Ode to the Flashmob

The media started covering the flashmob craze in the early 00’s, and has since exploded as a pop culture phenomenon. Flashmobs could be inspired acts of random fun created with the intention of bringing a moment of enjoyment to those passer-by’s. Flashmobs are public performances choreographed in advance and executed at random in a prominent public place.

If you haven’t participated in one yourself, odds are you’ve seen one or know someone who has. A seemingly spontaneous large scale performance unexpectedly erupts and it is over just as quickly as it began,df leaving both the participants and the audience to return to life as usual. Thanks to the Internet, these once-in-a-lifetime performances are captured on film and archived for out viewing pleasure. Flashmobs have become so commonplace that they were featured on recent episodes of ABC’s Modern Family and Fox’s Glee.

As any art historian knows, the evolution of the flashmob arguably starts with the Guerrilla Girls. Established in 1985 in New York City, a group of anonymous females took to the streets to exposed discrimination and sexism in a blunt and clever manner. They brought awareness to the public via posters, billboards, stickers, appearances (outfitted in gorilla masks) and more. They used provocative images and humor to encourage discussion on serious issues, and their success was due largely by their approach: reaching out to people in their every day lives where they’d least expect it. They cornered the market on memorable and meaningful public messages.

"Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" Copyright © 1989, 1995 by Guerrilla Girls

Perhaps the Guerrilla Girls are responsive for inspiring the term guerrilla marketing. In recent years, flashmobs have been appropriated as a form of viral marketing. Large groups of people get together, do a little dance, sing a universally know song, and BAM! You come to find out this flashmob was brought to you courtesy of a corporate sponsorship. I don’t think this is at all what the Guerilla Girls had in mind, and I’m sure wherever they are they’re reveling in the poetic irony.

T-mobile took advantage of the flashmob craze by sponsoring a performance in the Liverpool Street tube station in London:

Regardless of the intent behind them, Flashmob videos quickly go viral, as evidenced by the number of hits on Improv Everywhere videos. Frozen in Grand Central Station is one of my favorites (currently bosts nearly 29 million views!):

San Francisco gets in on the action with it’s annual Valentine’s Day Pillowfight:

Use Artlarking’s Creative Classifieds or flashmob.com to organize your own flashmob.

Update: Just can’t wait to be part of a flash mob, you SF folks are in luck! Friday, April 22 at noon in Union Square: Join in and be part of the flashmob kick-off event for Bay Area National Dance Week. (Thank you to Maureen for writing in about this!)

1 thought on “Ode to the Flashmob

  1. Maureen

    Speaking of flash mobs….there will be a rockin’ one tomorrow (Fri, Apr 22) at noon in Union Square. It’s the kick-off event for Bay Area National Dance Week, a 10-day festival of over 500 free classes, workshops, performances, lectures, and studio open houses, all over the Bay Area. It’s all dance, all free, all week! Happy Dancing! bayareandw.org


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