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Intervention

From CT4CT: Creative Tools for Critical Times

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AIR: Preemptive Media Project

AIR: Preemptive Media Project, 2006

Brooke Singer's AIR (2006) is a public, social experiment in which people are invited to use Preemptive Media's portable air monitoring devices to explore their neighborhoods and urban environments for pollution and fossil fuel burning hotspots.

According to the AIR website

Participants or "carriers" are able to see pollutant levels in their current locations, as well as simultaneously view measurements from the other AIR devices in the network. An on-board GPS unit and digital compass, combined with a database of known pollution sources such as power plants and heavy industries, allow carriers to see their distance from polluters as well. The AIR devices regularly transmit data to a central database allowing for real time data visualization on this website.

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AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE

AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE, 2009

Evan Roth's AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE (2009) is a culture jamming project in which consumers are encouraged to download and affix AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE stickers to retail items like software and music CDs. AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE is also the title of Roth's first solo exhibit at Advanced Minority Gallery (February 2009) in Vienna, Austria.

According to Advanced Minority:

The title of the exhibition, AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE, alludes to the friction between the artist’s interest in utilizing the web as a medium for freely sharing content and ideas, and the art world’s interest in unique objects and limited editions. While many of the works created for the gallery are indeed unique, they are also made available for free online in their digital form.

The exhibit coincides with the release of Roth's book entitled AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE. The book was made entirely in Linux using open source software and fonts. It chronicles Roth's artistic work from 2003-2008. The book is available online for free.

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Barbie Liberation

Barbie Liberation, 1993

The Barbie Liberation Organization's (B.L.O.) Barbie Liberation (1993) was an artistic prank in which the voice boxes of 300 talking Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls were switched. The modified dolls were then secretly returned to stores to be purchased by unsuspecting consumers. The B.L.O. was founded by Mike Bonanno of the Yes Men.

According to the B.L.O.:

The surgery was no simple matter — circuit boards had to be trimmed, a capacitor moved, and a switch re-engineered. The press made it sound like an easy pop-and-switch operation, but this took some research and dedication. The BLO returned the altered dolls to the toy store shelves, who then resold them to children who had to invent scenarios for Barbies who yelled “Vengeance is mine!” and G.I. Joes who daydreamed “Let’s plan our dream wedding!” Cleverly placed “call your local TV news” stickers on the back ensured that the media would have genuine recipients to interview as soon as the news broke. One BLO member counted up the many benefits of their program: “The storekeepers make money twice, we stimulate the economy — the consumer gets a better product — and our message gets heard.”

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Bechtel Predator Drones

Bechtel Predator Drones

The Center for Tactical Magic and Trevor Paglen's Bechtel Predator Drones are remote controlled vehicles designed to distribute educational materials pertaining to the Bechtel Corporation's activities as a military contractor. The Center for Tactical Magic claims that Bechtel was responsible for building chemical production facilities in Iraq prior to the second U.S. invasion of Iraq and has been listed among 24 U.S. companies that supplied Iraq with weapons and/or weapon-making capabilities during the 1980's.

According to the Center for Tactical Magic:

"Bechtel Predator Drones" successfully targeted the Bechtel* corporate headquarters in San Francisco where employees and pedestrians alike experienced first-hand the effects of leafletting and unmanned predator drones. The combined forces of Trevor Paglen and the Center for Tactical Magic led to the development and deployment of two remote-controlled drones, each of which distributed three payloads: 1) short pamphlets detailing Bechtel's history of unsavory activities; 2) CD-ROMs designed to assist workers in installing viruses on their workstations; and 3) copies of the CIA Sabotage Manual - a small, government-authored comic book containing a series of useful sabotage techniques, the majority of which can be done in the workplace with simple objects. Over the course of the operation, the drones' pilots met resistance both by Bechtel security forces and by an undercover, camera-toting cop. Despite these minor imperial entanglements, the mission was successful.

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Billionaires for Bush

Billionaires for Bush

Billionaires for Bush is a culture jamming political action group that utilizes street theater to satirically support George W. Bush (and other politicians) for those activities which are perceived to benefit corporations and the wealthy. The group was formed during the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

According to Billionaires for Bush, the group is:

a grassroots network of corporate lobbyists, decadent heiresses, Halliburton CEOs, and other winners under George W. Bush's economic policies. Headquartered in Wall Street and with over 60 chapters nationwide, we'll give whatever it takes to ensure four more years of putting profit over people. After all, we know a good president when we buy one.

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The Bubble Project

The Bubble Project

Ji Lee's The Bubble Project (2006 - ongoing) is a guerrilla art project that encourages community members to transform advertisements and other corporate controlled public spaces using stickers that resemble the speech bubbles used in comic strips. Participants are directed to photo-document their work and to share it via the artist's website.

According to Ji Lee's Bubble Project Manifesto:

Our communal spaces are being overun with ads. Train stations, streets, squares, busses, and subways now scream one message after another at us. Once considered "public," these spaces are increasingly being seized by corporations to propagate their messages. We the public, are both target and victim of this media attack. The Bubble Project instantly transform these annoying corporate monologues into open public dialogues. They encourage anyone to fill them in with any expression, free from censorship. More Bubbles mean more freed spaces, more sharing of personal thoughts, more reactions to current events, and most importantly, more imagination and fun.

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Collateral

Collateral, 2005

Jean-Christian Bourcart’s Collateral (2005) is a series of projections of ghostly images displayed on American houses, supermarkets, churches, etc. Provoked by the gruesome images of dead Iraqis posted online as objects of ridicule by US soldiers, Bourcart appropriated some of these photographs and preserved them as an embalmer would, literally “re-membering” the Iraqi bodies in the process. Serving as memorials to the fallen, Bourcart’s projected apparitions also have haunted American sensibilities and perceptions of the war by disturbing the sterile government and mainstream media representations.

According to Bourcart:

I projected photographs of mutilated and dead Iraqis on American houses, supermarkets, churches, and parking lots. I was thinking of this new generation of kids who will be traumatized for life by growing up during wartime. It was a desperate gesture: My personal protest for the lack of interest for the non-american victims. I found the images on the web. Some American soldiers post their own pictures on a website. They would show a cut leg with the caption: “Where's da rest of my shit?” Or a blown up head with the caption: “Needs a hair cut." I could not help thinking of those images as some kind of restless ghosts that endlessly wander in the intermediate level of the web. I took care of them like a embalmer would; downloading, revamping, printing, rephotographiing, then projecting them as if I was looking for a place where they would rest in peace and at the same time haunt those who pretend not to know what was going on.

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dead-in-iraq

dead-in-iraq

Joseph DeLappe's dead-in-iraq is an online performance, memorial and protest. DeLappe has been frequenting the US Army’s online recruitment game and propaganda tool, America's Army America’s Army, since March of 2006. Using the login name “dead-in-iraq,” he has refused to play the game, opting instead to access the system’s chat interface — a communication device intended for gamers to strategize with one another. By methodically typing out all of the names of U.S. service personnel who have been killed in Iraq, DeLappe has co-opted the Army’s own technology to undermine official representations of soldiers and military service, thus reminding players about the very real consequences of war.

According to DeLappe:

This work commenced in March of 2006, to roughly coincide with the 3rd anniversary of the start of the Iraq conflict. I enter the online US Army recruiting game, "America's Army", in order to manually type the name, age, service branch and date of death of each service person who has died to date in Iraq. The work is essentially a fleeting, online memorial to those military personnel who have been killed in this ongoing conflict. My actions are also intended as a cautionary gesture. I enter the game using as my login name, "dead-in-iraq" and proceed to type the names using the game's text messaging system. As is my usual practice when creating such an intervention, I am a neutral visitor as I do not participate in the proscribed mayhem. Rather, I stand in position and type until I am killed. After death, I hover over my dead avatar's body and continue to type. Upon being re-incarnated in the next round, I continue the cycle.

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Dow Does the Right Thing

Dow Does the Right Thing, 2004

The Yes Men's Dow Does the Right Thing (2004) was a media hoax in which a member of the Yes Men impersonated a spokesperson for Dow Chemical on the BBC World and discussed the company's position on the 1984 Bhopal disaster (on its 20th anniversary). Using the pseudonym Jude (patron saint of the impossible) Finestera (earth's end), he claimed that Dow had agreed to clean up the site and compensate those harmed in the incident. Immediately following this interview, Dow's share price fell 4.2% in 23 minutes, for a loss of $2 billion in market value. It later recovered after Dow issued a statement denouncing the compensation package and clarifying that Finestera's statements were part of a hoax.

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Fun-O-Meter

Fun-O-Meter, 2008

Jake Bronstein's Fun-O-Meter is a toy vending machine filled with ideas of "fun" things to do. For 50 cents customers receive a toy, an idea, and a map leading to the location where they can carry out their new idea. Each capsule also contains a quarter - the machine is not designed to charge less than 50 cents and Bronstein only wanted to charge a quarter.

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Guantanamera

Guantanamera, 2007

Alonso Gil and Francis Gomila’s 2007 Guantanamera literally gives voice to the sounds of torture and hypocrisy resonating from the war of terror. A multimedia sound installation that reflects on the use of music as a torture instrument, Guantamamera challenges the war of terror’s technologies of forgetting by establishing audioconceptual sites of remembrance and reflection.

Located inside one of the air vents of Madrid’s busy subway system, Guantanamera utilized a high-amplification sound system to blast multiple versions of “La guantanamera,” a popular Cuban folk song, out onto the street. Serving as a direct reference to the infamous US military base and detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay, Guantanamera encourages reflection on the American use of pop, rap, and heavy metal music as a mode of sleep deprivation and interrogation of detainees.

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Homeless Polar Bears

Homeless Polar Bears, 2008

Mark Jenkins' Homeless Polar Bears (2008) is an artistic intervention consisting of a series of human-like polar bear sculptures being placed in public spaces. It is a collaboration with Greenpeace. Jenkins added polar bear heads and ragged clothing to human figures to convey a sense of displacement and homelessness. He then placed them in highly populated areas of Washington DC. According to one MSN Report, the bomb squad was called to "take down a "hobo polar bear" that had commuters alarmed outside a train station.

According to Jenkins:

We made a series of human-like homeless polar bears and installed them around DC to get people to think about the issue (of melting arctic ice) with more empathy. it seemed people liked them a lot and took pictures of their kids in front of them, etc. but most were removed pretty quickly by the authorities. the last image is one that was met with ill-fate after being deemed a "suspicious package" so the whole thing ended up have a touch of irony to it when compared to the actual situation.

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The New York Times Special Edition

The New York Times Special Edition, 2008

The New York Times Special Edition (2008) was a spoof edition of the New York Times created by the Yes Men, Steve Lambert, CodePINK, and a number of other artists, writers and activist groups. 1.2 million copies of the paper were printed and distributed for free on the streets of New York City.

According to the New York Times:

The spurious 14-page papers — with a headline “IRAQ WAR ENDS” — surprised commuters, many of whom took the free copies thinking they were legitimate. The paper is dated July 4, 2009, and imagines a liberal utopia of national health care, a rebuilt economy, progressive taxation, a national oil fund to study climate change, and other goals of progressive politics. The hoax was accompanied by a Web site that mimics the look of The Times’s real Web site. A page of the spoof site contained links to dozens of progressive organizations, which were also listed in the print edition.

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Object Orange

Object Orange

Object Orange is an artistic project in Detroit, Michigan in which a group of anonymous artists draw attention to abandoned dilapidated buildings by painting them bright orange. The artists have successfully "shamed" the local authorities into taking responsibility for the structures.

According to GOOD Magazine:

It began with a sign: a bright orange traffic detour sign standing next to one of Detroit's thousands of abandoned houses. Four local artists, a group who call themselves Object Orange, realized they could use the shocking color of the sign to draw attention to the city's pervasive urban decay. With up to 15 volunteers they staged clandestine predawn painting expeditions, covering blighted houses in buckets of "Tiggerific" orange paint. "People become blind," says OO's Mike, who, like other members of the group, prefers anonymity for legal reasons. "We want to make them take note." Out of Detroit's more than 7,000 abandoned buildings, fewer than 2,000 are slated for destruction, leaving a long waiting list of properties that have become drug dens, prostitution hubs, and dangerous neighborhood playgrounds.

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One Free Minute

One Free Minute

Daniel Jolliffe's One Free Minute is a mobile sculpture designed to facilitate anonymous public speech. Callers to One Free Minute's toll-free line can record a message of up to a minute that will be broadcast in public. The mobile sound system has an audio range of more than 150 feet.

According to Jolliffe:

The principal intent behind One Free Minute was to investigate how public discourse has been changed by technology. Cellular phones have brought private space into the public realm, metering human interaction in billed-by-the-minute increments. One Free Minute inverts this aspect of cellular technology, using it instead to break the soundscape of public space with unpredictable acts of improvised, anonymous public speech. Instead of allowing corporate structures to specify how we communicate in public space, One Free Minute allows individual callers to control the public soundscape for a single minute.

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One Nation Under CCTV

One Nation Under CCTV, 2008

Banksy's One Nation Under CCTV (2008) is a guerilla artwork painted on a wall above a Post Office yard in central London, UK. It includes the slogan "One Nation Under CCTV," in stark white capitals printed above the figure of a police officer with a dog filming the scene. It is a direct critique of the increasing amounts of surveillance employed by officials in the United Kingdom. The artwork is made more impressive by its size (several stories high) and the fact that it was created in an area that is under the surveillance of a real CCTV (Closed-circuit Television) camera.

According to the Mail Online:

Banksy pulled off an audacious stunt to produce what is believed to be his biggest work yet in central London. The secretive graffiti artist managed to erect three storeys of scaffolding behind a security fence despite being watched by a CCTV camera. Then, during darkness and hidden behind a sheet of polythene, he painted this comment on 'Big Brother' society.

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paraSITE

paraSITE, 1997

Michael Rakowitz’s paraSITE homeless shelter (1997) is a direct response to the evolving needs of the urban homeless population. Inspired by the nomadic traditions of the Bedouins and the architecture of their tents, Rakowitz designed a series of tent-like plastic shelters to take advantage of the warm air exhaust emitted onto the street by the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems inside urban buildings. Thus like a parasite, the structure adapts to its host by utilizing its energy—the paraSITE shelter is inflated and warmed by HVAC exhaust that otherwise would evaporate into the air.

Beginning when he was a Masters student in Visual Studies at MIT (and a student of Krzysztof Wodiczko), Rakowitz worked with a group of homeless men in Boston to design a shelter that offered warmth and protection for sleeping out on the streets. Rakowitz’s first prototype incorporated opaque plastic in an effort to provide a degree of privacy and anonymity for its inhabitant.

As Bill, one of the homeless collaborators he worked with soon informed him, however, privacy is not a practical concern for people living on the street. Security, on the other hand, is paramount—making the tent transparent would thus allow users to see if someone intended to threaten or steal from them. As for anonymity, Bill assured Rakowitz they were already invisible enough in the world. Accordingly, Rakowitz ensured that subsequent iterations of the paraSITE shelter included translucent materials, windows and skylights.

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(P)LOT

(P)LOT, 2004

Michael Rakowitz’s (P)LOT (2004) is a participatory public intervention that utilized portable tent-like frames and nylon car covers to create shelters that resemble (from the exterior) parked cars adorned with protective covers. Citizens in Vienna, Austria were invited in 2004 to loan these structures from the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK) and to then re-assemble and inhabit them in municipal parking spots around the city. Rakowitz provided five different structures to choose from, ranging from a common Sedan to a luxury sports car or motorcycle. This work artfully questions taken-for-granted sanctioned uses of public urban space. As Rakowitz (2007) explains, rather than using municipal parking spots as storage spaces for vehicles, this project proposes “the rental of these parcels of land for alternative purposes.”

According to Rakowitz:

P(LOT) questions the occupation and dedication of public space and encourages reconsiderations of "legitimate" participation in city life. Contrary to the common procedure of using municipal parking spaces as storage surfaces for vehicles, P (LOT) proposes the rental of these parcels of land for alternative purposes. The acquisition of municipal permits and simple payment of parking meters could enable citizens to, for example, establish temporary encampments or use the leased ground for different kinds of activities.

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PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day Perth, 2008

REBAR's PARK(ing) Day is an annual and open event in which citizens transform urban street parking spots into temporary public parks. The event was created in 2005 and has grown to become a global event with over 150 public parking spots transformed in 2007. It is co-sponsored by the Trust for Public Land. REBAR has created a PARK(ing) Day Assembly Manual and Streetscape Intervention Toolkit that can be freely downloaded and used.

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PARKcycle

PARKcycle, 2007

REBAR's PARKcycle (2007) is a human-powered park on wheels. It was built in collaboration with the kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin.

According to REBAR:

While its physical dimensions synchronize with the automotive “softscape” of lane stripes and metered stalls, the PARKcycle effectively re-programs the urban hardscape by delivering massive quantities of green open space—up to 4,320 square-foot-minutes of park per stop—thus temporarily reframing the right-of-way as green space, not just a car space. Using a plug-and-play approach, the PARKcycle provides open space benefits to neighborhoods that need it, when they need it, as soon as it is parked.

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Photoshop Adbusting

Photoshop Adbusting, 2008

Photoshop Adbusting consists of a series of stickers/images applied to billboard advertisements with the intention of reminding viewers that photographs of models used in advertising are heavily manipulated and retouched using Adobe Photoshop and other image-manipulation software.

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Reclaim the Streets (RTS)

Reclaim the Streets

Reclaim the Streets (RTS) describes both an international protest movement and a street theater tactic used by activist groups and artists to draw attentions to a number of environmental and social issues, including the private ownership and control of public spaces. RTS actions are non-violent and creative, often resulting in temporary and spectacular street parties. RTS was founded by Earth First members in London during 1991.

According to Reclaim the Streets (RTS):

Ultimately it is in the streets that power must be dissolved: for the streets where daily life is endured, suffered and eroded, and where power is confronted and fought, must be turned into the domain where daily life is enjoyed, created and nourished.

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The Tactical Ice Cream Unit

Tactical Ice Cream Unit

The Center for Tactical Magic's Tactical Ice Cream Unit is a mobile surveillance and information station disguised as an ice cream truck. It is used to distribute educational materials about social and environmental issues and can also be used to monitor dangerous activities in the community including police brutality and corporate dumping.

According to the Center for Tactical Magic:

The Tactical Ice Cream Unit (TICU) rolls through the city in an act of intervention that replaces cold stares with frosty treats and nourishing knowledge. Combining a number of successful activist strategies (Food-Not-Bombs, Copwatch, Indymedia, infoshops, etc) into one mega-mobile, the TICU is the Voltron-like alter-ego of the cops' mobile command center. Although the TICU appears to be a mild-mannered vending vehicle, it harbors a host of high-tech surveillance devices including a 12-camera video surveillance system, acoustic amplifiers, GPS, satellite internet, a media transmission studio capable of disseminating live audio/video, and of course, ice cream. With every free ice cream handed out, the sweet-toothed citizenry also receives printed information developed by local progressive groups. Thus, the TICU serves as a mobile nexus for community activities while providing frosty treats and food-for-thought.

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Tag a Dummer

Tag a Dummer, 2008

Tag a Hummer is a culture jamming project created by Ji Lee. He’s encouraging Hummer owners and others to download his specially designed “D” stickers in order to rebrand the tank-sized vehicles. He’s also provided a Tagged Dummers Gallery where taggers can upload and share photos of their work.

According to Ji Lee:

In the time of environmental urgency, catastrophic wars, soaring gas prices and economic gloom, can there be a car more senseless, stupid and offensive than Hummer? When someone drives a Hummer, it’s like saying: “HEY, LOOK AT MY TOOL. AND BTW, I’M RICH AND FUCK YOU AND YOUR ENVIRONMENT!” So, here’s a small way to get back at them: Introducing the all-new Dummer. The next time you see a Hummer, tag the logo and turn it into a Dummer.

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TRASH: anycoloryoulike

TRASH: anycoloryoulike, 2008

Adrian Kondratowicz's TRASH: anycoloryoulike (2008) is an art intervention that uses colorful biodegradable trash bags to draw attention to the urban and ecological impacts of garbage.

According to Kondratowicz:

TRASH: anycoloryoulike is a vivid art intervention for urban beautification and environmental awareness. The project consists of select city blocks in which new artist-created bags transform standard piles of trash into vivid sculptures of color through the participation of local business owners and residents. Each TRASH bag is 100% biodegradable and naturally scented to repel insects and vermin. TRASH was developed by artist Adrian Kondratowicz. The first intervention took place in New York City during the Summer of 2008.

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What Would Jesus Buy?

What Would Jesus Buy?, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy? is a documentary film by Morgan Spurlock starring performance artist Bill Talen in the role of Reverend Billy. The film follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as the tour the country in an effort to save Christman from what Talen describes as the Shopocalypse.

According to Warrior Poets Releasing LLC:

From producer Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) and director Rob VanAlkemade comes a serious docu-comedy about the commercialization of Christmas. Bill Talen (aka Reverend Billy) was a lost idealist who hitchhiked to New York City only to find that Times Square was becoming a mall. Spurred on by the loss of his neighborhood and inspired by the sidewalk preachers around him, Bill bought a collar to match his white caterer's jacket, bleached his hair and became the Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. Since 1999, Reverend Billy has gone from being a lone preacher with a portable pulpit preaching on subways, to the leader of a congregation and a movement whose numbers are well into the thousands.

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The Tactical Ice Cream Unit

Tactical Ice Cream Unit

The Center for Tactical Magic's Tactical Ice Cream Unit is a mobile surveillance and information station disguised as an ice cream truck. It is used to distribute educational materials about social and environmental issues and can also be used to monitor dangerous activities in the community including police brutality and corporate dumping.

According to the Center for Tactical Magic:

The Tactical Ice Cream Unit (TICU) rolls through the city in an act of intervention that replaces cold stares with frosty treats and nourishing knowledge. Combining a number of successful activist strategies (Food-Not-Bombs, Copwatch, Indymedia, infoshops, etc) into one mega-mobile, the TICU is the Voltron-like alter-ego of the cops' mobile command center. Although the TICU appears to be a mild-mannered vending vehicle, it harbors a host of high-tech surveillance devices including a 12-camera video surveillance system, acoustic amplifiers, GPS, satellite internet, a media transmission studio capable of disseminating live audio/video, and of course, ice cream. With every free ice cream handed out, the sweet-toothed citizenry also receives printed information developed by local progressive groups. Thus, the TICU serves as a mobile nexus for community activities while providing frosty treats and food-for-thought.

See also:

The New York Times Special Edition

The New York Times Special Edition, 2008

The New York Times Special Edition (2008) was a spoof edition of the New York Times created by the Yes Men, Steve Lambert, CodePINK, and a number of other artists, writers and activist groups. 1.2 million copies of the paper were printed and distributed for free on the streets of New York City.

According to the New York Times:

The spurious 14-page papers — with a headline “IRAQ WAR ENDS” — surprised commuters, many of whom took the free copies thinking they were legitimate. The paper is dated July 4, 2009, and imagines a liberal utopia of national health care, a rebuilt economy, progressive taxation, a national oil fund to study climate change, and other goals of progressive politics. The hoax was accompanied by a Web site that mimics the look of The Times’s real Web site. A page of the spoof site contained links to dozens of progressive organizations, which were also listed in the print edition.

See also: