Sunday, February 10, 2008


I drove to Dallas this weekend to visit my friends Mandy and Victor. They suggested we go to the Dallas Museum of Art to see a project by English video artist Phil Collins. Usually when I hear the word "museum" I think of "church" ... quiet, slow, dull, being surrounded by things I don't believe in ... but this time was an exception!

The project was called The World Won't Listen. Collins went to Colombia, Turkey, and Indonesia, set up a karaoke machine and a camera, posted fliers for a The Smiths karaoke night, and hit record when the well-versed volunteers arrived. The singers chose their favorite songs from The Smiths compilation The World Won't Listen. The result is a three screen projection of a song being sung in each country at the same time.

The experience is immediately intoxicating. You hustle from one screen to another, seeing how well a Colombian sings "The Boy With A Thorn In His Side" versus an Indonesian (for the record, the Colombian's struggled the most, bless their hearts...). A blue-eyed Turkish man fights back tears during "Asleep" ... a Colombian woman and her BFF go back-to-back, and transform into teens again, singing "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" ... and an Indonesian girl nearly swallows the lyrics to "Rubber Ring", her chest-heaving way past the music stopping.

Most of all, The World Won't Listen is heartwarming. You see pop music idolatry (something we all identify with...) on sleeves and on screen. And, by being in the dark, the audience lets their guard down: singing, dancing, and laughing along with the subjects on screen, creating a totally interactive atmosphere. Even the security guard - on first glance, not your most typical looking Smiths fan - was getting into it. I can only think that Collins' would get all giddy witnessing what he'd created: bringing together museum patrons the way he brought together citizens of the world.

I don't know if the The World Won't Listen is touring the United States, but if it comes to your town, please go. I've never had so much fun at a museum before (for me, that's an oxymoron...). I felt like I was being allowed to play tag at the library.


Tom Drew said...

This sounds really, really neat. I used to go to karaoke (and sing) twice a week back in college, and I think it's one of the most interesting social activities I've ever observed or taken part in. I think you address some of the reasons here: the play between audience, performer, and music is very different from going to an actual show, and it's always a treat to see stereotypes and expectations challenged and subverted.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it. Either way, thanks for shining some light on this project!

Mandy said...

I'm so glad that you enjoyed it! It's one of the most interesting things I've ever seen at a museum, and for Smiths fans (or music lovers in general), it's a must-see. At some point in my life, I was every single one of those karaoke performers, and it was so wonderful to see that there are people like that all around the world. I'm so proud of Dallas and the Dallas Museum of Art for hosting the world premiere of this piece.

Ignatius said...

Here, I do not actually consider this will have success.
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