Mischief maker and performance artist Zardulu is credited with the creation of a number of hoax viral news stories.
The most famous of these staged events was Pizza Rat, where a video of a rat on the New York subway was filmed ambitiously carrying a large slice of pizza down a set of steps.
Now, the mysterious figure is about to hold her first exhibition – and the first exhibition to tackle the topic of ‘Fake News’ from within.
“[It’s] going to reveal several pieces that were major international stories, one even trended higher than Trump for three days,” Zardulu told Sky News.
In what could be a hint of what the mystery viral stories are, Zardulu in an earlier conversation with Sky News said: “The trickster spirit is quite alive in the United Kingdom”.
“As for the pieces I’d like to do in the United Kingdom, the things that people respond to in different cultures vary quite a bit,” she said.
Speaking earlier in the year, Zardulu revealed she had five different pieces in five different places at various stages – including in the UK.
“Some are as subtle as hoping to raise a single eyebrow, some are as grandiose as to hope they’ll be international news stories,” she said.
“I had a piece unexpectedly get distributed by an international news wire… I didn’t expect the reaction to it would be so great.”
Her existence was revealed in January 2016, after an actor who claimed to work with her grew frustrated with her.
Embodying much of the spirit of the trickster god Hermes, who Zardulu says she prays to, she has “collaborators” across the world who help carry out pieces she feels can be done without her presence.
She also claims to have spoken with Banksy, the anonymous UK street artist, about a collaboration.
The New York based artist is credited with manufacturing events designed to capture the eye of the public, news editors included.
Some of her other ‘hits’ include staging photos and films of a racoon riding a crocodile, a man catching a three-eyed fish in a New York canal and an iguana turning up in a family’s toilet and proceeding to bite a man’s testicles.
She trained a rat – now known as Selfie Rat – to run across an apparently sleeping man’s lap and phone, causing the camera turn on and film the incident.
Pizza Rat has been viewed more than 10m times and made headlines around the world, with news editors everywhere jumping on the chance to feature the ‘stranger than fiction’ story that tends to draw in the clicks.
Despite being interwoven with the story of Pizza Rat, Zardulu has never claimed authorship of the prank and when asked to explain it to Sky News she simply replied: “It’s a rat carrying a slice of pizza :)”
It’s hard to know when to believe Zardulu, whose very motivation is to play with truth and myth.
“I’ve appeared in news stories as around 60 different personas. Some of them I spend years developing,” she said.
In conversation, she comes across as well educated and with a vast knowledge of art history and the lore of gods – ranging from those in Ancient Greece to Hinduism to Norse mythology .
She says the iguana in the toilet, which she entitled The Usurpation of Ouranos, was an “homage” to Marcel Duchamp’s toilet and “a ritual to the trickster spirit that resides on both of us [her and the French artist]”.
Zardulu explained to Sky News: “I don’t believe I’m a god, but I’ve been possessed by one.
“The same way shamans wear masks and perform rituals to call upon gods to enter them. From a humanist standpoint, this represents the journey into the subconscious. It’s casting a net into the deep ocean inside all of us, and drawing something out of it.”
Zaradulu the mythmarker’s New York exhibition, entitled Tricornis Aeternis: Rites and Mysteries, is billed as “a series of works encompassing installation, drawings, a book of Zardulism (sharing the exhibition’s title), and an online component.”
So much of Zardulu’s work comes alive once it begins to be shared online, often on social media.
“A form of performance that I think gets over-looked in the mythologizing ourselves on social media. These digital representations are the way we want to world to see us, they are very far from reality,” she explains.
She continued: “I think a facet of the net art movement that will soon emerge will be in the fabricated social media presence. Mythologized version of the artists or the artists putting themselves in surreal contexts, like a Frida Kahlo painting for the modern era.”
“I enjoy an oil painting, but what does an oil painting reflect about the digital age?”
Speaking about her upcoming show at Transfer Gallery in October, she said: “I think people will enjoy seeing the pieces that physically manifest my performances, the physical objects I created to write a compelling narrative around.
“There will be some [pieces] I’ve talked about, and some I haven’t. The ones I haven’t talked about were very big stories.”
“My media pieces and re-enactments… become a new reality.”