Artist, Filmmaker, and Former MIT Professor Gets a Year in Prison for Bank Robbery He Called Performance Art

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Performance art that (arguably) crosses the line is common enough and venturing into illegal territory is nothing new. However artist, filmmaker, and former MIT professor Joe Gibbons leapt right over that line and it has landed him firmly in jail.

In his 2005 avant-garde movie “Confessions of a Sociopath,” the filmmaker and performance artist Joe Gibbons stares into the camera and announces with a growl: “I’m Joe Gibbons. I don’t need a job. I just take what I need.” He then adds, in a more buoyant tone, “I’m just kidding about that.” [NYTimes]

True or not, Gibbons has been sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree felony robbery after a New Year’s Eve hold-up of a Capital One Bank. After handing the teller a note that said “THIS IS A ROBBERY. LARGE BILLS. NO DYE PACKS / NO GPS” he got away with $1,002 while filming his actions on camera. The bank teller did, however, place an exploding dye pack in with the money which burst during his getaway. Gibbons was arrested eight days later in a hotel close-by.

He claimed it was an act of performance art coupled with dire financial straits.

Not unknown to the art scene, Gibbons has shown his film installations and other work four times in the Whitney Biennial and is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Take note: If you intend to do something illegal in the name of art, don’t think it will get you out of jail time.