British artist Anish Kapoor’s Gangnam Style parody video, “Gangnam for Freedom,” was posted on YouTube today. The video is made in support of Ai Weiwei, Pussy Riot and all those who have been silenced by repressive governments.
The backstory: in July, Korean K-pop sensation Psy released his video for dance hit “Gangnam Style,” in which he dances around Korea with goofy moves like bouncing up and down on an invisible horse and swinging a lasso while dressed in a tuxedo. He has described the video’s guiding philosophy as “Dress classy, dance silly.” It has been viewed nearly 800 million times on YouTube and has given rise to countless parodies.
Ai Weiwei created his own parody, posted to YouTube in October, in which he wears handcuffs while doing the Gangnam Style dance, in reference to his three-month detention by Chinese authorities in 2011. Predictably, the Chinese government censored the video.
In Kapoor’s version, the artist dances along with a large troupe of friends at his London studio, sometimes wearing handcuffs and sometimes carrying an Amnesty International placard that reads “End repression. Allow expression.” They frequently extend their middle fingers, in tribute to the photographs in which Ai flips the bird at various targets. At the video’s end appears a long list of those “murdered and still being persecuted, imprisoned tortured and forced into exile because of their expression.”
“Yes, it is desperately silly,” Kapoor told the Guardian. “But what is the paradigm of the artist? The artist does stupid things with serious intent.”
Lending their voices to the cry for liberty, museum and gallery staff from institutions including the Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Serpentine (London) are shown doing the dance at their respective workplaces.
The song, in which Psy pokes fun at Seoul’s upscale Gangnam neighborhood, might seem an unlikely soundtrack for resistance. But if his irrepressible humor infected the Chinese authorities, who knows what could happen?