new-york

Ann Messner

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

Ever hear about the guy who rode an elevator with his back to the doors, causing others getting on to do the same thing? Ann Messner’s performances in the subways—like one in which she exercised on a rowing machine placed in a pedestrian tunnel during rush hour—might seem to belong to the same type of attention-getting spectacle as that psychology experiment–cum–urban legend. Yet Messner’s antics weren't really intended to provoke a reaction. Instead, she used the crowd, the constant flow of people, as an artistic medium—a somewhat malleable mass to be acted upon, within, or against. Her performances in crowds between 1977 and 1979, documented in photos and on film, made up “Subway Stories and Other Shorts,” the gallery’s inaugural show.

Desk Bell, 1978, records Messner ringing a bell placed on a subway turnstile, again during rush hour. Her pings issued a precise rhythm more in sync with

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