Art is over. There hasn’t been any significant artistic movements or “isms” in nearly 50 years. Some art experts believe Andy Warhol helped hammer the final nails into the coffin with Pop Art. In the early 1960s, with the arrival of the Xerox machine, Warhol was able to photocopy images of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe dozens of times until they were meaningless. Copies of copies of copies. Art was a parody. Art was a commodity. Art was over.
With the passing of significant tactile art movements came a new form of expression called performance art. It became popular with the hippies in the 1960s with “Happenings” and “Be-Ins.” There might be music, face painting, dancing, blowing bubbles, nudity, laughter, hugging, crying, tumbling. There was no limit or restrictions on what these events could be. They were beautiful moments, created by many beautiful people. Then everyone would pack up and head home with only groovy stories to tell.
The main point was performance art was temporary. It wasn’t to be hung in a gallery. That’s already been done, dead, and over.
This was a new creative mode. But you had to be there. No really. You had to be there. Either you were part of it or you weren’t.
Flash mobs continue in this same vein today. Dozens of people coming together to create a random and temporary artistic display. These gatherings could be anything from hundreds of strangers suddenly squirting one another with water guns in a city park or a “seemingly” impromptu ballroom gala inside a shopping mall. Again, temporary art, not for mass public consumption. You either see it or you don’t. You snooze, you lose.
A flash mob makes you famous for 15 minutes, a term coined by Warhol himself regarding fame in the future.
With the accelerated spread of video camera cell phones, hardly a flash mob occurs without being filmed and instantly placed theoretically forever on the internet. But you see, this is all wrong. Flash mobs are temporary performance art pieces. Not movie sets. Not gallery works. Filming a flash mob takes away its power and beauty. It tells the world they don’t have to be there. Stay home and wait. Don’t participate. All the good stuff will just end up on the internet anyway.
Next time you’re walking through the middle of your city and a hundred people suddenly and inexplicably freeze like statues, enjoy the magic, but leave the cell phone in your pocket.