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Friday, 16 January 2009

The Power of the (Flash) Mob, Performance Art and the Feel of Silence

For those of you who missed yesterday's, Thursday's post concerning Geordie Ferrets, please see further down the page - I have been all over the place with the dates for my posts, sorry for any confusion caused!

Today is Friday, so I really don't understand why the blog is now showing Thursday - I have had it with Blogger! Bring on the Luddites!!!

Ever heard of Flash Mob? Here's a very short introductory clip courtesy of Look North - the North East's local TV Station about the phenomenon, including crappily posed piece by the studio staff!

Just shout if you need anything translated - but you can see how people really get into it, and onlookers, even the elderly, aren't unsettled; They are amused, bemused and perhaps pushed a little bit outside their comfort zones, but hey, they seem ultimately cool about what has happened to them.
It wouldn't be me without a little bit of WIKI history, would it?

"The first flash mob was created in Manhattan in May 2003, by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper's Magazine. The origins of the flash mobs were unknown until Wasik published an article about his creation in the March 2006 edition of Harper's. The first attempt was unsuccessful after the targeted retail store was tipped off about the plan for people to gather.

Wasik avoided such problems during the second flash mob, which occurred in June 3, 2003 at Macy's department store, by sending participants to preliminary staging areas—in four prearranged Manhattan bars—where they received further instructions about the ultimate event and location just before the event began.

More than one hundred people converged upon the ninth floor rug department, gathering around an expensive rug. Anyone approached by a sales assistant was asked to say that the gatherers lived together in a warehouse on the outskirts of New York, that they were shopping for a "love rug".

Subsequently, 200 people flooded the lobby and mezzanine of the Hyatt hotel in synchronized applause for about fifteen seconds, and a shoe boutique in SoHo was invaded by participants pretending to be tourists on a bus trip.

Wasik claimed that he created flash mobs as a social experiment designed to poke fun at hipsters and to highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity and of wanting to be an insider or part of "the next big thing." The Vancouver Sun wrote, "It may have backfired on him... [Wasik] may instead have ended up giving conformity a vehicle that allowed it to appear nonconforming."

And so, flash mobs are a form of performance art and spontaneous social interaction. The phenomenon uses modern communications technologies, (just like us!), including decentralised personal networking, known as smartmobbing, the Internet, email, chat rooms and text messaging, so not actually spontaneous at all, but definitely subversive and 'underground'. Sometimes these get-togethers are used as a means of making charitable donations, such as taking food to the homeless, so they're a good thing, right?!

The first recorded use of the term flash mob was in 2003 in a blog entry posted in the aftermath of Wasik's event. And so we are returned to our world of what you could call Flash Blogging... You know the kind of thing:- Where someone writes a poignant and meaningful piece, or chooses particularly touching images, and it sets you or I off on a chain of thought, that serves to influence our writing or thought patterns in turn...

This short video shows the recent Flashmob Finger Gun Fight at the Tate, London

My own first experience of these flash mob performances, was when I and GJ were two out of only 100,000 people in the UK who tuned in to the newish station BBC Three to watch Flashmob - the Opera, which took over London's Paddington station one evening when people were making their way home from work.

Three professional singers and 65 musicians from the BBC Concert Orchestra belted out popular arias from operas such as Madame Butterfly, Don Giovanni and La Traviata. They were joined by opera lovers and performance buffs, who wanted to play their part in the fun, bringing opera to the commuting masses... Unsuspecting travellers wandering around the concourse were regaled with an aria from a woman, dressed in a red winter coat, who appeared to be going about her normal business, while mourning her lovelorn state. commuters.

Over the years and months since 2003 there have been other kinds of social gatherings, across the world, and these are just a few:

Photobucket ... Pillow Fights across the world, here in Paris.

and here in, I think this is Germany:


Giant Conga Lines, just like the one in Newcastle:


And people just doing something odd - It looks pretty cold for the posers of this piece:

I just recently learned from a colleague about the trend for wedding parties to break out into an impromptu rendition of Michael Jackson'sPhotobucket 'Thriller' dance - Look for it on Youtube, there are many amateur videos, some obviously more rehearsed than others... Photobucket Great fun, and seeing the brides taking their dance so seriously in their frou-frou dresses is priceless! This sits slightly outside the world of Flash Mobbing, but is based on the same principles, of course.

Which brings me to another form, and my favourite Flash Mob performance - The Big Freeze in Paris. Please take the 5 minutes to watch it - The music isn't bad either. This is the official video by the way, and it's just amazing to see people's reactions to the freeze, including the Police and the many tourists. And some of the poses being held for 5 mins are incredible...

What moves me in this piece is the stillness, and to be fair, appreciating those still moments in life, in our ever hectic lives, is not the easiest of things to do... How often do any of us just sit, still our minds, and properly reflect for more than five minutes?

Do we allow ourselves the thinking time we deserve, when we are busy with our children, our animals, and our understandable and ever-present cares and our woes? Ought we not to occasionally stop to smell the flowers, and not just photograph them, for example?

Braja recently posted on silence and its strength, so I will not replicate that here, but it is important to note that:

'The benefits of silence and an empty mind are well known: less stress, clearer thinking - Studies have even pointed to a strengthened immune system and better heart health. Silence is something to welcome. It's nurturing and refreshing. It offers a unique feeling of peace'. (Source: allspiritfitness.com)

So, do look out for Flash Mob - There is a website - Google it if you want to take part, and you could be alerted by text message to the one nearest you, and you could be the next Flash Mob Ninja, or Still As A Statue I see!


Diane said...

I've heard of Flash Mobs but never witnessed an 'event' up close.

RE your time-stamp, are you set to UK time? When I first started, I was set on Pacific Time for some reason, so all my posts were showing 3 hour earlier than I was publishing. Since it is still Thursday here, maybe you're set on US time?

A Woman Of No Importance said...

~It must be so, Diane, it is 00.33 here - and I really ought to be in bed, but I thought I had mastered the techie stuff today, and was just waiting for after midnight to post Friday's blog proper!

Grizzler saw a Thriller Flash Mob last year in Newcastle, and I know of some kicking off soon across the globe - Interesting stuff! The Flash Mob Opera was really good!

Clippy Mat said...

great to see everyone around grey's monument having a laugh. i tried looking to see if there was by chance anyone i knew but sadly no. never mind, love the end music on look north. :-)

Anonymous said...

Excellent article! I read every word and enjoyed your thorough explanation and interest in the flash mob art culture.

La Belette Rouge said...

I would love to participate in a group pillow fight.

Anonymous said...

Great blog! And a pillow fight sure sounds like fun. Bravo.

Ever Yours,
Clayrn Darrow

auntiegwen said...

I love the stillness one

Leatherdykeuk said...

Fabulous post.
I hadn't seen the paris one, but NY Central Station was amazing, too.
I couldn't hold some of those poses for a minute, let alone five.

Chairman Bill said...

Ref the silence thing - it's called living in the moment and it's something I find very hard to do. I feel driven to fill every waking moment with activity.

Many are the times I haev felt torn between 3 or 4 urgent things and only end up doing nothing as I can't decide which bloody thing to do.


A Woman Of No Importance said...

I am just astounded to have received some 'props', I think they're called from Houston Flash Mob, thankyou! - Fabulous, will do wonders for my street cred with my teenage son... Well perhaps it's too late for that!

Welcome Clay - I've just dipped into your blog and it's fascinating!

Clipstress, I thought it would be nice for you to see another bit of home - I am often around the Monument when at work, but rarely see anyone I know, apart from the Earl Grey, of course!

Auntie Gwen - As Leatherdykeuk says there's also a great clip on Youtube concerning the Flash Mob performance at Grand Central Station in NY.

Just stopping the wheel for a bit, stepping out of our routines and comfort zones and encouraging others to do the same, as Chairman Bill says is really important, and can be exhilarating. But it's so difficult for all of us, isn't it? Whether we've got kids or not, early onset Alzheimer's, or just hectic lives!

Although the pillow fights, as Belle says, would be amazing fun and probably a great stress reliever!

MIMILEE said...

What will they THINK of NEXT!! Must be some folks out there with not much to do!!! LOL

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

check your previous posts comments, as l left instructions on how to alter the dates for your posts..if you dont you dont go tot the top of our blog lists and we dont visit...so its a MUST

A Woman Of No Importance said...

MIMI - Welcome to you!

FFF: Thank you so much Saz - I think I might have done it properly today - I ran a test and it seemed to work... I was, as Diane said, on Pacific Time! Hey, if it means we get better weather! Saz, I emailed you re the Google chat, please tell me if you did not receive that? Have a lovely, lovely weekend, all x

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Blackie said...

hello! I love too this flashmob idea, in Spain we're developing it little by little. Last thursday, actually, we had the official Glee Flashmob in Madrid. Check it out:

and congratulations 4 the post, keep on with the good job!

Something I wrote earlier...

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