The NYC group "Improv Everywhere", well known for their unusual and interesting improv missions that take place among the public, completed a mission in March called "The Subway Art Gallery" where they chose to randomly create an art gallery on a subway platform near the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. They wrote up descriptions of the "art" which was all things already located on the platform. Things like trashcans, telephones, advertisements, even electrical lines. They had their "inside" people show up throughout the event dressed up like a legitimate art opening. They even had a bar, coat rack, and a cellist.
What caught my eye was the reactions of some of the "agents" that took part in the mission.
From Agent Eppink:
"This may seem like a silly exercise, but I think it can be pretty useful! It puts you in a position to re-examine the mundane, imagine others’ intentions, and create new contexts for the objects and ideas you encounter every day. Usually we would just call that “acting”, but in this case, so much of the pretending is internal that maybe it’s not exactly theater? I’m sure there’s an argument for both sides. Regardless, I found the gallery opening to be an exhilarating, tremendously creative experience, and the hundreds of people who passed through, even if they didn’t join, at least encountered a fun, unexpected, disorienting moment."
"In the course of making the art labels, the mundane stuff of the platform really did become weirdly compelling and beautiful. I wasn’t sure if everyone else would have that experience, or if we would be busy consciously pretending that these random objects were art. In the course of the event, some other friends who came made brilliant observations about the pieces that helped bring my mindset firmly back into of-course-this-is-art, rather than viewing the subway as a collection of quick fixes over time. It’s wonderful how we can decide to create a collective reality, and how it can sometimes catch us up within itself."
"I think my favorite piece of the evening was the performance art titled “Woman sitting on bench, ongoing.” It was great to watch the people not involved in the mission sitting on the bench watching us watch them. Where did life end, and art begin? Where did art end, and life begin? The people sitting were totally confused. Finally, one woman looked up at the placard behind the bench, chuckled a bit and got up. The look on her face when she discovered that she was a performance artist was amazing!"
I am a fan of "Improv Everywhere" but some of their missions are really just designed to mind-fuck people. Like when they shopped in a Home Depot in slow motion or political like when a bunch of men shopped in the Abercrombie and Fitch store shirtless (imitating the model who is posted shirtless outside the store). But this one is really cool. There was, actually, some confusion of passers-by but at the same time they also appeared to have caused a true and honest shift in the way they viewed their world. Finding the beauty and inspiration in the world around, including the man-made, is an incredibly important part of my life. I only wish I could have seen the exhibit myself.
click here for more info on the Subway Art Gallery Opening Mission