Another Gangnam Style: When Memes Make You Hate Them

by Hrag Vartanian on November 21, 2012

I think it’s happened: I’ve hit my Gangnam Style limit with this new video by Anish Kapoor and his cohorts in museums and galleries (not to mention random offices and people) around the world.

If the first art world bigwig rendering of this meme by Ai Weiwei was tragedy — there are a number of opinions on the topic, and we link to a few here — then this second time by Anish Kapoor is farce. I think it’s great that Kapoor has discovered the world of memes, but this falls flat as it tries to couch overt political content with no irony, no wink to the hilarity of the meme itself or the fact that it pokes fun at the absurdity of taste and money (FYI: Gangnam is the posh neighborhood of Seoul).

But, alas, Gangnam Style is a meme, and everyone is free to remix it in their own image, but what we see here is a mostly humorless figure whose empty house was occupied this past summer by London Olympic protesters known as Bread Not Circuses. The group wanted to point out the multimillionaire sculptor had built one of the white elephants of the games, the ArceloMittel Orbit structure. Their protest was against the elitist nature of the games and its messaging, and Kapoor was at the center of that.

What I disliked about this video was that the elitism and ego comes through. Unlike Ai Weiwei’s version, there isn’t an absurdity here (even the element of farce feels sad) and the very distinguished and respected artist is always the focus of the video. It’s curious that no one else really shines through in the video — it’s all about Kapoor.

While I support any effort to raise awareness about China, this is just corny.

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  • Den Hickey

    Great.. now Ai Wei Wei has co-opted someone else’s horrendously terrible meme to promote himself and others are jumping on the bandwagon to promote him and this hideously stupid meme.

  • akacocolopez

    I agree!

  • Debby Luzia

    Kapoor is a cultural icon with selling power so why not use it for a good cause? I actually see an interesting connection between visual artists and political influence. You may be interested to read my output on the subject.

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