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Fabulous fakes

Author confronts his Facebook impersonator and reviews her exhibit
By GREG COOK  |  April 13, 2009

VIDEO: "Fake Greg Cook" attempts to hack the ICA

The Miracle 5 present “Holy GJYdhad! New Work by Yassy Goldie” | Space 242, 242 East Berkeley St, Boston | Through April 17 | open 6:30–8 pm Fridays and by appointment

Slideshow: The Miracle 5 present “Holy GJYdhad! New Work by Yassy Goldie”

The e-mail from "Craig Cook" arrived on March 2. It directed me to a Facebook page pretending to be Greg Cook's, and a YouTube video. I was busy, so I watched only the beginning of the latter.

Someone had pasted some whacked-out photos of me onto an '80s Max Headroom video. A robot voice said it was responding to an essay I'd posted on my blog, the New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, and on the on-line arts journal Big Red & Shiny calling for local artists to have more do-it-yourself moxie. I'd suggested organizing shows in apartments, garages, on-line, in rented trucks parked on Harrison Avenue. "Someone should hack the ICA's Mediatheque computers — since the ICA isn't using them — and fill them with crazy digital art," I wrote.

The video focused on the part about the ICA. "I tried to hack the ICA Mediatheque lab computers but failed," the robot voice said before I shut it off and returned to more pressing matters.

I didn't think much about it until a friend living abroad e-mailed asking what was up with the video. Then a co-worker complimented me on it. A local gallerist said she'd been contacted to be my Facebook friend; she'd replied yes, the video had arrived, and now it refused to be deleted from her computer.

"Craig" started to seem creepy. As a critic, I'm fair game for satire and complaints. What bothered me was the identity-theft bit. And how Fake Greg Cook was messing with my personal and professional relationships. It didn't feel funny; it felt something like stalking. And I thought I knew who "Craig" was.

Strange things can happen when you're a (sorta) public figure — and the Web encourages weirdness. Once someone altered my Wikipedia entry to read: "Greg Cook wrote many comics but all were rejected by the human society. He was later killed in 2001 because his works were so bad."

A fundamental aspect of life on-line is the second self. We are constantly being asked to forge anew our Web identity — what is your username and password? Aliases, avatars, and alternative personas have proliferated. And now, suddenly, it seems impostors are all the rage. There was the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, a blog lampooning Apple's chief executive that had been (secretly) written by then Fortune magazine senior editor Daniel Lyons. Recently an impostor began Tweeting as Globe editor Marty Baron. Last month, former Seattle Post-Intelligencer art critic Regina Hackett blogged that she'd been duped by the Tweets of a fake Blake Gopnik, art critic for the Washington Post. Unfortunately, that was after she wrote that "all his worst faults are on view" in "his" Tweets.

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Related: Phoenix critic wins grant, Bread and Puppet Theater returns, Enter the matrix, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Internet, Science and Technology, Craig Cook,  More more >
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