Why is this so utterly freakin' cool?
I have theories:
1. Because of the scale of the mischief.
2. Because it's disruptive, but essentially harmless.
3. Because of the way it forces a shift in awareness--the wonder and curiosity it elicits.
4. Because of the tension between opposites: stasis amid movement, pointlessness amid purpose, precision amid chaos, art amid commerce, a moment of timelessness in a place that's all about schedules, the unexpected monkey wrench thrown into the quotidian works.
5. Because it has a beginning, a middle, and an end—Aristotelian beauty—and each has a different effect.
Maybe the point about pointlessness is the real thing here. Can something be beautiful just because it's pointless?
William Carlos Williams has a poem that answers: Yes. Here's the first half of "The Crowd At The Ball Game":
The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly
by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them—
all the exciting detail
of the chase
and the escape, the error
the flash of genius—
all to no end save beauty
So in detail they, the crowd,
(Nice poem, up to there, and then he kind of loses it, if you ask me.) The ball game is the freeze and the crowd is everybody in Grand Central who's not in on the joke—and the beauty of the crowd = the details of their response. Don't you just love the looks of bewilderment on their faces, the guy poking that frozen girl in the arm, the driver honking and radioing for help, and that great remark at the end by the guy who thought maybe he was the only one seeing it happen? Fabulous.
Up with pointless acts of mind-fuckery! Up with Improv Everywhere!