Produced by: Charlie Todd and Matt Adams
Music by: Erin Hall
Mission Idea By: Agents Eppink and Small
Digital Video: Agents Adams, EMartin, Goldman, Gross
Digital Photography: Agents Nicholson, Sokoler
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.
Agents Eppink and Small approached me with the idea of holding a gallery opening on a subway platform, and I was immediately excited to make it happen. There has been tons of really cool unauthorized art happening in the subway system lately, including PosterBoy‘s fantastic advertisement modifications. The MTA actually has some great authorized art installations in certain stations as well (the American Museum of Natural History station comes to mind.) Despite these wonderful authorized and unauthorized works, the majority of the stations are pretty boring and display nothing but ads. Well, at least at first glance. We were able to turn the components of the 23rd Street C/E station into works of art simply by adding placards containing art-speak descriptions.
The 23rd Street station has no authorized art, but its advertisements are frequently improved upon by anonymous artists. The station also has tons of quirky things about it, including locked up men’s and women’s restrooms that haven’t been in use for years. It was the perfect spot for our gallery.
Agent Harms runs the coat rack
Agent Good works the bar
Agents Williams, Ace$Thugg, and Perveen
Brick Window (2003)
Metropolitan Transit Authority in collaboration with Unknown Artists
Glass Bricks with Ink marker
This piece inverts the typical window by making it from opaque bricks, set within a larger opaque wall. This opens the dialogue between the lower spaces of the MTA subway and the upper world where sunlight would necessitate such windows. The null opacity of the glass is called to attention by the use of ink markers.
Locked Box #2 (1988)
Metropolitan Transit Authority
This extremely subtle piece reexamines the assumption that art must be visually accessible to be important and identifiable as a creative work. This artist explores the limitless possibilities of the hidden here, allowing the viewer to reevaluate underlying preconceptions, and to recondition the inner mind to work with the perception of the commonplace outer space.
Telephone Line (2002)
Metropolitan Transit Authority in collaboration with Telecom
This homage to the urgency of communication is meant to highlight the recent necessity, from instant to instant, to maintain the potential for instantaneous, world-wide contact from any location, at any time. That a conversation from such a location would be abruptly interrupted by an arriving train suggests the artist’s intent to lampoon the perceived dependence on telecommunication.
MTA and unknown artists
Mixed Media on Metal and Concrete
Describing the irresistibility of natural urges, and situated thematically near the restroom, this drainage grate offers deliverance. Consequently, here lies an indeliable yellow nitrogen stain, as evidence of the passings of hundreds, if not thousands of strained commuters. Each straphanger, surreptitiously seeking relief, has helped create this totally organic, revolutionary art piece.
Textured Glass (1998)
Metropolitan Transit Authority
These simple glass blocks, with their textures turned at angles to one another, serve as a reminder that even in similarity, otherwise overlooked backgrounds have vast differences, and that considered as a whole, those differences create a subtle beauty. The tension between the glass blocks and tiles serves to force the blocks into a separate plane from the surface.
Black Metal Slam Gate with Panic Bar #367 (2004)
Gricelda Cespedes, Assistant Chief Stations Officer responsible for Maintenance; Overseer of the panic bar installation at stations system-wide.
The panic bar initiative, including these fashion-friendly safety bars, was launched with the goal of providing a way for customers to safely evacuate a station in an emergency, according to Ken Brown from New York City Transit’s Office of System Safety. More than 450 panic bar kits have been installed. A total of 1,500 will be in place by the end of the year, in all fare control areas where you can enter or leave a station, where feasible, in the system’s 468 stations.
Electrical Conduit and Fittings, Tile Wall
This work is at once a heroic call to solidarity and a hopeful ode to the future. The diverse collection of pipes, flocking together chaotically from all across the platform, can only burst through the wall once they’ve banded together. Instead of a bright knowable future, however, the pipes – brimming full of power – disappear into the ambiguous dark abyss on the other side of the wall. The viewer is left in anticipation, hoping the newly-assembled coalition can successfully harness the energy within itself on the other side.
Top Chef, Bottom Mystery (2008)
MTA in Collaboration with Bravo Network
The interleaving of advertisements present in the partial removal of outer ads has been a recent trend in modification from platform users. This reveals the mystery of previous advertisements hidden just under the current. The artist implies that the viewer should consider the past placements in this location, stretching back to the inception of the MTA’s selling of ad space in their subways, and the layering of meaning which can occur in such a small space.
You can see all of the artworks and read their corresponding descriptions by clicking through Agent Nicholson’s Flickr Set.
Agents viewing the art
A woman looks confusedly at our bar
The view from across the platform. Note the woman from the above photo is now reading about one of the artworks.
Two men read our poster
Unsure what to make of the bar and coat rack
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.
Read Agent Eppink’s longer write up here on his site.
Agent Small and the Europeans
The three Europeans who stumbled on to the gallery seemed really tickled. They took a picture with our cellist, and asked me which art I recommended. The man was just bubbling with excitement as he went to look at “Caged Women”.
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’m glad other folks also got caught up in “Wow.. This might really be art!”, and that some non-agents got such a kick out of it!
I’m someone who likes to go to galleries and museums. Before too long, I had convinced myself I was at an art show, and I was allowing myself to be affected by the artwork. Service Changes is a reminder that art can be anything. Art is a state of mind, and if you perceive something as art, then it is. I think it would be hilarious if we got this mission into the hands of a serious art journalist or critic. They might take it very seriously and write a piece on it.
The unsuspecting audience reacted in several different ways. Some of them were confused. Some of them got the joke and laughed. I particularly enjoyed the older European party of 3 who stayed for awhile and took about a dozen pictures. They seemed happy they had stumbled upon some weird wacky New York thing. My favorites were the ones who showed up, got a drink, signed the guest book, looked around, and never cracked a smile. Quite a few people understood what was happening, but didn’t get the joke.
The real highlights of the evening were the interactions with bystanders.
The first notable conversation I had was a discussion about someone’s purchase of one of the works. The piece was a cabinet embedded into the wall. This guy was staring at the plaque, trying to decide if this was all a joke, when I approached him and told him that someone had just bought it. The conversation went roughly like this:
Me: You know, someone just bought this work.
Dude: They bought this?
Me: Yeah, probably for a good sum.
Dude: They bought what?
Me: [gesturing to the wall] Lock Box #2
Dude: They bought this?
And so on.
I was admiring the trashcan art piece when I finished my complimentary cider and needed to throw away my cup. I asked a man standing by if he thought it would be OK if I used the trashcan for my trash. After a long confused look, I explained to him that it was an art piece part of the current MTA exhibit. He still seemed rather confused, but I got him into a small discussion about art versus function. I told him it brought me to a deeper understanding of the piece and its unique quality of being functional art. While I don’t think the man completely understood, we decided it was OK for me to through away my cup.
I witnessed many spectators enjoying the art and postcard explanations with a laugh. Anything that can bring a smile to those traveling underground after a long day of work is an achievement.
One time a train came through and it was long enough for the last car to be near the “gallery” (not all of them were). I watched the people in the car as they tried to figure out what was going on, and the looks of interest and amusement on their faces were fantastic. It didn’t occur to me what effect this might have on people that were not even in the station.
I also thought it was funny when the MTA staff person was trying to get into the women’s bathroom, the door of which we had blocked with our coat rack.
(We apologized and moved the coat rack for her.)
My favorite part was when an older gentleman was walking by one of the art pieces and exclaimed, “That’s a locked box! How is anybody gonna take that home with him! It’s a locked box. That’s not art!” Then he walked off laughing hysterically.
I was standing at the lock box by the underpass stairs when a guy came over and started looking at one of the art descriptions of the Paul Rudd poster. Strangely, when I looked over I realized he was a guy I’d known when I was 14 and hadn’t really seen since. We shared a strange “Oh, my god, what are you doing here moment,” and then he told me that he had literally just come from an art class where he’d gotten into an argument with a classmate over the question, “What is art?”
He walked into the station with that in mind, and so when he saw the exhibit it just made his week because it was exactly what the argument was about. He got almost immediately that it was supposed to be “clever” and wasn’t necessarily real, but liked it even more for that. We walked around looking at all the pieces, he cracked up at every one.
I would have killed to be inside the station-guard-booth when the station manager called. He kept looking over at the “exhibit” so puzzled. He was throwing his hands and I could see him saying “I don’t know! I don’t know!”
I spent two winters as a coat check at a restaurant, which is why I am particularly ashamed to have forgotten to tip Agent Harms, who was the most authentic coat check anyone could have asked for.
I was the coat check guy wearing the tuxedo. I didn’t get to read any of the placards until after the event but I was able to see a lot of great reactions and got in plenty of crowd interaction.
All of the Agents were dressed so nicely for the opening – I’m glad they got to take their coats off and look spiffy for the rest of the crowd. I asked plenty of subway-goers if they wanted to check their coat and they all politely declined. One husband and wife that got off of a subway car told me they didn’t really have time to check their coats as their chauffeur was waiting outside. Most of the other people would then ask me a few questions about the opening: who the artist was, how late the event would be open that evening, who set up the opening in the station, where the art was, etc. I told them that I was just hired for this particular event, gave them the few details a coat check guy like me would know and directed them to the program/flyer. The older vacationing European trio were a big hoot taking pictures of themselves next to everything and trying to figure it all out.
Plus Agent Good (the bartender) and I made $24 in tips! An appreciative crowd indeed.
At one moment a girl was standing right in front of the pay phone close to the gate trying to get phone reception on her cell phone. She moved right in front of my site line of the “pay phone piece.” I just kept staring at the pay phone until she realized she was blocking something, turned around and noticed the art display, and give a “whoa, what’s happening?” look. And then stepped back and noticed all the other art pieces and gallery patrons. She seemed to really enjoy it and until her train came was really self-conscious that she was in the way of some other piece of art.
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 think the most interesting result of participating is that it was enlightening to get into the mindset that the pieces were art. Approaching the subway platform that way allows you to appreciate the details that make any public space great. Be it the modified subway advertisements, the clock, or the metal gates that seem to go nowhere (but actually lead to women’s bathrooms).
The reaction of those not expecting to find a gallery showing is one thing, but the enjoyment of the participants was the highlight for me.
I noticed an older couple depart an arriving train wearing formal attire, the woman might have even been wearing a fur coat. They laughed as they noticed what was happening, and then they went on their way, perhaps to a “real” gallery, not out of the realm of possibility.
What I loved most about this mission is that it brought something fun and enjoyable to a place where you don’t normally see many smiles. After thoroughly reading all the art descriptions, I started observing what made the people departing the trains stop and view the art. I found that when someone was reading one of the labels near the exit (the pay phone or the exit door ones specifically) the exiting riders would often stop and read it as well, mostly because they thought it was something from the MTA. After reading, they either figured it out and had a laugh, or just continued on confused.
Cop: You shouldn’t be doing this.
Me: Oh, really? We looked up all the MTA regulations and made sure that we didn’t violate any of them.
Cop: Well, first of all, you can’t be taking photos. That has to stop.
Me: Actually it’s legal to take photos on subway platforms. The MTA discussed banning it a couple of years ago, but it didn’t happen.
Cop: Yes, but you can’t have all these people here. It’s too crowded.
Me: Like I said we’ll be gone in a matter of minutes.
He was nice about it. I thought it was funny that he kept changing what it was that we were doing wrong. Other than putting up the signs (which could be easily taken down, leaving no mark), we didn’t break any MTA rules. It’s OK to dress up, drink a non-alcoholic beverage, and walk around a platform.
We packed up and disappeared. We decided to leave all of the placards up on the walls, continuing the mission for everyone who passed through the station that night. We figured they would be taken down by the next morning. I returned the next day and was surprised to see that 12 of them were still up. A month later 6 remained. Three months later there was still one up in a hidden corner. It’s fun to think of all the people waiting for trains who could have accidentally stumbled onto one of our placards over the past few months.
This afternoon (March 17, 2009) we put up fresh versions of all of the placards. Stop by and look for them if you’re in New York. Remember to dress up.
–Agent Eppink’s write up (includes a digital version of the flyer we handed out to gallery guests)
–Agent Nicholson’s Flickr Set (contains photos of all of the artworks along with their descriptions posted in the comments)
–Agent Sokoler’s Flickr Set
That’s so cool! I wish I was in New York…. I would have loved this.
Looks like fun. Excellent execution!
Awesome, I love the work you guys do!!
If I wasn’t rushing to catch my train home, I would’ve gotten off at 23rd st. when I saw this. I KNEW Charlie had to be behind this… maybe next time. I love that if I don’t participate in the NYC ones, I can unknowingly stumble into the middle of one.
I love it! Those signs were hilarious..”Mixed Media!” Ha haha. How many signs were there in total?
I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like. And I REALLY like this mission!
Another winner of a mission! I love this one.
The only thing that would have made it better is if there had been catalogs of all the works and descriptions (with photos).
I would so buy one for my cofee table…. (*hint* way to raise funds for future missions…)
I love this mission! Is there a list of photos/placards available somewhere? I’d love to see each item paired with a photo.
Oh man, I just left New York last night! I’m missing the new placards! :(
Way to go, Agent Small. You continue to roxxor.
Great Job! i’ll be stopping buy this weekend to check out the cards.
Awesome!! Wish I could be part of this gig!
What a bunch of losers!!!!!!
Instant classic! Props on getting tips, too!
Excellent! I wish I were closer to NY to stumble into that.
Great show, guys!
Here in England Cider is an alcoholic drink. Yet it says that you didn’t serve anything alcoholic. What’s going on?
cider in the US is pressed apple juice, and is not alcoholic. If left for too long out of the fridge, it will ferment and become “hard cider”, but the sparkling cider they mention over on this side of the pond is simply “fizzy apple juice”, and is often sold in bottles similar to champagne, for those who want a bit of bubbly, without the headache in the morning. :)
way to stay classy, improv ;]
Beautiful, IE. This mission was the true work of art.
Absolutely Genius! These simple things that Improv Everywhere does brings a smile to the faces of everyone who encounters them, whether it be in person or online!
You did it again! Another brilliant bit of humor on the unsuspecting traveler. You are one of the many reasons why I love this city so much. I feel the whole city is a treasure of great experiences. Looking forward to when I get to be a part of one of your future projects.
This entire stunt was a piece of performance art. You really did make a gallery, you weren’t just pretending. Fantastic.
Wish you guys would do some missions here in Italy too…
Excellent! I love the “snake eating its tail” aspect. I’m sending this to gallery-owning friends!
I really liked this when an ad agency in London did it, seven years ago.
Are you talking about this? http://www.globalideasbank.org/site/bank/idea.php?ideaId=3344
Because that seems like a totally different idea.
For our list of prior art, see Agent Eppink’s write up: http://jasoneppink.com/servicechanges
This is hilarious. I wish I’d known about it. There aren’t enough events which poke fun mercilessly at the ludicrous nature of much contemporary art.
This is awesome. i love the cop part.
Dang, I barely missed it. I live in California, but I’m flying to New York City late tonight, specifically heading to Manhattan and staying at the Park Central.
Wish I could have visited the gallery. :-(
The placards were, and still are, genius xD Great work, once again.
That’s fucking amazing. Did you think about putting a placard on the conductor’s booth, or would that have been too much?
Man, I love you guys, Love you!!
Brilliant! Having been to art school where a project might mimic a subway station – having a subway station mimic a gallery opening is as legit a piece of real art as it gets. Andy Warhol would have loved it! The placard descriptions were spot on and genuinely transformed them into something different by challenging people’s perceptions. Another mission well done.
Once again, IE makes me wish I still lived in New York. I noticed that this took place on my birthday. If I could, I would have participated and maybe bring a few friends along. You know what? There is actually a planned trip to New York in a few weeks. I’ll go to the station and just look at all the art, even if the placards may not be there. I want to go where the great agents have trod.
I don’t know how I missed this…I am frequently on that platform. Usually when I’m on the uptown platform I’m rushing to class though. This is very sad to me, because this improv was probably the closest one to me there’s ever been, and I missed it.
really fun-clever parody(or truth) of what art is about in our time.
Excellent work, especially dealing with the cop!
Cops bother with many photographers AND love to change their stories at will.
Which train should I take ??
This really is an eye opener, in many respects. Who would have thought that a *yellow stained* drain could be so unique, so artsy.
I stopped by the gallery this evening and all but were one were still up. It’s not too late to go see the placards in person, should you be in the neighborhood. I think this is our first mission that is ongoing and not over in a matter of hours. Cool!
this was hilarious to read. nicely executed!
cute and all, but when someone unawares is taken into your prank and tries to participate in a sincere way, don’t you feel mean hearted?
A gallery that lasted an hour. Sounds about right for the art business these days.
This is awesome! What fun you all must have had.
How could I missed it!!
wow, how cool!!!
I went to the station on my lunch break immediately after reading this, and I counted 10 signs that were still up. (3/19/09 at 1pm) So great – the signs are wonderfully written and hilarious. I love Caged Women and The Arriving and Departing of The Train.
*For those of you looking for them, they are on the south end (the end near the last car/back of the train) of the uptown C/E station at 23rd and 8th Avenue. :-)
TERRIFIC!!!!! but isn’t true AMY that “artspeak” = “BS”?????
Thanks for the update! If anyone else stops by the gallery, leave a comment and let us know how many are still up. Maybe we can get the MTA to leave them up permanently one day. :)
Very, very awesome indeed.
Yea, why do cops just think they have to say anything? They must feel the need to be “useful”.
Thank you for keeping nyc magical.
I stumbled upon “Locked Box #1” last night (sadly, it was gone tonight) and it totally made my night. I was super tired and cranky to be waiting for the local train and then all of a sudden, I realized that the station had been turned into a museum. It just made me so happy – I can’t explain it. I am only sad that I missed the original event. Job brilliantly done folks!
Amazing!…I will see EVERYTHING with different eyes in future in the subway…Thanks.
u guys always do mission around my school (FIT) but i’d always miss it :(
Very deep and meaningful ! Well done. Keep up the good work.
Fan-freakin-tastic! I should know better than to read these at work: the laughter emanating from my cube probably freaked out my co-workers a bit. :)
Sublime. F’ing. Genius.
Marcel Duchamp would approve.
… R. Mutt too…
you guys are only about 90 years late!
ha ha too funny only in ny. Dave
I use this station (the same platform) once a week and never noticed the signs somehow. This’ll teach me to be a bit more noticing!
L’Art au quotidien. Superbe expo.
Seul regret je n’ai pas participÃ© au vernissage…
Le Champagne devait-Ãªtre FranÃ§ais. ;-)
The most hilarious part of the documentary came at the last second — a hand came into view placing a red “Sold” button on the “Train Arrival and Departure” description tag! Very unexpected! I nearly fell off my chair laughing! The whole thing was a brilliant concept! Loved it!!!
I heard about you lot from a fellow student Im studying Design with currently. Thought I’d take a look at your website… am glad I did. Have never been to New York, but have wanted to all of my life. I luv your manipulations of the norm. The funny part is holding the attention of many for a decent period of time on these standard objects. Good work
Why are you just posting this now?
I mean 5 months.
Another witty and fun mission. Bravo — and extra kudos for leaving (and later reposting) the signs.
Brilliant as ever guys! Slightly confused that it took so long to post but a very entertaining and well executed idea. I’m a particular fan of “Train arriving and departing (ongoing)” which I would certainly pay a wholesome sum for, given the chance!
Britain misses you.
Police always make up rules on the spot. They rarely know the law, and if they do they just say whatever they want in order to get you do do what they want. Playing the cello was against MTA rules, but anyone can stand on a subway platform!
Oh man… When did this take place? I just moved away from NYC in October, so I’m wondering if I just BARELY missed out on this one. What a bummer.
Either way, absolutely brilliant idea, and this will probably become one of my favorite missions. I’d have loved to participate!
I was in this part of the country today and had to stop by the gallery. I was only able to spot 4 placards all at the south end of the station: yellow square, glass blocks, brick window, and my favorite, the drain (mixed media, lol), which took me a while to find.
I was at the station for about 5 minutes and observed quite a few people admiring the art, although I didn’t see anyone smile or smirk.
This is wonderful! I love how it got me thinking about how valuable it is to slow down and notice things– then to really look at them and ask questions. Thank you!
Pure genius! When visitors report that they’ll “see EVERYTHING with different eyes in future” and “to be a bit more noticing”, that is the purpose of art. Mission accomplished! Kudos to agents Eppink and Small for the idea and to the whole team for superb execution. Let it be noted that the “art objects” were, in fact, deserving products of human creation and design.
Here’s a haiku I wrote in answer to frequent questions about the nature of art:
What is art, you ask,
In all its forms and splendor?
Mind made visible.
This is the best you’ve done for some time. I thought some of the recent ones have missed the mark a bit by being too organised and complex, but this is right on the button. Excellent ‘art’!
You people are absolutely vile. It’s saddening to me that a group of children, no matter how petulant, could be so deeply self absorbed that not one of them could look in the mirror and see their errors! This project lost its way completely when you started getting high on your own smug thrills and forgot that the art you claim a part of exists to serve the common man, not to destroy him.
Day to day you suckle at the teat of the regular people who work and toil and die just to keep you fat on snickers bars and organic shampoo. How dare you then find the gall to look up and spit in his face, as if you are above his status? Do you truly not see how depraved your activities have become, or do you simply not care?
Cease your work immediately and shut down this website. Do this before you cause even more damage, both to your own image and the world at large. If pride won’t allow you to do that, then I pray that you at least take another long hard look at your intentions before you act again, and try to see what you can maybe start doing to provide for the world, instead of continuing on with being this worthless suck hole of attention and space you’ve become.
This is amazing.
Charlie: “try to see what you can maybe start doing to provide for the world” like giving people an innocent reason to smile and look at the world a little differently?
Back onto topic: The IE missions always make me grin. I’m always glad that you guys exist because it’s nice to see a group of people who work for no other goal than to make somebody smile
I stopped by the gallery today. 3 placards are still up!
In a word: BRILLIANT!
Wish I could have been there to enjoy the show!
Once again, you made my day!! I love everything you guys do. Poor sourpuss Charlie! I wonder what could make him smile?
First off, to Charlie: Please tell me that post of yours was just a really bad joke. Why is it that you think that this mission is disrespectful towards the working-joe simply because it transformed perception of mundane things into works of art? Life is to short, and far to precious, to be wasted away with time and energy being spent in bitterness and hate. Why waste it looking for what’s “wrong”? Rather, you should re-direct that energy and try to see the beauty in everyday life. You’d apparently be a much happier person…
And, on that note: BRAVO to the ImprovEverywhere crew!! This was brilliant, and very well done!! I wonder what the chances are of getting MTA to leave the placards up? And maybe even let you transform other stations as well…??? I think this kind of thing can be amazingly therapeutic, when your perception of something is suddenly changed. Inadvertently, once you find yourself looking from a different perspective, your perception of other things in your life can suddenly change as well… :) CHEERS!!
Absolutely wonderful. I don’t know what Charlie is griping about, but I’m in NC, and was having a really bad day, and this cheered me up considerably. Thanks for making me smile from 800 miles away, guys. I really needed it.
Quote rubrnekr: “First off, to Charlie: Please tell me that post of yours was just a really bad joke. Why is it that you think that this mission is disrespectful towards the working-joe simply because it transformed perception of mundane things into works of art? Life is to short, and far to precious, to be wasted away with time and energy being spent in bitterness and hate. Why waste it looking for whatâ€™s â€œwrongâ€? Rather, you should re-direct that energy and try to see the beauty in everyday life. Youâ€™d apparently be a much happier personâ€¦”
I will address this in a moment, but first I must make note of Improv Everywhere’s atrocious April Fools funeral gag. This faux-prank of yours would definitely be disgusting in action, which is what makes it a joke on us when it turns out to be fake. I get that much. What I fear you may be missing, or even worse don’t care about, is the fact that this wouldn’t make any sense as a joke at all, were you not already a group of insensitive, arrogant people who actually are not so far off of doing something this thoughtless, considering their past actions. Even worse, by choosing this particular funeral scenario to enact as a hoax, you are essentially coming right out and admitting that this is in a style of what you might do, so much so that people needed to check the comments to know it was fake. The fact that it’s believable at all, let alone totally expected, makes you guilty of the same distaste this shows the whole rest of the year.
Now, to address that above post. First things first, and perhaps the main beef I have with your group, is that anyone who waltzes into someone elses environment (in this case the subway workers and riders), only to start calling their entire world “mundane”, is a gigantic asshole. When that person then further goes on to delude themselves into thinking that they are in any kind of position to “elevate” peoples experiences by pointing and laughing at it, they are a smug asshole. Even worse, when that smug asshole then goes on to ACTUALLY GET IN THE WAY OF PEOPLES DAY, they are just being arrogant, thoughtless, and in some ways dangerous to society. You people obviously don’t know where the line is, which is why I once again will implore you to stop what you are doing before you cross a line that nobody could argue with, and you look like even bigger jerks, or god forbid, actually cause someone harm.
To those who will inevitably defend the group here, and their actions, I ask you to take a look at your environment, your job, your social groups, and ask yourself how much fun it would be for Improv Everywhere to show up and start mocking your way of life. Every mans craft is an art to him, every life is special. You are in absolutely no position to judge anyone for that, let alone try to ‘uplift’ his lot with your own ill planned garbage, designed only to amuse others like yourselves at their expense.
If nothing else, next time, just don’t block the bathrooms where people who are working hard have five minutes to relieve themselves. I don’t care that you moved the coat rack, she NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAD TO ASK. If you are the kind of person who can dismiss this kind of discourtesy as a meaningless side effect of a glorious prank, then you are the exact smug, dangerous asshole I’m talking about. Congratulations on making your day better by biting chunks out of someone else’s.
Amazingly put. Thank you, Charlie.
Not sure if anyone’s mentioned this, but I do believe it’s all art. For most of it, someone had to design it. Function and beauty.
This has been said many, many, times, but this is awesome! All of your missions are just pure awesome!
Is nature capable of producing Spaghetti Trees? Is a newspaper likely to turn over to Twitter as their entire source of publication? Is Warner Bros likely to buy thepiratebay.org? No. Yet people believed them. But not the ones who knew what the object of the Fools trick was actually like. Similarly, the people who did believe the group was capable of this were wrong, and basically out of some level of ignorance. It wasn’t a reflection on IE any more than CADIE is a reflection on Google.
Second, don’t take the accusation of mundanity so personally. I for one would consider a subway station to be mundane. Several of the “guests” were likely regular subway users who would have appreciated (if not fully understood) a change of scenery and a new way of looking at things.
As for getting in people’s way, well just being alive will get in someone’s way. Being in a queue for anything puts you in the way of someone behind. Have you never been asked to move out of the way of something which you had unintentionally blocked? It’s ridiculous to get so angry about something as stupid as having to ask someone to move aside. I hope next time you’re on the subway and someone knocks you you really shout at them, scream at them, stab them in the neck for encroaching on your existence. And may others do the same to you. Then perhaps you’ll live as a recluse and never get in anyone’s way ever ever ever again, and you can call yourself a good person.
I think you’re right that we should ask ourselves how we’d feel if IE came into our lives and started upsetting the status quo. I asked myself that, and I concluded that there are aspects of my life that are mundane. Catching trains, going to the park, going shopping, etcetera. I’d love to come away every once in a while with stories of how a subway station was suddenly an art gallery, or how people suddenly started dancing, or that a romantic comedy was played out before my very eyes. And for the few people that would be offended because of their own ludicrous morality, there’s so many more that will benefit by the chance of some unexpected excitement.
And smug? Maybe, but that’s because they have a right to be. They’re out there doing things to cheer themselves and others up. You are sat writing on a webpage about the injustice of it all. Their smugness is by FAR preferable to yours.
Now if you’re done getting in the way of my day, I’m off to use the snickers bars and organic shampoo that the rest of the world has inexplicably worked and toiled and died for me to have.
(PS. If you think you can get fat on organic shampoo, you’ve been reading the instructions wrong)
I am loving this one… i love how the cop did not know what to do! keep it classy
What is so sublimely perfect about this is that it really is art. Once you give something meaning, doesn’t it become more than it already is?
This yellow-coated #2 pencil sitting here (well, pretend one is “here”) – it is just a pencil. But if I told you it was the pencil of a famous artist/author – it becomes more than it was. Those dents and teethmarks become evidence of use and thought – and a nervous habit. Were they hashing out a plot twist? Or puzzling over foreshortening? Or just holding it in their mouth so they didn’t lose it (again) while they used their hands to access a different tool of their trade?
The uninteresting becomes interesting.
I enjoy browsing photo galleries online to see photos of the ordinary made interesting again. Sometimes it doesn’t work. The item is simply too ordinary. Sometimes it inspires me.
I’ve thought about what I would do if IE visited my “mundane existence” and did their thing as usual. I don’t deny that I would be anxious if I were in a position of “authority” – ie: an employee of whatever venue was being used. I would be wondering if what they were doing was something I could get into trouble for not preventing – or for attempting to prevent though it is within the venue’s rules. Though if such a venue were to come complete with a sort of security of its own, once I’d been certain that I was not responsible for what went on and that what went on wasn’t endangering anyone, I’d like to think I’d have the ability to appreciate what was going on and have a sense of humor about everything.
Your mileage may vary.
Regarding Charlie’s comment,
It’s clear that he did believe the funeral’s prank was actually played on a mourning family instead of him and other readers. I can tell that he got so angered at the situation that everything about this place got tainted with this anger and from that point and on, all his reasoning wasn’t founded on reason but on “gut feeling”.
If Charlie is still angered, it’s likely that he will still follow his gut feelings and consider IE is full of arrogant self-centered snobs and that the funeral joke was still wrong even if it was played not on the family but on the readers, and this place will still make him retch.
After I “arrogantly and snobbishly” talked in 3rd person about Charlie, all I can say is… Charlie, you better calm down.
What IE has done, at least in all the missions I’ve seen and thoroughly read so far –5, since I found the website a few hours ago–, couldn’t be considered arrogant or snob unless you’re completely deluded in some sort of Kantian philosophy: that everyone must be considered an absolute end in and of himself and that if you bothered 1 person because of one event, you can’t justify that no matter how many tens, hundreds, even thousands of people you cheered up.
I’m more of an utilitarianist. If a ‘mission’ performance causes 10 people to be bothered while other 1000 people felt happy, I think that happiness compensates 100 times for that bothering. Wouldn’t you agree?.
Thanks the inspiration.
Cheers from Chile.
Charlie is a bitch.
This is the sort of thing that brings New Yorkers, visitors, tourists and the art scene together in a way not seen since the 80’s when roving groups held impromptu “events” on bridges, subway stations and the streets. Bravo. Keep it up.
that was truely excellent, most of theses “artworks” are clearly plausible.
you guys rock !
I think that this is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I live in NY and always feel so alone standing and marveling at the unexpected mysteries of that histoy-is-taking-place feel that every grafitti splashed wall sends out. I can’t help but let my mind imagine every story behind ever footprint, life has happened here. I might try this- annonymously of course- at my school. Middle-schoolers are probably the best candidates for this, old enough to think but young enough to understand.
See, stuff like this is cool. And it really is legitimate art, too.
I just discovered this site/community and I’ve got to say I’m amused :) This is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, just have fun and put a smile upon the faces of random people. It’s great how you turn waiting in a subway into such a hilarious experience.
Keep it up guys, I love you!
Loved it. Everyday life is art. The following is my opinion on this event…..
By IE framing it as ‘proper art’ with signals of the upper class art world this event catches us out. It makes us laugh at simple everyday, possibly mundane things as – art. Now, according to the art history books of course anything can be art…..so the fact that we laugh reveals our own pretensions about what art can be. How could a bin possibly be art?! How hilarious. But it bloody well can be. The high values that art upholds through museums, galleries, champagne receptions etc etc still blow strong today and we all participate to some extent.
Charlie definitely has something stuck up his bottom but he has said some things that made me think.
I don’t think this is mocking the people involved with factory production, cleaning, service staff etc. It doesn’t engage them much though as it is really an attack on art’s high values and upper class belief systems. But its also a bit of fun for a load of people, people who have the time and money to engage in such activity. The people who are too poor or are working every hour of their life tend not to have the energy or time to induldge in this non-commercial leisure activity.
I find IE’s activity very interesting and fun yet quite clever. But I do find it a little to sweet and self-congratulatory. But perhaps thats because I am a bitterly sarcastic and self-mocking Englishman.
Just discovered Improv Everywhere and I’ve just wasted away an entire afternoon watching all your videos. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Keep it up guys.
Brilliant. Only in NY. I wish I would have thought of this. Ha.
Awesome!! IE never fails to improve my day with all the ideas and action!
Keep up your daring ventures!!
Fantastic! This is a great idea, and I wish I could have heard all those people that happened across it recounting it later. :)
@Charlie Get the stick out of your butt and lighten up. That’s the point after all.
Keep it up IE! You guys always brighten my day! Ever coming to Edinburgh? We’d love to have you over here too!
Great! I read an article this morning about this in the Dutch Newspaper NRC. Wonderful. Wish I was been there!
I love this.
I think a lot of commuters in cities with subways would love it – as long as they know taxpayers didn’t put any money toward it happening!
I want this in my transit system – BC Transit.
You did good IE. Bringing a little diversity or excitement (for those who cared) in the obligatory process of “commuting” benefits the community more than, say, begging money from people. The former may bring a smile to at least someone’s face, while imposing on other’s generosity can make the situation uncomfortable. I guess I don’t see it as interruptive as by-standers are welcome, even encouraged to interact, but are not coerced into doing so.
For other commentators, please be respectful of Charlie’s opinions. He stated his point of view very eloquently and deserves the same respect.
To Charlie: Your view is very interesting. You may very well be able to see a potential harm that these seemingly harmless “pranks” (as everyone keeps calling them) are capable of.
But also, I want to point out that this mission had nothing to do with income level, race, gender, or anything for that matter. In my opinion, no person, regardless of their socioeconomic standing, was marginalized, mocked or offended by these activities. Although not as up-beat as the high-five escalator, I still hold firmly to my belief that at least a few people enjoyed “playing along” and seeing things in a different light. Again though, I truly appreciate your clear thought process and your ability to deliver those ideas into words. So many fill themselves with blind hatred and therefore fail to make their argument intelligible.
Priceless! Literally. You should have put some stuff up that looked like everything else but was your own and sold it! You should also do more missions in Toronto.
Philadelphia could use an organization like IE. It’s so dreary and ugly…We need our spirit renewed.
I don’t know about that. If you take the blue line (Frankford – 69th St) you see plenty of graffiti and murals. Although it would be nice to see something like that going on. I can think of the perfect place for it. Well not really. I don’t remember the exact location but it’s the subway station that has a huge clothespin in front of it.
not that i think about it, something like this probably wouldnt work in philadelphia. the placards, jackets, etc would get stolen. easily.
Strangely enough, I take the A train, passing by the 23rd St. station almost every day and I’ve never noticed this. =/
A brilliantly original concept delivered with deft simplicity. What you have done is nothing less than challenge the very definition of “art”. It’s not often you come across something that changes your worldview, but this is one of those things.
Pure, absolute and inspired genius!
Life IS art. It’s in the eyes we use to see the life WE create.
You choose daily to see the world with creative eyes, or, to MISS the whole thing.
The “art” here is in the descriptions of each piece. It takes an extremely creative person to have thought of all that. Good job guys. Keep it coming! I LOVE checking in on your website. It makes me wish I lived in NYC or that we had something like this in my town…but I am not nearly as creative as all you IE folks.