The art: Asger Jorn, Paris by Night, 1959
The news: “Police Scramble to Fight Flash-mob Mayhem,” Ashley Fantz, CNN
In what could be a scene from a dystopian futuristic film like Mad Max flash-mobs are erupting all over the world. The police seem to be powerless to control the mobs due to lack of technological expertise. Young people are organizing via social networking sites in order to meet up, loot, and/or assault pedestrians .These flash-mobs are symptomatic of an underlying sense of powerlessness endemic to youth today. The only way to feel power is to undermine capitalism’s societal norm with the anonymity provided by mob behavior. How else can young people attract national attention? It seems that the youth cannot but be negatively portrayed in the media and this is the result. These acts are subversive outcries in the battle of disparity waging everywhere.
Asger Jorn’s ( Danish, 1914-1973) Paris by Night, is a Detournement that subverts the capitalistic art object by defacing the type of cliche painting commonly sold to tourists on the streets of Paris. Jorn and the Situationists were using art as a means of rebellion from the invasion of American-style Capitalism in the Post-war period. This work depicts a kind of graffiti scrawl over the painting in shapes that resemble a mushroom cloud in the upper left over the city of Paris and a chaotic overflow of smoke in the foreground. The figure leisurely watches Paris burn from the safety of his balcony even as it sneaks up behind him. We cannot look at the collapsing of the world markets without seeing how it is affecting us right now. One of those ways is how youth has come to feel powerless as jobs become scarcer, corporations get tax payer bail outs, school seems pointless as higher education is skyrocketing in cost without concrete benefits- the future is bleak.