During World War II, a hand-picked group of American GI’s undertook a bizarre mission: create a traveling road show of deception on the battlefields of Europe, with the German Army as their audience. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops used inflatable rubber tanks, sound trucks, and dazzling performance art to bluff the enemy again and again, often right along the front lines. Many of the men picked to carry out these dangerous deception missions were artists. Some went on to become famous, including fashion designer Bill Blass. In their spare time, they painted and sketched their way across Europe, creating a unique and moving visual record of their war. Their secret mission was kept hushed up for nearly 50 years after the war’s end.
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Internationally known graffiti artist, Banksy, left his mark on San Francisco in April 2010. Little did he know that this act of vandalism would spark a chain of events that includes one of his rats being removed from a wall, Museums ignorantly turning down a free Banksy street work, and a NY gallerist who has made it his business model to remove Banksy street works from all over the globe doing whatever it takes to get the rat in his possession.
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In 1985, former oil rig worker Richard Linklater began a film screening society in Austin, Texas, that aimed to show classic art-house and experimental films to a budding community of cinephiles. Eventually incorporating as a nonprofit, the newly branded Austin Film Society raised enough money to fly in their first out-of-town filmmaker: James Benning. Accepting the invitation, Benning met Linklater and the two began to develop a personal and intellectual bond, leading to many future encounters. Starting in the 1960s, Benning had been creating low budget films mostly on his own, while Linklater had just begun to craft his first shorts. The filmmakers have remained close even as their careers have diverged. After the cult success of Slacker, Linklater went on to make films with Hollywood support. Benning, meanwhile, has stayed close to his roots and is mainly an unknown figure in mainstream film culture.