"A nude horse is a rude horse” ran the US campaign slogan for The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals in 1959. The group even picketed the White House, demanding that the Kennedys cover their horse's private parts with trousers. For its founder, Alan Abel, the society was one of innumerable high-profile pranks at the expense of the media. A few years later he even convinced the media that his 83 year-old grandmother, Yetta Bronstein, was running for president, with policies that included ‘compulsory national bingo and mink coats for all’.
Abel was a classic trickster, the archetypal peddler of mischief whose cunning, deceit and mischief can be found in every culture across the globe.
Whether it’s Sascha Baron Cohen as Ali G, Bugs Bunny, Pussy Riot, Bart Simpson or even – arguably – Donald Trump, tricksters take the role of rule-breakers, subversives and catalysts for change. From email fraudsters to the antics of Banksy, they can confound and delight in equal measure. They are the gremlins in the works. What drives some people to con, deceive and pull pranks and hoaxes, often at considerable risk?
In this funny and fascinating talk, Dr Bramwell unveils the strange and mercurial world of the trickster, from archetypes of Wile E Coyote to real-life examples such as as Chris Morris, Bonsai Kittens and Boatie McBoatface.
But while tricksters change culture, is culture changing our relationship with the trickster? In our digital age has the trickster risen to become a new driving force in politics, culture and social networking? There are even new religions with trickster gods as their figureheads and using meme magic to spread political chaos. Are we living in a ‘golden age’ of trickery or a time in which unprecedented levels of deceit and cunning leave many of us wishing we could put the rabbit back into the hat?
Speaker: David Bramwell is a British writer, musician, performer and broadcaster. For BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, he has made programmes on diverse subjects, including Ivor Cutler, clapping, time travel, and the murmurations of starlings. He is the founder and host of Brighton's legendary spoken word night, the Catalyst Club.
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