Epic Balloon Battle!
MP3 Experiment by Improv Everywhere
“Art is great… Live art is even better… As part of the Design Indaba, Improv Everywhere has been invited to Cape Town this February to stage a mass prank/live art piece at Camps Bay called the Mp3 Experiment” – My City by Night
It was Sunday afternoon on Camps Bay and at exactly 15:00 the experiment began. Random people, strangers and friends gathered at a park wearing either a red, blue, yellow or green t-shirt while tuned into their mp3 players or phones. What the general public did not know was that all these people were listening to the same mp3 file with a narrator named “Steve” telling them what to do. I was one of the undercover agents on a mission and as I turned on my mp3 player Steve the ‘omnipotent voice’ said, “Raise your hands in the air, as if to educate that you do not care.” All participants raised their hands…let the games begin!
A sweltering hot Sunday and a buzz of excitement starts the Mp3 Experiment. A cluster of red, yellow, blue and green t-shirts eagerly run around and play freeze tag, hug strangers, hug animals and other instructed group tasks. Between tasks Steve the narrator ordered the group to have “naps” which required them to sleep on the floor. A lady sitting on a bench nearby gestures and whispers on her cell phone, “I don’t know what’s going on! They just lying on the floor, all these people.” Human twister was played and a big dart board formed from the coloured t-shirts. For 45 minutes the crowd creates pandemonium which ends in the Epic Battle – a balloon fight to the death (actually a dramatic enactment of one).
Charlie Todd alongside his organisation, Improv Everywhere has been arranging these public performances called Mp3 Experiments and has toured for festivals and conferences to Germany, Berlin and Australia. Improv Everywhere came straight to our front door as Design Indaba has invited Todd to prank around Cape Town as a promotion strategy. Improv Everywhere sets missions to spread joy and chaos. Those who take part feel as if they are agents on some bigger mission; a momentary unity in just pure fun despite what bewildered onlookers may think.
Random nap times
David Pogue of the New York Times took part in 2009 described it as “…part mass hypnosis, part party, part comedy club… like a political rally, but with more to do”. One of the annual events is the No Pants Subway Ride where people from countries all over the world take off their pants on subways while acting as if nothings amiss. The Mp3 Experiments continue to spread laughter and mass confusion and I believe it’s a great way to unite people in a moment of silliness. The idea is amazing, the concept profound.
No pants subway shocks onlookers