This weekend, a group of nearly 200 people will be crawling through the streets of West Village, Greenwich Village and Union Square. The parade of peoplewill literally be crawling on hands and knees in a relay along the 1.5 mile route. The large scale performance is artist Pope.L’s largest and most ambitious project yet.

Starting at the Corporal John A. Seravalli Playground in the West Village, the relay-style crawl will travel east, past Jackson Square and through the NYC AIDS Memorial on Greenwich Avenue. It will then cut across Washington Square Park and travel under its Arch before heading north. The crawl will end on the south steps of Union Square Park.

The crawl, titled Conquest, will be made up of 140 strangers selected by the artist to represent the diversity of New York City. The volunteer performers represent different professions and socioeconomic backgrounds from all five boroughs and beyond. They encompass a range of ages, race, gender, and physical ability. Along the way, the crawlers will build off of each other’s grueling efforts to complete the challenging course block by block. The relay nature of the crawl emphasizes the interconnectedness of all people. The performance is meant to draw attention to power dynamics, privilege, and cultural representation in the city.

Whether military style, hands and knees, or another variation, participants will be encouraged to crawl in a way that challenges them most and speaks to their ability level. To further challenge participants, each will crawl with props including a blindfold and flashlight. They will even be crawling with only one shoe, emphasizing each of their personal struggles. “People who are forced to give up their verticality are prey to all kinds of dangers,” said Pope.L. “But, let us imagine a person who has a job, possesses the means to remain vertical, but chooses to momentarily give up that verticality? To undergo that threat to his/her bodily/spiritual categories—that person would learn something.”

The procession will be led by a sweeper, and each group will be accompanied by a perfumer, who will scent the air with a mix of teakwood and tobacco, adding to the absurdity and theatricality of the performance. Pope.L will walk alongside the groups, giving support where needed yet allowing the focus to remain on the power of the collective.

At the end of the crawl, in front of the historic equestrian bronze statue of George Washington in Union Square Park, Pope.L will greet each participant with a hug. Once the last participant has mounted the platform, they will douse the artist with several bottles of faux Flint water, referencing the struggles surrounding the many water crises occurring throughout the United States today.

Conquest is part of Pope.L: Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration, which is the title of a singular concept that buttresses a trio of complementary exhibitions: Conquest, Choir, and member, organized by Public Art Fund, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Museum of Modern Art. Visit PopeL.NYC for more information.

The crawl will take place on Saturday, September 21st from 9:45am to 3:30pm. To find out where the crawl is throughout the day, follow in real-time on Public Art Fund’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. Spectators are encouraged to hit the streets to watch this one-day-only performance from along the route!

Next, check out 20 New Public Art Installations Not to Miss This September 2019