Week in Stunts

by Sara Van Horn, Matthew Mellea & Liby Hays

published October 19, 2018


In a dramatic reveal last Wednesday, Rhode Island’s very own Joe Trillo acknowledged that yes, okay, he may have been charged with simple assault for whacking the House Speaker with a caulking gun, but he’s the kind of guy that’s going to get involved. “I have a very strong personality,” said Trillo, “and that’s what you need to clean up the state.”

Trillo, an Independent running for governor this November, described the incident with Nicholas Mattiello as “no big deal.” The altercation, which took place in Cranston in the 1970s, occurred when Trillo overheard a disturbance and abandoned his yard work, caulking tool in hand, to find Mattiello among a group of kids trying to force his way into a neighboring house. In attempting to shoo the kids away, the former Republican state representative “inadvertently, accidently” struck the 12-year-old Mattiello: “I was waving my arms, flailing about, that’s how I talk,” said Trillo. “I tapped him.”

With the media giggling and Trillo’s childlike denial, this newest scandal is strongly reminiscent of another inadvertent accident concerning the governor hopeful. This past July, Trillo’s 65-foot yacht crashed into rocks near a beach in Charlestown. Although Trillo assured the press that the crash was “a result of inaccurate NOAA charts,” witnesses maintain that the yacht motored into rocks clearly visible in the shallows. Beach-goer Cheryl Burgess disputed Trillo’s version of events, saying, “Oh, no no no no. Oh no. Nope.” Despite so many corroborating witnesses, the Independent encourages its readers to rest assured in Trillo’s boating ability if not in his political promises. “It’s the first time after thousands of miles of navigation,” the candidate assured the press, “that I ever called the Coast Guard.”

Trillo, known for his poster-plastered tractor trailer, is running his gubernatorial campaign on promises of deregulation and increased school discipline. Described by WPRO radio as a “rough-and-tumble guy,” Trillo has directed much of his political energy into verbal altercations with Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung. Convinced Fung is behind this recent media attention, Trillo has called the publication of this story “one of [Fung’s] little dirty tricks.” Upon hearing a disturbance next door, Trillo speculated, Fung “would’ve ran and hid under a rock.”

Although it is hard to sympathize with Fung (who supports increased police presence in Rhode Island’s elementary schools), the seriousness of Trillo’s threats should not be easily laughed off. His similar promise to “put discipline back in the classroom” is a strong reminder that the violence in his rhetoric is clearly paralleled in his politics. Committed to “shedding the image of a sanctuary state” and “untying the hands of the police,” a successful gubernatorial bid for Trillo would bring more violence to Rhode Island than broken boats and free-wheeling caulking guns.






“Going, going, gone...” posted Banksy as his iconic painting, Girl with Balloon, shred itself into strips immediately after selling for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s London auction house on October 5. The painting, suspended half-whole and half-ripped in the jaws of the shredder secretly embedded in its frame, inspired collective astonishment at Banksy’s latest hyper-public stunt. But the famous street-artist’s caption was more than a punny nod to auction lingo and the artwork’s self-elimination—the supposed “self-destruction” of Girl with Balloon ends a previously-held assumption that art is oblivious to its own monetary value.

I was not the only one to recognize that shredding Girl with Balloon directly revised its sale price. As one Facebook friend wrote, “Now the shredded artwork and frame are going to be worth $10M. #brilliant.” A New York Times report concurred: “Thanks to the publicity of this stunt, the painting could now be even more desirable as a piece of auction history.” While perhaps intended as a radical critique of the corporatization of art, Banksy’s work did just the opposite—it snuggled right into Sotheby’s hallowed halls, begging to be “desirable as a piece of auction history.” Banksy’s painting is only innovative as a splashy performance to its audience of buyers (and onlookers). Rather than subverting the absurdity of trying to place value on creative work, the print plays up its own worth—amplifying its auction valuation among the art-buying-elite and its cultural intrigue to everyone else. Prepare for the furious reproduction of Girl with Balloon as a laptop decal and $8.99 print on to be only intensified in its shredded configuration. Newly retitled as Love is in the Bin, the print will self-destruct on walls and Macbooks, as doodles and dorm-room tapestries. It has already been parodied by Ikea, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and more—co-opted into DIY wall art, french fry, and soda can ads. Thanks to Banksy, I can create my own riff off Love is in the Bin with only a pair of KVALIFICERA scissors and a VIRSERUM gold-plated frame.

Love is in the Bin is an awfully dismal retitling for something that’s been playfully rebranded into a digital stunt by multinational marketing firms. The new name suggests that the print aspires to capture a cultural current of hate and fear—where even love has been cut into pieces, thrown into the corporate waste bucket. But the painting itself is alive, mischievously undermining its bounded frame and static position on Sotheby’s wall. In conflict with its serious name, the print’s rebellion is quite hopeful—excited at the prospect of pissing off everyone at Sotheby's. But Love is in the Bin is not a condemnation of the art establishment, although it certainly took everyone by surprise. The auction house quickly refashioned Banksy's (re)-creation into the mainstream art tradition—as innovative art, but not subversive of art. In the words of Sotheby's senior director Alex Branczik, “The shredding is now part of the integral artwork.” The buyer, who decided to keep the painting, said, “I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.” From cubism to cut-into-ribbonism, Love is in the Bin doesn’t take art in much of a direction—it’s self-righteous about its radicalness and self-conscious of its corporate worth.


- MM