New Forms of Protest

Last summer, the Korean musician PSY sang out in protest against consumerism in Gangnam, a posh district in Seoul. His video shows him dancing, as if on a horse, in front of wealthy-looking men and scantily-clad women. For reasons only posterity may help us to understand, Gangnam Style became Youtube’s most frequently watched video clip. A series of parodies were produced by groups as far distant from Gangnam – geographically and ideologically – as NASA and Greenpeace.

Gangnam-style protest reached the art world with particular fervour. Chinese activist Ai Weiwei released a Gangnam Style video in protest of censorship in his country. Reacting to this video, Jewish-Indian artist Anish Kapoor – whose works are on display starting 18 May 2013 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin – animated art museums in England and the USA to shoot a video in support of Ai Weiwei. Shortly thereafter, the Philadelphia Art Museum posted a video with its staff members dancing to the Gangnam tune, though their object of contention is not immediately apparent:

As far as museums go, ours has a particularly large number of causes for protest. And being supporters of civil intervention, especially in modern media form, there is much to be said for producing a Jewish Museum Gangnam-style clip, or one in the style of Harlem Shake, which surpassed Gangnam in popularity in February 2013.

Collage showing PSY in front of the Jewish Museum BerlinYet PSY’s use of performative contradiction – he resorts to the very images of consumerism he protests against – might backfire quite awkwardly in a screenplay on religious and social tolerance. We could find ourselves in somewhat of a muddle if the irony of a film showing, say, museum staff dancing horse-style up to a group of drunken men, drinking their beverages and wooing their women would prove to be elusive… Or not? What plot would you suggest for a Jewish Museum Gangnam-style video clip?

 Naomi Lubrich, Media

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