Nothing is real. Every day the Internet is saturated anew with hoaxes, pranks, and other crimes against humanity perpetrated by Jimmy Kimmel, or an imitation of same. While most fakery on the public stage feels like invasive performance art, though, some bits of unreality exist just to give whoever happens to notice them a surprised laugh and a killer anecdote.
The fake flyers, signs, and products placed out in the world as part of the Obvious Plant project are not intended to fool anyone. Their inherent falseness is baked right into the title. What they are meant to do is quietly blend into the background and sneak little doses of levity into familiar components of people’s lives. If they happen to get some viral attention in the process, though, that’s just typical of creator Jeff Wysaski’s work. He’s been making highly sharable humor with comics and videos on his site Pleated Jeans for years. Obvious Plant is just the latest outgrowth of a larger mission to amuse the masses.
“I was somewhat bored with these more traditional humor avenues, so I started looking for something new,” Wysaski says. “Late last year, I hit on the idea of ‘street humor’—for lack of a better term. I’d done a bit of this in the past, but the more I thought about it, the more ideas I had, so I felt the project warranted it’s own name and website.”
While the fake flyers can easily be mimicked with a home computer and perhaps a demented sense of humor, some Obvious Plants are sleeker-looking than others The fake self-help book covers, for instance, were especially labor-intensive. Wysaski had to buy used books, measure the covers, and then meticulously design the front, back, spine ,and inner sleeves. All in all, it took him around 20 hours to complete. Finding locations to carry out these ideas, however, is a comparative breeze.
“Sometimes, it’s just proximity to my house,” Wysaski says. “I’ll have an idea, like Fake Wine Recommendations, and then I’ll just think about which wine stores are near my house and check it out to see if the signage is conducive for replication. However, sometimes the process will be opposite. I’ll be at a public place for completely legitimate reasons and a plant idea will hit me. All the gym plants I’ve done occurred this way.”
One of the best ideas he’s had yet, Wysaski partly attributes to someone else’s tweet. It was only after he decided to add a post-modernist twist to the bathroom at LACMA that he realized he’d recently come across a similar concept that might have played a part in the brainstorm.
In any case, he still went out and bought a cheap painting frame from a thrift store, printed up a fake placard—complete with the actual LACMA logo—and headed to the museum. The results were magical.
“I knew from being at the LACMA previously that there was a bathroom that was very easily accessible and that the plant seemed fairly easy to execute,” Wysaski says. “It was pretty busy, but I was able to tape it up without anyone seeing me. People came in while I was taking photos, but no one seemed to notice or say anything. No one’s ever said anything to me while putting any of these up, by the way.”
Although Wysaski hasn’t been caught red-handed, he has been catching the attention of aggregate sites like Laughing Squid, and legions of tumblr fans. Perhaps if the clicks continue, Wysaski will be able to parlay them into Obvious Plant: The Book, or some other product that would find its way into stores legitimately. In the meantime, he isn’t sticking around those stores to see people’s reactions in real-time.
“I always flee the scene immediately after,” Wysaski says. “However, the bookstore I left the fake book covers at–Book Soup–emailed me and informed me the books are now on display with a price tag of $7 million for each book. I just love that.”