Using PornHub as ad space was clever. The first time. When Diesel did it in January. Nicola Formichetti, the high-end denim brand’s artistic director, told i-D Magazine, “The message is simple: before you jerk off, look at this.” This is a line Andy Warhol would’ve been proud of. There’s no crying or making excuses in art, people, or marketing – which, some might argue, is one and the same these days.
And now, here we are four months later with a different kind of product being peddled on PornHub, except this media stint wasn’t praised for its cleverness. We’re talking, of course, about the Portland band Yacht (also known as YACHT, but we’re grown-ups here – so it’s just getting one capital letter like all the other proper nouns) and their fake sex tape leak to promote their aptly named song, “I Wanna Fuck You Til I’m Dead.” Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, the Yacht duo who also happen to be in a relationship, committed to duping the public, through Facebook posts, stating that their sex tape had been leaked “due to a series of technological missteps and one morally abject person.”
Then they wrote this: Just because we are public figures does not mean we asked for this. Like anyone, we still deserve to have a choice about what we share with the world. Today we no longer have that choice. But our hope is that you fundamentally understand that choice and you choose not to view a private act that was inadvertently made public. We hope you understand that this is not a delicious scandal. This is an exploitation.
The old, tell-them-not-to-look-so-that-they’ll-look routine. Moms have been getting kids to do chores and eat carrots this way for centuries, so what if Yacht does it with a fake sex tape that they ended up leaking themselves? Regardless of the fact that the whole thing feels like an episode of Scooby Doo for millennials, many people were annoyed that they used revenge porn to get attention. Revenge porn is a serious matter, we all can agree – but then, the best subjects for art are serious matters, right?
At first, Yacht defended their art (I mean marketing, I mean art…), by stating it was a way to “…play with science fiction, the attention economy, clickbait journalism, and celebrity sex tapes all at once.”
When that was met with everything from side-eye to flat out feature-length stories about how much they suck, the band back-peddled and issued a sorry-not-sorry apology, followed by a more sincere, PR-approved one.
The internet enjoyed much schadenfreude over the duo’s massive media failure – a true case of animals eating their own, as hip media outlets (places who would do a review on a Yacht album, let’s say) got pretty emotional in their tear down of the band.
Jezebel wrote: “But most folks probably didn’t try to download it at all, because Yacht said the video was leaked without their consent. Most people are not craven and/or horny enough to watch a video whose participants are begging you not to view it. Most people don’t suck. Most people aren’t Yacht.” And that was one of the kinder paragraphs in their scathing commentary on the fake sex tape (which, SPOILER ALERT, does not include sex at all – but aliens quietly humping to synth pop).
So here’s the big question: if Yacht was sincere in its art, then should they have apologized? Haven’t artists been pushing boundaries since the invention of art? Isn’t that the point? From Piss Christ by Andres Serrano to Marcus Harvey’s 1995 portrait of Myra Hindley people have been hating on art since…at least the 80s (I should’ve found older examples, but you get the point).
This leads to another question, how much can you trust an artist when they don’t trust themselves? And how does that affect their product?
The media consensus is that the only thing getting screwed in that sex tape is Yacht, the brand. But what if they would’ve been punk rock about it? What if they would’ve just given the finger to the media, stuck by their guns and NOT kowtowed to hipster bloggers because they were offended by something that is pretty inoffensive (we’re talking a fake sex tape with aliens)? My hunch is that they would’ve gotten a lot more respect.
The bottom line is this: by apologizing for their art they A) Never really believed in it in the first place or B) Are willing to do or say anything to be liked. And there’s nothing worse than insincerity in art. Or marketing, even if it is just something to look at before you jerk off.