Best Example of Group Discipline
Pyongyang, North Korea
When attending the mass games in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, adventurous visitors to the planet's most secretive nation alight from their tour bus into what seems like chaos. Huge swathes of the parking zone have been commandeered by teenage gymnasts in fuchsia-and-turquoise leotards. As floodlights cast long and moody shadows across the tarmac, soldiers from the nation's 1.2 million-strong army march here and there through the good-natured melee. But there is nothing chaotic about what follows when spectators and performers enter the May Day Stadium.
Incorporating up to 100,000 performers, the Mass Games a state propaganda exercise that is part pageant, part rhythmic gymnastics and all weird require more than a million man-hours of preparation. This level of dedication, on an individual scale, was made famous by the 2003 British documentary A State of Mind, which followed two child performers as they trained for up to 10 hours a day in subzero temperatures. When it all comes together, the group dynamics are spectacular. Think of it as state ideology in motion, a hypnotic, surreal simulacrum of the masses striving in unison.
All the action isn't on the field. The games are performed against a morphing mosaic that sprawls across a side of the stadium. Created by up to 20,000 children flipping through the colored pages of pre-prepared books, the display, according to Guinness World Records, is the world's "largest gymnastic and artistic performance." Since 2002, the folk tale Arirang a story of separated lovers, used as a metaphor for the divided Korean peninsula has been a favorite visual theme. But that doesn't stop revolutionary history from punctuating the tale. The experience of facing an army of schoolchildren and being bombarded with images each the size of a high-rise apartment block of communist soldiers baring both teeth and bayonets is memorably unnerving.
Next Johar Joshanda