1. PDL take over the Mercer Gallery
    July 15, 2013 by Walden3

    About a year ago, Seattle artist group PDL got the idea to create installations and performances inside the elevators of skyscrapers. They scouted out the elevators in the Columbia Center (Seattle’s tallest building at 76 stories) and in true PDL style, started making art in them without management approval.

    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.


    PDL tried to explain that they were simply trying to add a little surprise and magic to the mundane commute of office workers. They saw elevators as social dead-space, a waiting room void of art, void of culture and eerily void of conversation. They were using the elevators as a place to create art and interaction. And to be fair, besides the mannequin with crowbar, the office workers at the tower loved these unannounced and playful departures from reality. Miraculously, what they thought was going to be a scolding turned into an offer: PDL were asked to create more, elaborate and ongoing installations. And the Columbia Tower offered to pay for a year of PDL shenanigans  (not very much, but still, it was an amazing turn of events).

    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.”)

    But the office workers aren’t the only ones drinking PDL kool-aid; the Seattle trio will be in Manhattan this fall for a three month residency at the Rockefeller Center (30 Rock), where they will undoubtedly create beauty, conversation and make a few children cry. Will the office elevator enter the permanent domain of the contemporary artist? It is hard to tell, but after seeing this show, you really can’t help but think of all the possibilities.