Alleged bank-robbing professor influenced by poet Rimbaud

The French poet Arthur Rimbaud died more than 120 years ago, but one former art professor says he decided to carry on his legacy in a unique way -- by filming himself robbing a bank on New Year's Eve.

Joseph Gibbons, a former art professor at MIT, told the New York Post that he held up a Capital One bank in New York City's Chinatown as part of an art project inspired by Rimbaud. Gibbons explained, "I read the works of Arthur Rimbaud who essentially believed a poet had to descend into the depths of all that was bad and report back. This whole thing has been one long project about discovering the disenfranchised portions of society.”

Gibbons said he was turned in by a former student after bragging about the robbery, which didn't go the way he had planned. "This teller, in Chinatown, he was unflappable," Gibbons said. "The note itself said ‘Yes ... this is a bank robbery.’ In the note I asked for large denominations and no dye packs and unfortunately he gave me small denominations and an exploding dye pack."

It's not the first stunt Gibbons has pulled in the name of art. In 2002, a semi-autobiographical video piece, "Confessions of a Sociopath," was included in the Whitney Biennial; it begins with a voiceover that intones, "Patient is currently on probation, having been convicted on several counts of theft." In 1977, he allegedly stole a $13,000 painting from the Oakland Museum.

A friend of the former professor, Emily Breer, said she wasn't surprised by the news: "He grew up in California in the prank era. That's very much a part of what they did. He can't fit into conventional things."

Gibbons is also suspected in a November bank robbery in Providence, R.I. A police detective in that city told the Boston Herald: "We don't have an arrest warrant, but we've learned through New York that he has identified himself as the one who robbed this bank ... At some point in time we will charge him with the robbery."

He's already been charged in the New York robbery, with bail set at $50,000.