Igor Vamos is an internationally known multimedia artist, leading member of The Yes Men (using the alias Michael “Mike” Bonanno), and an associate professor of media arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is also a co-founder of RTmark and the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship, granted for a project that used Global Positioning System (GPS) and other wireless technology to create a new medium with which to “view” his documentary Grounded, about an abandoned military base in Wendover, Utah.
Vamos earned an undergraduate degree in Studio Art from Reed College and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego. While at Reed, Vamos organized a student group called Guerrilla Theater of the Absurd. They performed and documented “culture jamming” acts of protest, including Reverse Peristalsis Painters, where 24 people in suits stood outside the downtown venue of Dan Quayle’s fundraiser for Oregon senator Bob Packwood and drank ipecac, forcing themselves to vomit the red, white and blue remains of the mashed potatoes and food coloring they had consumed earlier; and a middle of the night contribution to the debate over renaming Portland’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, wherein the city awoke to find that all of the street signs and freeway exits for another major boulevard had been changed to read “Malcolm X Street.”
Another successful early project was the “Barbie Liberation Organization,” where Vamos and his cohorts purchased three hundred Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls, exchanged their electronic voice boxes, and then returned them to the stores; the soldiers ended up saying things like “Let’s go shopping!”, while the Barbies exclaimed “Vengeance is mine!”. It was a small-scale project and few people actually found themselves in possession of the switched dolls, but the stunt nevertheless attracted national media attention