Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Flash Mob Mentality

While the concept of the flash mob is nothing new, I'd never actually seen video footage of this type of prank/performance art/social experiment before. (Thanks, Julie!)

The group behind the mayhem, Improv Everywhere, has taken the initial idea of flash mobs to a new level of artistic hilarity. One of their most recent stunts involved sending three people to a Starbucks with huge desktop computers and monitors, where they settled in to do some work and use the cafe's wireless network.

It's ironic and fascinating to watch these "scenes" unfold. Varying numbers of people confidently engage in seemingly nonsensical behavior in public places. In doing so, they actually cause the non-participating bystanders to feel awkward and out of place. Truthfully, watching the festivities and their chaotic aftermath is the majority of the fun. The flash mob phenomenon probably wouldn't have taken off so well in the pre-Internet days. If a man walks into a Starbucks with a desktop computer and 2.5 million YouTube viewers aren't there to watch it, did it really happen?

On the other hand, this sort of performance art-induced awkwardness crops up in off-line arenas as well. Late last year, I read a very entertaining story in the Chicago Tribune (that inexplicably isn't on their site anymore...) about Tino Sehgal's Kiss exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It basically involves two "dancers" making out on the floor of the museum, while museum patrons usually avert their eyes or quickly leave the room without realizing it's an exhibit. In this way, their reaction to the piece helps shape the context and meaning of the piece. (Whoa...that last sentence sounded like something out of an art history term paper or something. Sorry about that.)

So where should the flash mobbers go from here? Since they're based in New York City anyway, I'd kind of like to see them cause this scene:


Katie Fee said...

That video is so cool. I'm sure it would have been so freaky to witness in person. And what a fun concept - to totally mess with people's minds like that.

Anonymous said...

So funny - Let's bring it to Chicago!

-a mime