There are people who don’t get art. They don’t understand what it’s for; they think that it’s background noise or a way to pass the time. But art is much more than that; one of the best things art can do is change your perspective, even for a moment.
A group of unassuming people in the 42nd Street branch New York Public Library’s reading room had their perspective briefly changed when the comedy group Improv Everywhere showed up dressed as Ghostbusters to clean out some pesky spooks. The video of the event isn’t all that funny per se, but it’s great watching people’s faces light up. There’s a lot going on in their faces – they’re having a pleasant, odd surprise in an otherwise normal day, they’re being reminded of the history of the room in which they sit, and they’re having a fun communal experience in a place where they never expected to have that*. What Improv Everywhere did here isn’t as grandiose but it reminds me of Phillip Petit’s wirewalk between the Two Towers, captured in the documentary Man on Wire. And a moment like this can only happen in a performance setting; the spontaneity and feeling of being connected and present only happens in a live situation.
UPDATE: I just got this email from one of the librarians who was there on the day:
Not exactly certain why I’m writing this email, but I felt vaguely compelled. I’m a librarian at the Central Branch of NYPL and a fan of C.H.U.D. going way back. It was nice to see this unexpected mixture of business and pleasure. I was in the Main Reading Room the day Improv Everywhere came to film this. You’re entirely right to see that people really did brighten up at this. You could tell it made their day.
Anyway, thanks for noticing. It’s appreciated. You can write a letter in support of NYPL here if you want. (We’re facing a $37MM budget cut at the moment.)
* Of course this is New York City, so some people just completely ignore the goings on.