Mark Jenkins: homeless polar bears art prank

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A Washington DC train station was shut down for a couple hours recently as a bomb squad investigated this "hobo polo bear" standing near a trash can. Turns out, the stuffed animal was part of a collaboration between Greenpeace and prankster artist Mark Jenkins. From an email Mark sent me:
 3241 2881288478 039Ec129Be O We made a series of human-like homeless polar bears and installed them around DC to get people to think about the issue (of melting arctic ice) with more empathy. it seemed people liked them a lot and took pictures of their kids in front of them, etc. but most were removed pretty quickly by the authorities. the last image is one that was met with ill-fate after being deemed a "suspicious package." so the whole thing ended up have a touch of irony to it when compared to the actual situation.
"'Hobo polar bear causes panic in US'" (National Nine News) Greenpeace project page (, Mark Jenkins project page (

Previously on BB:
Mark Jenkins: Fake 'living statue' prank
Mark Jenkins: cafeteria pranks
Mark Jenkins: Traffic-Go-Round
Mark Jenkins: Meter Pops
Mark Jenkins casts a human head in packing tape
Mark Jenkins: Tape Babies
Mark Jenkins: Fake People


  1. lightboard= bomb… not likely, but at least you can sort of understand in the “if i was a kid making a home movie with a bomb i might use something like that as a substitute for a bomb” sort of way.

    polar bears= Not bombs. I would submit that hiding a bomb in plain sight would be kind of brilliant, but what would be even more brilliant would be hiding the bomb.

  2. Oh, I get it! GLOBAL WARMING, right?
    This just doesn’t work. DC has plenty of homeless –some psychotic and not above wearing a polar bear head –so this just comes off as either a potentially dangerous homeless guy or as street theater for the tourists.
    If we want to raise awareness about global warming, perhaps we should try something that doesn’t create another downtown bomb scare whilst trying to be clever?

  3. Bahahahaha!!!

    Every day, in every way, the department of Homeland Security makes the yanks look more foolish than the day before…

  4. #4 said: “perhaps we should try something that doesn’t create another downtown bomb scare whilst trying to be clever?”

    that would be valid maybe if “bomb scare” was even remotely a possibility.

    except it was.

    I argued in the case of the girl with the light up shirt at the airport, that the response was bullshit, she had done nothing wrong, but I always look through my carry-on and think “what in here will they tazer me for…. ebook? have they seen one of these yet? maybe…”

    Now that is a logical line of thinking. but pairing up polar bear sculpture with bomb scare is not. Its insane. It would say just as much about my own mental state if i considered leaving behind a spare change of socks because i didn’t want to cause an incident at the airport.

    you might be able to anticipate vague associations, but not the supremely retarded.

  5. @Piper
    Seriously? Enough whining that the tactics aren’t to your taste. In a time of global crisis, something this tame shouldn’t be criticized, but lauded for its creative approach. Even Al Gore is advocating direct action, because clearly traditional avenues have proved inefficient and/or ineffective. So, why not try something new?

    A serious conversation about tactics is warranted. Sarcastic jabs at people’s creativity is just lame.

    Congratulations to Mark, I saw this on Wooster and blogged about it myself. I didn’t know it was him in the suit. I think it’s fantastic.

  6. Oh I get it. Dressing up like a homeless polar bear will stop global warming. Alrighty then. Ummm…keep up the good work, I guess.

  7. #8: i think the actual point of the post here is not to examine the efficacy of polar bear art installations, but the actual response to the pieces.

    You could say that a man wearing a funny hat isn’t doing much to… i dunno, protest deregulation, But if he was swarmed by cops and beaten because of the hat any resulting discussion about his funny hat is amusingly pointless.

  8. And what is going to happen when global warming pushes the polar bears south to find more food? Art installations like this will have softened us to the Polar Bear Menace. One day you will be walking down the street ad you will see a polar bear strolling towards you. You will think, “Oh, it’s just one of those polar bear hobos.” Then WHAM! You are polar bear lunch. Very irresponsible if you ask me.

  9. The image of Polar Bear and Bomb Squad is perfect.

    When society starts to spontaneously generate scenes identical to what could be found in a Hieronymus Bosch painting it is time to either join in or run like hell.

    Let the Dancing Plague begin!

  10. how embarrassing for them. i still chuckle when i think of people in boston running from LED moon people lights

  11. Thanks for the tongue-lashing, guys! I’m not whining, however, I’m offering a critique of MJ’s prank. Claws in, kittens!
    I admit that Jupiter12 said it better than I did in his above comment.
    If you work or live in DC, you will soon find that it doesn’t take much to create a bomb scare. If it’s odd-looking and near a trash can it becomes an instant bomb. Do I think this is silly? Of course –we all do, but it’s reality in this city and many others unfortunately. If you’re going to do art installations that tempt law enforcement panics and create misery for the citizenry, it had better be pretty freakin’ cool and meaningful.

  12. I shake my head and cry. I remember when it was once said that 9/11 won’t change us. Thank you George Bush. Should we go shopping now?

  13. @Piper:

    The one they thought was a bomb was in Columbia Heights, out in front of a Target, Best Buy, and Radio Shack. It’s a gentrifying and busy area, but there are no tourists there. What they do have is lots of bored cops who sit around waiting to get called in to arrest shoplifters. I imagine this livened up their morning.

  14. Don’t think your city is immune from the idiocy that Boston became famous for recently– this kind of thing is going to continue and spread. All I can think is that terrorists are being given a primer in good ways to disguise their bombs: “Oh. . . DON’T make them stand out!” The authorities are playing security theater, making it look like they are doing their job; a real bomb would have been nearly invisible, inside the trash can or inside that shopping cart full of cans, or underneath a trench coat worn by an average looking person, not covered in flashing lights or inside a piece of public art. But the cops can’t use these hidden threats for their public displays of “security”– they would be as oblivious to the threat as anyone else, so the security situation hasn’t actually changed any (and in fact might be made worse by these displays of “security.”)

  15. If you are looking for a mascot for global warming, you might want to rethink the polar bear:

    1) Their populations have QUADRUPLED since the last “mini-iceage” (70’s)

    2) Alaskan Eskimos can hunt them at will (no permits required)

    3) Parts of Canada (NWT), a polar bear hunting permit only costs $10CAD

    unless that’s all normal for an “endangered species”…

  16. The odds would be against this being a bomb, but at the same time, you’d all feel pretty silly if you hugged it and it blew up. Better safe than sorry, I always say. (Of course, terrorists aren’t likely to put a bomb in anything as obvious as this.)

  17. Gutierrez@23: A polar bears, being solid, is not usually subject to diffusion.

    Now, once you’ve converted the polar bear to a gaseous form…

  18. The bomb squad thing was their cover story; they were really looking for a hunting rifle for Sarah Palin to use…

  19. I’m not in law enforcement, maybe someone who IS could set me straight, but real life isn’t a movie or tv series and people don’t set elaborate and intricate traps or bombs in plain sight. Bombs serve a purpose either to cause panic and terror or damage something structurally to bring it down.

    I don’t believe that blowing up anything and everything suspicious looking is good policy for us–especially not when it is a foreign policy. *rimshot* Thanks folks I’ll be here all week, try the chicken!

  20. Gosh, this makes me sorry I don’t live in DC anymore. The polar bears are a damn sight more interesting than the moronic painted elephants and donkeys that were put up — with official approval — all over the city. Public art ought to have a little bite.

    And while I understand the tendency of all DC residents to resent anything that might cause a bomb scare — because those things usually happen at rush hour and cause traffic and subway meltdown while ordinary people are just trying to get home — but the irony of the bomb squad checking out homeless panda bears is just too delicious for words.

  21. Maybe, in a city where homeless people freeze to death, the next prank will encourage people to think about the issue of homelessness with more empathy.

  22. @ #20 posted by theMage

    And have you got even a shred of evidence to back up claim number 1?

    I don’t really see how points 2 and 3 have anything at all to do with Global Warming. Most species don’t become endangered until AFTER they’re over hunted or their environments destroyed.

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