Human beings are social creatures. We can socialize with friends and family at home or in a bar but to play our part in society we need opportunities to express ourselves in public. In order for culture to be open to ordinary people we need public spaces. Generally these spaces are outside — think of a parade or a march or a busker entertaining a crowd — but people should also be able to express themselves culturally and politically in indoor spaces. Spaces that welcome spontaneity allow us to entertain each other and make strangers laugh, they allow us to voice our concerns about justice and governance, and, most importantly, they let us come together and explore what it means to be human. This two-part blog post highlights ten videos of people expressing themselves in unexpected ways in indoor public spaces.
On the subway we tend to look at the floor and ignore our fellow citizens, but great things can happen when we flout these (anti-)social conventions. When we turn these daily encounters on their head, we are reminded that we share our cities with millions of other living, breathing, thinking people, all of whom want to experience new things. Sometimes these shared moments come in the form of a couple of amateur musicians surprising a whole train of passengers — and each other — after a night out:
1. New York City Sax Battle
A spontaneous jam session is awesome, but an elaborate, carefully-choreographed performance designed for the sole purpose of weirding people out can really leave your head spinning:
2. Improv Everywhere Human Mirror
Improv Everywhere has been orchestrating events that inject huge doses of absurdity into otherwise ordinary urban spaces for many years now. Their Youtube channel is definitely worth checking out.
But we can do more than just entertain and perplex in indoor public spaces; we can also makes statements about the type of city we hope to live in:
3. Breast-feeding Protest in Costa Rica
Sometimes we can only change the conditions of our daily lives by living the life we hope to live in the face of the social pressures that make it difficult. If we do so in sufficient numbers, we can begin to change the shape of our society and our cities. A protest like this recalls the feminist slogan ‘the personal is political.’ These people are doing ordinary daily activities, but, by doing so collectively, they are sharing a meaningful experience and creating new cultural norms.
4. Protest at the Guggenheim Museum
This protest is about labour conditions at the construction site of a Guggenheim spin-off in Abu Dhabi. What is so interesting about it is that it is both a theatrical display and a political protest. It creates a strange and eerie experience for museum-goers — not unlike the human mirror — but it is also highlighting a serious political issue. Two aspects of cultural creation are bound up in a single moment.
For our fifth video, we return to the world of transit. Listen as an Icelandic band sings an ancient hymn in a train station in Germany:
5. Árstíðir Flood a Train Station with Celestial Harmonies
Listen to those acoustics! Honestly, this video gives me chills. Can you imagine walking into that station to board a train and encountering this otherwordly sound!
We hope you enjoyed part one of our two part series. In part two you can expect to see dancing! singing! rollerskating! and more protesting!