Former professor arrested after filming self robbing banks: 'It’s artwork. He’s an intellectual'
Film director (Shutterstock)

A former MIT professor is being held on felony robbery charges after he filmed himself robbing two banks, in what was described as an "art project," reports WGN.

Filmmaker Joseph Gibbons, 61, who previously was a visiting artist at Bard College and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was taken into custody after robbing $1,000 from a Capital One branch in Manhattan on New Year's Eve, after previously stealing $3,000 from a bank in Rhode Island in November.

Authorities state Gibbons handed bank tellers a note reading, "This is a robbery. Large bills. No dye packs/No GPS," before pulling out a small camera and explaining he was filming the heist.

According to Gibbon's cellmate, the filmmaker told him the robberies were part of an art project.

"He was doing research for a film,” Kaylan Sherrard said. “It’s not a crime - it’s artwork. He’s an intellectual.”

In interviews Gibbons has said he began inserting himself into his movies after discovering it expanded raw "material" he needed to fill his films.

“I started out making more abstract films or structural films and it wasn’t until I discovered using myself as material that I thought I had something," he said in an interview with Big Red & Shiny. "But I had to keep making more—I needed content. By finding flaws and working on those—that was a goldmine. I just worried if I had enough problems within me that I could exploit. So when I ran of my own—I started creating them.”

Gibbons also described his method of film-making as a form of "memoir."

"Since I’m in the films, the way I reacted to them and talked about them was sort of a fiction. So what I’ve been doing more and more lately is fictionalizing the documentary aspect—either through the persona or actually fictionalizing the events that I’m filming," he explained. "And I’ve always done similar things where I just lie. And maybe it’s a reaction to the sincere kind-of diary and autobiography film mode. It’s not just in film and video, it’s everywhere now: the Memoir—people telling the stories of their lives."

Gibbons, whose page at MIT has been taken down, is being held on $50,000 bail.