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VIDEO: Going Gangnam for Ai Weiwei


Familiar with that jiggy, horse-riding dance by South Korean electro-pop star Psy? There must be few internet-connected places in the world left where his smash-hit single ‘Gangnam Style’ has not penetrated. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Psy should feel complimented. Madonna‘s ‘gone Gangnam’, Eton school boys posted a YouTube parody of the song (adapted to reflect the college’s idiolect), boiler-suited Filipino prisoners have danced the dance, and there’s lots more out there. Even Ai Weiwei, the not-exactly-incarcerated-but-pretty-much-under-house-arrest Chinese artist, posted his own ‘Gangnam Style’ video on the internet. It featured him in handcuffs and was promptly banned by the Chinese authorities.

So, in the heady rush of all things Gangnam, it’s pleasing to see the great and the good of the international art world doing their Gangnam bit in aid of Ai.

Commissioned by Amnesty International and choreographed by British dance wonder Akram Khan, 250 art-worlders, led by Sir Anish Kapoor, Gangnam their way through Psy’s song and writhe around in handcuffs. On the wall behind them, the names of dissidents, Pussy Riot among them, are written.

Kapoor is quoted as saying: ‘Our film aims to make a serious point about freedom of speech and freedom of expression. It is our hope that this gesture of support for Ai Weiwei and all prisoners of conscience will be wide-ranging and will help to emphasise how important these freedoms are to us all.’

And it’s interesting to see how a Korean pop song with banal lyrics about sexy ladies and knowing men, that invokes the name of a high-class Seoul district, has pressed people into action. It probably won’t convert any Chinese officials, but like the vast ‘RELEASE AI WEIWEI’ sign that was placed on top of Tate Modern in 2011, it will certainly be seen by an awful lot of people.


Ai Weiwei in his own Gangnam Style video.

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  1. #1 Bob 04 Dec 12

    A song and dance by an attention seeking wealthy 'dissident' and a less than radical 'human rights' organisation.

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About the author

Louise Gray a New Internationalist contributor

Louise Gray is a music columnist for New Internationalist and the author of the No-Nonsense Guide to World Music. She writes regularly for The Wire and many other music and art publications. Find our more at her website.

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