When I heard of the flashmob being formed, I asked myself why persons would seek to dance amongst police and crowds: To congregate as pigeons, and to walk about the city in the hip hop of skipping dance? How this would happen and to what ends would the flashmob demonstrate an example of freedom.
Speech is sound organized by time, and hearing. But the silence of reason during the flashmob dance magnified a different type of speech: a musicality of body motion of a group of persons; a tribe of persons aware of how the world is connected and becoming disconnected. It also sampled who amongst the watchers would also dance, measuring an infectivity of a very human aspect of communication: dance.
Within the flashmob, a flashmob understanding of time and social space comes into being from the group’s perspective which is independent from the authority of surrounding institutions. It is the ability to look at multiple schedules, connect, network, and form a dance troupe upon the street towards creating internal reflection amongst dancers, police, republicans, and ordinary folks; bringing into thought the meaning of how persons go from place to place, and how time is measured. This is influencing how we navigate amongst relationships, and amongst groups, ever becoming part of an expanded consciousness that increasingly become influenced by the mental space of real time zero. It also influences how we develop multiple identities in a digital world: privacy beginning with a congregation upon a blog which allows the sounding of various opinions and concerns. Many wondered who was who from the planning blog.
The areas chosen for dance for me have the significance of multiple past memories: the most resent represent the re burgeoning of my own personal re discovery of writing poetry through learning about performance art. The main theme has been how a surveillance superhighway is converging with consumer technologies. How is memory part of mental space and to how it represents a real time space that becomes our community? What are the local history, the personal, and the world history of a series of events and happenings?
In 1953, in Englewood New Jersey, the first coast to coast phone call without operator assistance was made. This local event highlights how different our world is becoming. With cell phones and digital cameras everywhere, the idea of personal image processing, and the ability to communicate in real time, at immediate speeds, is beginning to affect not only how we see the world, but our ideas about where the self is, virtually, or in ‘real’ place. The planning of the flashmob dance involved searching for a human network and the body electric of commonality that embraces freedom in dance: bridges and cars, buses and trains, cabs and pedestrians, all traveling to a whirlwind republican momentary Mecca.
This current of the revolution of communication, is juxtaposed upon a world that is increasingly becoming monitored. The consequences of ubiquitous computing have yet to be fully understood: with computing power everywhere, with the ability to tract each flush of a toilet, or electronic door opening, or car violating easy pass, the features of ubiquitous computing integrated into the architecture of our current world are beginning to be experienced. The concepts of a panopticon come to mind in a world filled with cameras and systems to gently persuade action and behavior. Glass building prototypes had been constructed for exploration of the all seeing system proposed by Bentham as early as the late 1800′s. Within the crowded city, we are faced with a changing attitude of privacy and anonymity that engages the secret world of the self. Foucault’s concept of power comes to mind in the context of everything becoming a tool that monitors and stores information on how the tool is used. With unauthorized uses of these tools, our behavior is modified via a system of small, but influential punishments. How do we co-exist and thrive in such an environment: how do we understand how information storage and data mining will bring into being all sorts of profiling? We are all profiled with each credit card purchase, or via internet surfing, the actions part of the details of our behavior that advertisers find fascinating, and tailor ads towards securing our purchases. Again, in a post 9/11 world, the importance of Homeland ‘Security’ also brings in an international search for those who fit a profile of being a terrorist. The importance of a system that is 100 percent, means screening ALL innocent persons.
So hence we dance: a paradox to walking, a thinking dance that mirrors the uncertainty reflected within the stares of pedestrians: a dance that is caught on video, camera, cellphone, text message, and photojournalists, both professional and amateur. The surveillance cameras also watch, so the entire field becomes projected upon governmental as well as individual and independent group networks. The camera camera everywhere experience teaches us about how Sousveillance becomes an equivalence, or balanced panopticon in the setting of everybody watching: soon the images will be seen by larger audiences and big brother meets a big everyone. Such was the meaning of dance, and the contrast to the open space between people, buildings, cars and police. The dancers would form a juggling bounce step to the sounds of music: every so often, the sound would be cut off and we would stand frozen as Grecian statues, each person a monument of freedom, frozen as deer or swan staring at the gunpoint of camera or of guns.
This reminds me of the detained lady: there was a point when we got real close to Madison Square Garden, that we were routed into the subway system by a funnel of guards who lead us to increasingly armed persons. At the top of the stairs where about 20 guards armed with automatic assault rifles: this all occurred as one crossed from the periphery of the security zone and approached the ground zero of republicanism. The tone in the voices of the guards also transitioned in response to the flashmob dance from pleasurable amusement, to frustrated uptightness, to the clenched teeth of let us bust some heads aura. The flashmob sensing the danger, blended in with the crowd, entered the subway, followed the escalator to the labyrinth and quickly turned around to regroup across the street at Macy’s, reappearing as a school of fish.
The machine gun guards where wired to a command post and all had wires coming from their ears. It was young lady’s backpack and press badge that set them into a suspicious frenzy, interacting with someone remotely who in turn radioed the officer about 20 feet down to pull her in for questioning. There was a photo of Bush getting a haircut on her badge that was as interesting as one of the other flashmobbers ‘I like Ike’ button: but the press badge upon a pedestrian with a backpack demanded a search and questioning session. In Ireland, as security intensified over a decade, the searches eventually became strip searches. I worried and stood besides the young lady and tried to get her out of a jam by stating I would sue (I meant it) the guard if anything bad happened to my fellow flashmob anonymous friend. The young lady probably thought I was nuts and shooed me away stating “I can handle this myself, stay out of it” as my camera ran out of digital space. A guard inside a paddy wagon took pictures of us with cellphone smirking and winking at us: evidence or just images lost to the crowd. I was funneled along; calling John Barlow, informing him that a posterior aspect of the crowd had been fragmented and open to the wolf secret service. We met outside Macy’s and gave my report to several other flashmobbers. “Which girl, what was her name?” echoed several flashmobbers as I began to report: it was a weird experience trying to identify a missing flashmobber. We experienced the thoughts of Argentinean and Chilean Junta disappearings. I brought out the camera and flashed through our collective experience (as a memory prosthetic) and found images of the young lady with a backpack, and we at that point connected the name Elizabeth to the image of the person I witnessed being detained. We experienced a bumming out, but a quiet comfort that she would probably be released after questioning, the worse being a fine and some legal paperwork: but I felt paranoia, and felt I was being watched by a group of persons in some command center somewhere. I then was directed to John and we all began to tell the story of detained Elizabeth, showing pictures: John left us for the place she was detained and called someone on the phone: the mood of exhaustion was mixed in with a subtle bumming out, a quiet reflection of how things happened. There was also a confidence in the system that nothing wrong would happen to Elizabeth, and that no wrong would befall her. So many police in one area: beyond the needs of the task: so much infrastructure was pulled in from the peripheral precincts. I wondered who would care for the tasks the police do such as respond to the old ladies who fall, or to the persons who are robbed, or to the persons who fall down the stairs. I remembered the number of heroin addicts who visited the hospitals in early August as security was increased in the surrounding ports and highways: they showed up like rats poisoned, dying of thirst and lost within the daze of poison. They soon disappeared into the crowd as the heroin came back into circulation; we cannot close down the hospitals by cutting off the supply of heroin, nor can we ever stop the possibility of shoulder to air missiles from being smuggled into the country: it is with this uncertainty that we live, and with this freedom that we are controlled. We place guards with assault rifles in bus terminals and protect Republicans with guns. We become comfortable with shoe removal in airports and increasingly, the style of cloths becomes such which can be taken off the easiest. We learn to enjoy our safety.
Freedom cannot occur in perfect isolation: one can maintain the solitude of the mind towards a private freedom within the imagination: but to be free, one needs the community of other persons who cherish similar freedoms. So hence, within the dance, we find moments of expression that are free. Its all part of a balance found within the harmony of being: and hence the natural state of a democratic society. Can democracy be infectious as it was after the American and French revolutions?