Remarkable "morale images" have been published, taken by an English photographer after the war in 1918. The vast perspective-compensated tableaux required up to 30,000 newly returned US servicemen, each acting as a black - or white - dot. They are stunning, humbling photographs. And yet... isn't there always the hint of something a little terrifying behind a such large scale use of human beings? According to the Telegraph article:
"It worked so well because these men were used to following orders..."
To find such displays nowadays, you have to look to Asian countries where individualism is less primary. South Korea is pretty good at them. North Korea is the world leader, with its mass of children disciplined in fascistic gymnastics (the pixels in the vast banner behind the dancers are people).
The modern Western form is perhaps Spencer Tunick, but I'm not sure the motive is the same. The nude people he corrals for his images are not doing it out of obedience or enforced patriotism, but voluntarily. I'd guess, out of an individualised narcissism or a liberated exhibitionism. They're not acting with much unity of purpose - apart from all getting their kit off - and form only the most rudimentary visual patterns. Only the number matters; it's the "if it's big, it's art" approach.
Whatever the causes of these human agglomerations, they recall by their repulsive beauty the slime-mould: semi-autonomous single-cell entities with the remarkable will to unite into a composite cytoplasm.
Hmm. Maybe I just never responded well to authority.
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