Hey, Flash Mobbers! Once again, it's time to rattle the chains of the torpid social system with another mass experiment in radical phenomenology. Let's get Situationist-ical-errific(titious)!
Set your PDAs and PDA-enabled cellular phones because this Sunday, at precisely 2:13pm, we'll be descending on New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. We'll meet in the concourse – be certain to avoid eye contact with other 'shmobbers to ensure both our anonymity and our objective. Mum's the word. (WINK!)
Then, slowly, purposefully and, of course, en masse, we will proceed to the ticket counter and queue up in an orderly fashion. As each 'shmobber approaches the front of the line, he or she will pay the suggested donation or, failing that, whatever amount is immediately affordable. PLEASE DO NOT LAUGH OR OTHERWISE BREAK CHARACTER. Simply adhere your "visitor" button – ironically, of course -- somewhere that will be highly visible to museum security, and casually pass into the museum hall. Let's keep cool heads, OK? No digital pics for your photolog this time.
OK, at this point everybody will probably be tempted to fall down and writhe around briefly, or inspect their wristwatches at the same time, or maybe make a quacking sound. Please, resist. Instead, together, or in small groups, walk slowly through the galleries, pausing frequently to look at art. Head over to the Dutch Masters, or wend your way toward the Phoenician pottery. Study the detailed hands on that John Singer Sargent portrait. And don't just run through a gallery, checking the paintings' placards and announcing out loud, "Yup. Modigliani – just as I suspected." This is not a scavenger hunt or a final exam – it's absurdist performance art. (duh) When the museum closes, exit but don't head home just yet!
This is where it gets INSANE. On your way out of the museum, find another 'shmobber, or call a friend, and head to a nearby bar, post-haste. Grab a drink and talk about art. Talk about history. Talk about what moves you or, if you've had a few drinks, talk about why you haven't been open to a moving experience lately.
Talk about how, after feeling nothing especially memorable for longer than you care to remember, you thought Flash Mobs would be a good way to imbue your life with the sense of confrontation it has purposefully lacked since before adolescence, and has only become further amplified with the no-touch dawn of the digital age. And how this brief, regular shared "happening" with dozens of anonymous strangers is the closest thing you can approximate to an honest sense of experiential community now that your collection of online acquaintances and AOL Instant Messaging screen names outnumbers your deep, in-the-flesh human connections. That you measure yourself by voicemails, emails, address books, and Friendsters, but none of these means satisfy your sense of personal fulfillment any more than purchasing a DVD when you're feeling blue. By the time you hit "delete" or remove the shrinkwrap and security stickers, your fizzy joy has already flattened, displaced by a familiar ennui.
Explain how you sometimes feel intense phantom pains where real love and affection have gone missing, but how you've nonetheless convinced yourself it is far better to keep your back to bar full of potentially like-minded but largely unknown peers than to expose yourself to the discomfort of loaded eye contact, confusing body language and embarrassed misrepresentation caused by nervousness. And how, upon returning home alone and untouched by anything resembling The New, you boot up your computer and peruse personal ads for a full hour, hoping to find an online knock-off model of the boy at the bar who played that Generation X single you can never remember the name of, the one that makes you dance like you're at your own slumber party. And you click through scores of similar profiles trying to find a proxy for the boy whose glasses reflected the warm, colored lights from the jukebox as he carefully studied the selections and took a few unconscious sips through the straw stirring his Wild Turkey and cola, opening up a magical time portal for just a second to afford you an excited peek at his eight-year old self.
But you know this is ridiculous, this exercise, because you'll just wish a series of qualities on that boy's online counterpart, so you add someone (Massive Attack puts him in the mood, too!) to your Hot List but decide not to email him yet because all you can think about is how nice it would be to have someone press his face against the soft part of your neck without feeling you were both intuitively following a cold script designed to safeguard you from the hurt of mystery.
And confess how you've come to believe maybe Flash Mobs aren't really an experiment in phenomenology after all. Maybe instead of pointing out how bored and stultified society is, they're inadvertently pointing out how their participants fear their own feelings of boredom and ineffectualness. Maybe they're a collective plea for real companionship, however brief or meaningless. Perhaps they feel like the only way left to say "I did something real with someone else. I was there. Not watching, but doing," when you've reached a point in your life where you've suddenly stopped creating ideas, but just reference and opine on others' while worrying if your point of view is aligned with the most fashionable one, or if your own point of view is even truly yours. And just as you have started to feel like you're genuinely enjoying Flash Mobs, instead of wondering whether they are keeping you from more meaningful experiences, you simply wonder whether or not they are "over" yet. Whether you are over. And whether you'll ever be the first person to notice if they/you are or, preferably, the last person to care.
Most importantly, as you bang your empty pint glass against the scuffed wooden bar top, you wonder out loud if these Flash Mobs or any number of other recent experiences are just precognitive journal entries waiting to happen. You might want to stop fighting it, let your eyes close on their own, and maybe lunge forward and kiss if your skin feels prickly.
Do that, OK? Starting at 2:13pm. Then, after you do all of it, you can totally go home and blog it! That would be truly absurd(ist).