Sunday, December 19, 2010

Guerilla Art

A couple of weeks ago, colleague Cameron Louis forwarded a youtube link to a Chorus Niagara flash mob.  Over 100 singers gathered at the Welland Seaway Mall to sing "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah to surprised shoppers in the food court.  No one complained about having their space invaded by classical music while they enjoyed their lunch.  Rather, the videographers, AlphabetPhotography, capture delight, fascination, surprise, and joy on the faces of the people gathered there.

Flash mobs are wonderful celebrations of the human spirit, of our desire to give and take collective delight when an ingenious, dedicated group of people works to bring art to us in our public spaces.  "Frozen," the Grand Central Station flash mob where over 200 people freeze in place at the same instant, changes that anonynous, familiar public space, making it strange and curious.  People who would normally have passed by one another without a word now ask each other what's happening, what it means.  Is it a protest?  How long has it been going on?  They walk around the frozen figures, nudging them slightly to see what happens.  The beautifully choreographed and rehearsed flash mob in Liverpool Station of the London Underground not only completely interrupts people's routines, but seeks to get the audience involved in the dance; one of the delightful moments the cameras captured was two portly grey-haired ladies dancing like teenagers.

I suppose you could say graffiti is the visual art world's version of the flash mob.  Once again, something completely unprepossessing like a rail car or a brick wall can be transformed into art, making the mundane and unseen into something curious, inspiring, or provocative.  I suppose you could say that anyone with a can of spray paint can deface a public space, but artists like Banksy can also  transform it into an inventive moment of puzzlement, protest, contemplation, or surprise. 

Since Cameron sent the Chorus Niagara url, I've been thinking that we need more flash mobs, more ingenious and surprising moments when art interrupts the tedium of our daily lives.  Is there a way we can flash mob a novel or a poem, or is the written word simply too private for that kind of experience?

Here's the url for the Chorus Niagara flash mob:

The photographs are by my daughter, Veronica Geminder.  One summer day we drove to a railroad siding between Chamberlain and Davidson Saskatchewan where they apparently keep "defaced" railcars.  More of her photographs of railcars can be seen on her flicker site:

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