March 30th, 2009

Subway Art Gallery Opening

Improv Everywhere turns the 23rd St. uptown platform into a gallery opening:
For our latest mission, 50 Improv Everywhere agents created an art gallery opening on the 23rd Street subway platform in Manhattan. We put up 30 placards next to objects in the space (pipes, electrical boxes, signs, advertisements), transforming them into works of art. The gallery included a bar, a coat rack, and a cellist. Enjoy the video first, and then continue reading for photos, text from our placards, and reports from the agents involved.

Agent Eppink:
I was especially interested in how we convinced ourselves and those around us to play the game and to believe, for a couple hours, that these everyday objects were actually art. Agent Small did a fantastic job of setting the tone with the wall text, but everyone who attended the opening was complicit and added tremendously to the collective fiction. Together we were inventing new meanings and alternate histories, all of which could have been entirely plausible explanations for the objects we were examining.

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.

YouTube video of the opening.