Fixing the world seems like one mighty mean feat. Accelerating global warming, devastating natural disasters and the distribution of wealth that contributes to the scale of poverty in the third world, are concerns which any individual would feel powerless to affect in a seemingly unchanging political climate. However, activist twosome Mike Bonnano and Andy Bichelbaum, known as The Yes Men, are not just any individuals, as they proved when they spoke in St Andrews last week.
The pair practices an unusual tactic to provoke change – they create fake companies or pretend to work for large scale corporations under pseudonyms and wait to be invited to conferences. Donning suits, they grab the attention of a hall of government officials, company executives, or business CPOs, and preach the change they hope to create. Their speeches stimulate media attention, and in doing this the men aim to stir up revolutionary thinking in people and enthusiasm for political agency. The two university lecturers started their radical exploits as an experiment and when they werent arrested, they continued to hunt down bigger and bigger audiences for maximum scandal and thought provoking result.
The first film of their antics, The Yes Men, released five years ago, won recognition at several documentary film festivals. The films success sparked the creation of a sequel, The Yes Men Fix the World, which played in St Andrews recently with a subsequent discussion with visiting Yes Man Mike Bonnano, sponsored by the university’s film studies department. While their first film focuses on impersonating officials from the World Trade Organisation in order to prank them, the second targets many different organisations and gave an overview of all their escapades and the changes produced by them.
The devices used to mocking the companies are comic, disgusting and sometimes ridiculous and often posed for some thunderous laughter from the audience. In one particular instance, Andy addresses the crowd with a proposal for inflatable suits designed to deflect all natural disasters. The giant balloon-like sumo costume is shown in an animation to have the ability to both suck the blood of a deer, digesting it through the the suit, and also survive avalanches and floods by creating a little habitat for the wearer. The bemused, shocked and disgusted expressions of the onlookers are continually hilarious and as a viewer you get the additional pleasure of being in on the joke.
After product demonstration, Mike Bonanno inspires the highly entertained crowd to engage with local and global protest and take an active interest in goings on by proving that small acts can make a big difference. By releasing the films on television and to many internet sites, they hope to spread interest in the work and encourage a bigger national movement as well as to gather funds for further film-making ventures. The St Andrews event was packed – students sat on the floor and the stairs to hear The Yes Men speak and see their work – so they just might be succeeding.
– Flossie Topping