These first guerrilla installations were discrete and quick to set up. The art trio would arrive at 6:00 am, enter elevator #35, and push top floor buttons that would give them a few minutes to set up before returning to the 5th Avenue lobby. They set up a chess board and chairs and played amongst arriving office workers and business people. They laid out a putting green and practiced their short game in full golf attire, ricocheting their balls against wingtips and high heels. Around Halloween they walked in a mannequin in clothes they found under a bridge and faced him against the wall, standing still and clutching a crowbar (that didn’t work out so well). And eventually, possibly to be expected, they found themselves in a room with Columbia Tower security and the building manager, Christopher Yersley, wanting to know, what on earth were they doing.
The PDL exhibition that just opened in the Mercer Gallery reflects the visual documentation of this year of elevator installations and performances – large-scale photographs, video, and three recreations of their more elaborate environments. There is the cedar sauna (with sweating towel clad artists), the flop house with t.v. blaring and a filthy tank-top wearing man answering the elevator door, the marriage chapel complete with ordained minister (Jed Dunkerley) and organist (Mike Katell) and a butcher’s meat locker. Most of the installations allowed for 5-7 visitors – often interrupting the massage parlor or the psychiatrist’s office or displaced cubical worker – and a few were so stuffed with, um… art, that workers and art patrons just stood in the lobby and starred at the giant inflatable white elephant or floor to ceiling christmas presents in disbelief and reluctant smiles. Their exhibit ‘Going Up!‘ is a playful, imaginative retrospective of this amazing year, complete with video, still images, re-creations and office worker interviews (the elevators became so popular that audiences would patiently wait just to ride them).
Of course PDL had to create a special installation for the enormous elevator at W3 and – heck, it would just be a shame to give that one away (but I will say that Rhianna and gal pal Melissa Forde camped out for nearly an hour in there). The opening party was a mad house, the critics had mixed and very vocal opinions (Tom Hurl and Matthew Kangas purportedly were throwing f-bombs like a food fight) and more than a few people watched the sun come up from the rooftop deck. Over 5,000 people work at the Columbia Tower and I’m pretty sure they were all in attendance (PDL founding member Jason Puccinelli beamed at the opening, “hearing their stories and seeing their enthusiasm beats any art review.”)