This week saw the birth of a great stuntster. Clayton Pettet, the student who exploded across the internet last October when he announced plans to lose his virginity for an artwork has finally made good on his promise.
Well, sort of. According to the Telegraph the actual event involved no hanky panky, little nudity and nothing more erotic than a bit of fiddling about with a banana. The media had been spoofed. Pettet said he had been playing on assumptions critics had made about the work. In so doing, he led 10,000 people to apply for tickets to the show.
As he dreams up his next ruse, Pettet could take some advice from a great media operator, and an old friend of mine, Joey Skaggs . Joey has had the media jumping through hoops since the 60’s, from persuading reporters to scream out their inner pain live on camera to persuading the music press he was selling rockstar sperm by the bottle. What Pettet is doing has a proud history – and the potential for huge success. I remember working with Damien Hirst and seeing from the off his instinct for a media frenzy.
The way Pettet made his point was a little heavy handed, perhaps – apparently part of the show included a video montage of talk show hosts discussing Pettet’s work – but I applaud his moxy. It’s no small thing to cut through the omnipresent popculture noise and grab the media in today’s multi-channel world. Pettet has proved what I’d half-convinced myself was impossible – the media are still shockable. The old-fashioned moral panics some of my heroes relied on are still achievable. Publicists across the land owe him a debt.