes Men work? As activists operating in the tradition of situationists, culture-jammers, and hacktivists, The Yes Men create fake websites to lure journalists and unsuspecting conference organisers. They assert that an image—brand, logo, and dress—is a ticket to legitimacy. PowerPoint is a voice and the corporate conference is the theatre of business. Like any other performative structure, conferences have their own sets of rules and modes of acceptable behaviour; they operate as temporary autonomous social spaces. [2] When shocking things occur, these theatres are not equipped to cope: the corporate model of exchange is a conservative structure that expects discipline and is not prepared for dissent, let alone parody. As the camera pans across the audience in The Yes Men’s films, we witness confusion, interest, occasionally even outrage, but most of the time the audience expresses blank, benign indifference. Either they have zoned out or they don’t care. On one or two occasions, direct intervention from in-house security is called for, but despite the serious transgressions committed everything remains as polite as possible for as long as possible.

In The Yes Men Fix the World there is a moment in an ExxonMobil presentation when the camera cuts to a woman holding a candle supposedly crafted from the remains of a terminally ill company janitor. Looking at the candle and then back to the camera, she says of the presenter, “oh, so he’s not with Exxon, not with National Petroleum, nothing? Wow.” Her level of engagement is shockingly low. Tom Vanderbilt, writing in Artforum, asks of the audience’s apparent apathy, “Did no one among those audiences who sat politely through The Yes Men’s WTO presentations, even taking notes, get the joke?” [3]


1, accessed August 2009

2 Hakim Bey is credited with coining the term “temporary autonomous zone” which I have manipulated here to refer to the social realm that is created in a corporate conference environment when the delegates arrive, sign in, and receive their name badges—they become temporary members of a “group.” Bey was, of course, referring to the taking over of spaces in ways that were politically radical (such as through squatting). Hakim Bey, The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (New York: Autonomedia Anti-copyright, 1985).

3 Tom Vanderbilt, “Affirmative Action,” Artforum, February 2005. The Yes Men have enacted the most fatal blow to the W.T.O. (World Trade Organization) by publicly closing down the W.T.O. at a conference in Australia. More information about this project may be found in their book, The Yes Men: The True Story of the End of the World Trade Organization (New York: The Disinformation Company, 2004), and on their website.

From “Yes Men Fans of the World Unite! Or How to Deal with Anti-social Situations and Indifferent Communities” by Laura Sillars

The Yes Men Activity Book / Keep It Slick Exhibition Catalog features projects, essays, an interview, full-color illustrations, and activity items including Build Your Own SurvivaBall, Make Your Own Press Passes, How Identity Correction Works, and How To Be A Yes Man. The book is released in connection with the documentary The Yes Men Fix the World and the tour of their survey exhibition, Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men. Curated by Astria Suparak and organized by Pacific Northwest College of Art in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University.

by Laura Sillars
Photos from Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men

— Posted on 02/24 at 01:38 PM

Share this story: