Upon hearing that Chicago’s Queer Intercollegiate Alliance was planning to stage a flash mob on the steps of the Art Institute, I was instantly reminded of the scene in Gus Van Sant’s film “Milk,” in which a furious horde of gay rights activists spills out into the streets of San Francisco and sends a trolley careening off of its rails. So imagine my disappointment when I arrived at the Institute at 6pm last Thursday, only to find that the “flash mob” consisted of about thirty blue-lipped college students (a bit less than the 550 who had replied “attending” on Facebook) forming a disjointed, shivering rainbow and being corralled to one side of the steps by slightly amused museum guards.
Participants in the alleged mob had intended to form a sprawling spectrum, in which students of different Chicago colleges were to don different colors. The end result, however, was severely lopsided: the most widely represented color in this righteous rainbow was red, Loyola University Chicago’s color, which probably correlates to the fact that the organizer of the event, Roland Miranda, attends Loyola. Although orange (University of Illinois at Chicago) had fewer constituents, it should be noted that it boasted one towering activist in tangerine-colored spandex leggings and a ginger wig.
The crowd, rather than adhering to their “flash” moniker, strayed from the congregate-and-disperse protocol established by flash mobsters like Improv Everywhere and participants in the World Naked Bike Ride. The handful of chilly, cheery students mostly stood in a disorganized line beside an unnecessary barricade as at least five photographers (including one from the Weekly) snapped photos of the dedicated bunch in their multicolored array.
It was unclear whether this particular gathering constituted a protest. There seemed to be no particular grievance that the Queer Intercollegiate Alliance wished to air, no Ninety-Five Theses to nail to the door of our heteronormative society. The group eventually moved into the galleries, where they were asked not to block the paths of other museum patrons. After some grumbling, the crowd shuffled into a room full of Impressionist portraits, where they were confronted by an entirely different interpretation of the colors of the rainbow.