Monday, 18 March 2013

Improv Everywhere - New York City based prank collective

Since 2001 Improv Everywhere have been causing public scenes of chaos and joy. Check out their website here

Claire Prosser, artist and volunteer for the Intercourse project, has written the following in response to their work.


Wish you were here?
Improveverywhere are a 'prank' collective that make scenes that they label as 'Missions.' These scenes are flash mob-esque but are not far from Art Happenings and participation events. The sheer size of some of their creations is incredible. You can tell by the website the extent of people they reach, with sign up sheets for participants (Undercover Agents), tour dates and live shows. They also offer merchandise and offer business events which provides a  large fraction of their funding. Part of me begins to question and think negatively about the hype they give themselves, the other part of me gets goosebumps watching and thinking about creating something like they have.

Can the integrity of their projects be maintained when so many people start to join the band wagon even if they weren't the original participants? Does the involvement of more people mean more power? Does more people mean less power?

How much control do they have over the participants? Is there any? Where do artists/creators step back and let the people nurture the event? Is that their aim from the very beginning? To set the idea then let it free?

Looking at No Pants Subway Ride, are these events any different to Children in Need day/ Comic Relief days when members of the public do something extraordinary for charitable causes? In Improveverywhere's case it becomes part of daily routine, without the fund raising. It interests me how humans have a safety mechanism, if they see that more people are taking part, they feel it is then okay for them to participate. The humiliation factor and individual confidence levels are certainly challenged in the Missions set up by this collective and in any participatory art event. Is it okay for me to take part? Will I look stupid? How do I behave? Where do I stand? What are they doing? What am I doing?

I am in awe of how widespread and accepted the creators of Improveverywhere have become, how fun, carefree scenes are becoming more and more accepted and encouraged. The effect the missions have on 'non-participants' is also astounding. They too begin to perform in response to the energies created from the scene. How far does the energy go? Where does the art form end? Where does participation begin and end?


“All the world's a stage

And all the men and women merely players

They have their exits and their entrances”

William Shakespeare


In Improveverywhere, Who is performing? Who is not performing? Are people performing even if they weren't on the agent list?

At some point, everyone in the vicinity of the scene will all have performed. They will all have been a participant. Will everyone be the artist?

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