Sunday, March 04, 2007

Grand Central Interminable

On February 24, I was standing at the foot of one of the staircases in Grand Central, reading, waiting for the 2:51 back to Beacon after having run through the Armory show. I arrived almost an hour ahead of time, and had become pretty absorbed in my magazine. I looked up from my reading, and after a couple of seconds realized something odd was afoot. Portions of the crowd in the hall were frozen still. I estimate several dozen people had stopped mid step on the floor of the great hall. The fellow nearest me was struck in mid-bite of his cupcake. I stood and watched the unmoving among the otherwise normal GCT rush for two or three minutes before the living sculptures melted into the crowd at 2:35 accompanied by applause throughout the hall. After just a few seconds, another arrangement of people fixed in location became apparent. This time, a young woman looked on as two companions embraced sadly at the base of the staircase, and another woman lay prone as if after stumbling. This moment of inaction lasted five minutes, and again evaporated with more applause.
Standing unwittingly amid such an intervention was thrilling, partly for the unexpected twist it provided, and by the palpable sense that though not in on the action, by being present, I too had a role to play in the performance. By having been initially unaware of the inaction around me, the entertainment of the moment was provided by the same process of growing awareness repeated dozens of times over as more people found themselves confronting the strange obstacle course, realizing something was up, then reacting to it, trying to interact with it, or imitating it. The most entertaining, though, was the population of folks that traversed the space, weaving around the frozen actors without a clue that anything differentiated that moment from any other.

Update 3/08: I finally discovered the group responsible for the action - Improve Everywhere.

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