Mass Ornament is a video installation in which hundreds of clips from YouTube of people dancing alone in their rooms are edited together to create a large formation dance with choreographed waves of synchronized movement. The dance recalls historical representations of synchronized mass movements of bodies in formations, from the Tiller Girls and Busby Berkley, to Leni Riefenstahl, as well as to Siegfried Kracauer’s 1927 essay on the mass ornament.
Kracauer argued that the synchronized movement of chorus line dancers reflected the logic of a Fordist economic system. Mass Ornament looks at how the YouTube dancer, alone in her room, performing a dance routine that is both extremely private and extraordinarily public, is, in its way, a perfect expression of our age. With its emphasis on the individual, the home, and individuated and internalized production, the dance embodies some key characteristics of post-Fordism, and suggests some of the ways that social and economic rationalization has extended its reach, encroaching on what used to be our private spaces - our homes, our bodies and our social relations. Just as rows of spectators once sat in theaters and stadiums watching rows of bodies moving in formation, today millions of viewers sit alone in front of their computer screens watching individual dancers voluntarily moving in formation, alone in their rooms. At the same time, the dancers seem to make small claims for embodiment and public-ness in the face of their disappearance in the disembodied, isolated, online environment.
text and images from artist Natalie Bookchin who made this amazing video piece