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Prankster `remixes' Hilton's CD

September 07, 2006|Chris Lee | Times Staff Writer

AS if it weren't disappointing enough that Paris Hilton's album "Paris" sold a lackluster 75,000 copies in its first week of release, a British guerrilla artist named Banksy has taken it upon himself to add insult to her injurious pop foray.

Earlier this week, he staged an elaborate practical joke-cum-art piece lampooning the socialite-heiress' debut musical offering -- as well as the disposable nature of pop idolatry itself.

The mysterious graffiti commando and social satirist (who does not reveal his name or show his face in photographs) tampered with 500 copies of Hilton's album, altering its sleeve photos and text and replacing her CD with a "remix." Then he surreptitiously put them into circulation, slipping the discs onto shelves at 48 record stores across Britain where shoppers might purchase them, unaware they were part of the joke.

In a photograph in the altered package, Hilton's head appears atop the body of a mannequin above the words "Thou shalt not worship false idols." The message "Life wasn't meant to be fair" appears next to another photo of Hilton. And a sticker affixed to the front of the album touts several fictional songs: "Why Am I Famous?," "What Have I Done?" and "What Am I For?" Calls seeking comment from Hilton and her record company, Warner Bros., were not returned.

The artist also enlisted the help of Danger Mouse, the Grammy-nominated producer behind the groundbreaking hip-hop/psychedelia/R&B duo Gnarls Barkley, for a 40-minute "remix" of "Paris." A news release from Danger Mouse's management company quotes the artist-producer explaining the collaboration by saying, "Its [sic] hard to improve on perfection, but we had to try."

A three-minute snippet of the remix can be heard playing behind the action in "The Punking of Paris Hilton," a short film on Youtube.com and at Banksy's website, www.banksy.co.uk (the artist is shown doing the lettering and text on each CD by hand, then sneaking them into crowded record stores). It's a driving drum-and-bass track featuring sampled utterances of classic Hilton-isms: "Now we'll go shopping" and "Do you wanna be blond?" she is heard saying. And her catchphrase, "That's hot!" is repeated ad nauseam.

Banksy became infamous in the late 1990s for his use of stenciled graffiti critiquing pollution, police brutality and pro-war political policies, among other issues. He has several warrants out for his arrest in Britain and has built a cultish following, in part, for being a wanted man. Throughout this decade he has sneaked into institutions including the Louvre, London's Tate gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to affix his satirical artwork alongside that of old masters.

chris.lee@latimes.com

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