Mob Magic

Two weeks ago in London, a crowd of 'flash mobbers' arrived in front of magician-cum-performance artist David Blaine, who was in the midst of conducting a forty-four day starvation challenge in a suspended man-cage. The supportive mobbers paid tribute to the spectacle by raising their mobile phones in the air, letting them ring for a one minute duration, and then shouting, 'What goes up must come down!' The American-born 'Flash Mobs' are e-mail and cell phone driven experiments in group organization, during which strangers arrive unannounced in public places, interact according to a loose script, and then suddenly dissipate. The quasi-Dada events avert explicit political affiliation: mobbers instead orchestrate a circuitry of trans-national whimsy through networking blogs, websites, and listservs that announce and script the public events. Nonetheless, when mobbers in Mumbai, India were recently banned, their comrades in South Africa argued on their behalf that the peaceful performances signify the essence of democratic freedom. Neither artists, nor political activists, flash mobbers constitute micro-publics that for a brief moment magically assert the plausibility of revolution or at the very least a compact, weird party. - Matt Wolf