You are a bank teller at Capital One’s branch in Chinatown. A man walks up to you and gives you a note saying, “This is A ROBBERY—LARGE Bills—NO DYE PACKS/No GPS.” He also takes out a pink and silver video camera and points it at you. You give him money from the bank, about $1000. He runs away, while still filming his escape. Eight days later the robber is caught and you find out his name is Joe Gibbons.
Joe Gibbons was a visual arts teacher at MIT, though he was also well known as an artist. He has been recognized and exhibited at many well-established museums such as, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His work has been chosen multiple times for the Whitney Biennial and is regularly shown at film festivals. Essentially, the reason why Joe Gibbons’ case is interesting to examine is not to question his artistic pedigree, but instead to further explore what defines art.
Can a bank robbery be art? It is a hard question to answer. One could say that the determining factor on if this is art is to find the intentions of the person committing the artwork, however that is virtually impossible. If we could determine the intentions of the person behind the robbery, I think there would be a very clear line. If the person was robbing the bank with the main motivation of making money, then it should be a crime, however, if the person was genuinely trying to create something that they thought was beautiful or a work of art, then it should not be a crime. This also brings up the question of what happens to the money, if it is not a crime. I do not believe that people should get a free ticket to take money, just because they think that they are making is a piece of art. However, artist often will get loans to complete their art works, so maybe this could work like a loan, only the bank doesn’t know that they will be giving it beforehand. I know that there are a lot of complicated details that go into a loan. Also, in the beginning of the post, I wanted to put you into the shoes of the bank teller so that you recognize that this is not a one-man show. This stunt can put others in danger. I’m not saying that this is the perfect solution to this situation or that there even is one; I’m just trying to layout some ideas. Of course the other side of the coin says that we can just forbid this kind of art and make all forms of it illegal. I’m not sure why, but to me, it seems kind of wrong to try and cap someone’s artistic possibilities. Maybe trying to find the solution to such a difficult and niche problem is more trouble then it is worth. Also, remember that this is all speculative since we cannot truly, with one hundred percent certainty, reveal one’s true intentions, but it is stimulating to think about. What do you think about it?