Political Art and Activism: Flash Mob

Images and sounds have always played an important role in shaping our identity, our culture and our perspectives of history. Art has an immeasurable power to influence people, to inspire ideas and to motivate change. Political Art and Activism is a series from National Collective that showcases innovative artists whose work brings awareness to important issues and inspires political and social change across our planet.

Flash mob
— noun

a public gathering of friends or complete strangers, organised via the Internet or mobile phone, who perform a pointless or useful act and then disperse again.

The flash mob was first conceived by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine, as a social experiment designed to poke fun at hipsters and to highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity, of wanting to be an insider or part of ‘the next big thing’. Whilst flash mobs are usually organised for the spontaneous fun and amusement of the participants and the bewilderment of bystanders, they have also be utilised to convey a particular political or commercial message.

‘Here Comes The Sun’ flash mob

At a time when Spain is enduring unemployment at 26%, Carne Cruda 2.0, a programme on the Spanish Cadena SER network, sent a small orchestra to flash mob the waiting room of a busy Madrid unemployment office. Their touching performance of The Beatles ‘Here Comes The Sun’ instantly went viral across the globe and brought international attention to Spain’s growing economic crisis.

‘Recycling a bottle’ flash mob

A flash mob designed to place the spotlight on the 400 million plastic containers that are not recycled in Quebec each year. In this rewarding stunt, a woman is stunned after she puts a plastic bottle in a bin — and receives a standing ovation from 2,000 onlookers.

‘Education’ flash mob

Over 1000 students staged a flash mob in 2011 by dancing Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ in full Zombie regalia to protest the death of public education in Chile. The event was part of a series of student-led protests demanding a new framework for education in the country, including more direct state participation in secondary education and an end to the existence of profit in higher education.

‘Independence’ flash mob

Recorded on the 18th of March 2012 at 12pm at the Plaça Catalunya, in Barcelona, 8.500 people filled the centre of the square with pro-Independence flags in a flash action designed to promote independence for Catalonia. The region is due to hold a referendum on independence from Spain in 2014.

‘Syria’ flash mob

Young Muslim activists staged a flash mob protest against the Syrian regime at Sydney’s Darling Harbour in 2012. Activists dressed in army fatigues aimed fake guns at women and children participants huddled in defenceless positions, re-enacting what organisers say is real life brutality that takes place under Syrian president Bashar Assad’s regime.

Ross Colquhoun
National Collective



About Ross Colquhoun

Ross Colquhoun is a visual artist, graphic designer and the director of National Collective. An alumni of Edinburgh College of Art's School of Visual Communication and founder of Human Resources, he believes that art has immeasurable power to influence people, to inspire ideas and to motivate change. He envisions a scenario in which independence would bring a new cultural confidence to Scotland.