Joe Gibbons is an unconventional film maker and artist who has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His work is largely centered around a character named Joe Gibbons, and no this isn’t the same Joe Gibbons that taught at MIT. This Joe Gibbons is a completely different character, a fabricated version of Gibbons you could say. Gibbons says on his website that he “looks, speaks and even behaves like the filmmaker, however you might say that he is an intensified, more performative and fictionalized version of the artist.” (Gibbons)
Gibbons pushes the boundaries between fantasy and real life through the use of this character, a character that is extremely suspicious of his surroundings, and is somewhat isolated in society. He is essentially an extension of Gibbons himself, however he isn’t concerned with his responsibilities in slightest. He goes into detail about the characters attitudes about life on his website, stating that he is “existential, megalomaniacal, paranoid and ultimately doubtful of the direction that life is taking him.” (Gibbons) He is very imaginative as well, often having monologues with himself about his own feelings and plans. More or less, Gibbons uses this character as well as his dialogue, actions, and feelings as his artistic material.
Gibbons use of his own life as a medium for his work is something that isn’t necessarily new, however the way he is doing it is definitely very unique. This last summer, Mr. Gibbons was sentenced to 12 months in prison after committing a third-degree felony. The felony was pretty strange for someone in his position, bank robbery. However it is worth noting that he was filming the robbery so it could be featured in some of his future films. Due to Gibbons style of work, it can sometimes be difficult to determine if Joe Gibbons the filmmaker is living out his life or if Joe Gibbons the character is performing. In the case of this crime though, the court didn’t care which Joe Gibbons it was.
This isn’t the first time that Gibbons has engaged in some dangerous behavior when performing. In his film, “Confessions of a Sociopath,” he engages in some very self-destructive behavior, and has confessed to other serious crimes before. Gibbons seems to use his character to dramatize whatever emotions he may be feeling or ideas he wants to express.
Should Gibbons have been charged with robbery? Should he be charged for any future crimes he may commit? It’s hard to say.
Often times when art and crime overlap, I feel like there is an effort to qualify the artists through his degrees or experience at universities. In the case of Joe Gibbons, try to imagine how the reaction from the art community would differ if he wasn’t a professor at MIT and a seasoned filmmaker. If an individual with no educational background living below the poverty line was convicted for robbery and it was later discovered that this was his first work as a performance artist, would the reaction be the same? If we are discussing whether or not Joe Gibbons should be punished for crimes he commits as a performance, I think it’s important to consider these situations.
On top of this, as performance art seems to become more and more relevant, it’s interesting to consider what is crossing the line and what isn’t in terms of crime. Is petty crime acceptable an acceptable form of performance art? Personally I find myself very conflicted on this issue, and in the case of Gibbons in general. Obviously his work won’t have the same meaning if he can’t go all out, but there are certain things I don’t think that are acceptable, as I’m sure we all do.
You can check out more about Gibbons on his website at joegibbonsfilmmaker.com