The Philosophy of Mediadropping podcasted, and the history of "planking"

‘The Philosophy of Mediadropping’ show mentioned in the previous posting is now available online as a podcast here.

Mediadropping is the random public dropping of home-made media which is peculiar in some way, with the intention of eliciting a reaction from whoever finds and plays the media.

I have often wondered if an old mediadropping was responsible for the phenomenon of “planking”: where photos are taken of people lying down in unusual places and circumstances.  In March 2005 I had compiled a CD-R mediadropping extravaganza, bearing various mp3s, images and random text files of quantum physics and variations on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.  Its intention was to flummox.  One directory, titled “The Fallen” contained a dozen photos of persons lying unexplainably prone.

One of these images, for example, taken around February 2005, featured Resonance FM’s Richard Thomas on the floor of 9 Denmark Street (the old station offices) clutching a drumstick, seemingly staking his claim as a pioneer of this art.  A rare and remarkable thing, this was seen as a radical nugget to be experimentalised as mediadropping fodder.  It should be noted this was before the UK “planking” craze of 2009 – after which time it was picked up by the tabloids and divested of its mystique, and, as such, would from there onwards be seen as being perhaps a bit infra dig (as least, to those already acquainted with the practice before it ‘sold out’).  Today’s “planking” bandwagon-chasers mostly appear to be people mucking about, often dangerously.  But these pre-craze 2005 mediadropping photos exude a profound honesty, a “professional strangeness” – an artistic integrity, if I may be so pretentious – which modern day attempts entirely fail to capture.

I can provide evidence of perhaps the earliest instance of “planking” (or, “the lying down game” as it’s also known).  I am certain that “planking” can be linked to a general mediadropping tradition… In 1995 I made several photographs showing the “lying down” phenomena – some school friends I persuaded to down their clipboards during a school trip.  Duplicates of these were made to accompany mediadropped cassettes from 1995-96.  This was before Radiohead’s video for ‘Just’ (showcasing epic “profound lying down”), and also predates the alleged invention of the “game” in 1997.  Of course, it completely precedes Robert J. Sawyer’s 1999 novel ‘Flashforward’ (curiously, also encompassing quantum physics in relation to “profound lying down”), the US TV adaption of the same name, and ‘This Morning’ hosts Phillip Schofield and Jenni Falconer popularising the “lying down” and trashing it up still further earlier this July.

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