Long Island City, NY— When LaGuardia Community College students, faculty and staff gathered in the Cobblestone Courtyard to film a “Gangnam Style” group dance last week, it was in response to something much bigger than the wacky music video that became an Internet craze this summer. Coordinated by Humanities Assistant Professor Ari Richter, the flash mob-type performance was in solidarity with world-famous artist Anish Kapoor, who created the video “Gangnam for Freedom” in defense of Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei.
“This is introducing the idea that art can be a form of political protest. We’re doing a silly gesture and this silly dance, but it’s going to be something that is potentially very important in the broader scope of worldwide democracy,” said Professor Richter.
If you’ve heard the term “Gangnam Style,” but you’re not entirely sure what it means, you’re not alone. This summer South Korean pop star Psy released a music video mocking the wealthy scene in the Gangnam District of Seoul. The video went viral in August and was named the most “liked” video in Youtube history by Guinness World Records. Everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Madonna have practiced the simple dance sequence that looks something like riding a horse.
Then, in October, Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei created his own “Gangnam Style” parody video, interpreting one of the dance moves as struggling with and then breaking out of a set of handcuffs. In 2010, the Chinese police placed Weiwei under house arrest and his studio was bulldozed to the ground. This new parody video was quickly perceived as subversive and removed entirely from the Internet in China.
“What he does and what he says is so important because this is how freedom and democracy prevail in our world, when people with dissenting views make their views known to the world,” Professor Richter said of Weiwei.
In protest of the Chinese government’s treatment of Weiwei, Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, famous for his public sculptures, started his own parody video that has received an outpouring of support from the international art community and now LaGuardia Community College. After Professor Richter got the green light from Kapoor’s studio to submit Gangnam-style dancing footage, he sent out a last minute call for participants on campus.
“I was on the phone with my dad, and I saw this happening,” said Ken Garcia, a Communications major and English minor at LaGuardia. “I just ran here because I wanted to do it. It’s kind of like a shuffle but a lot more fun.”
The College’s submission made it right on time to appear in the Amnesty International sponsored video amongst contributions from The Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum, MOMA, The Chanel 4 News Team and more.
“It’s a chance to be on Youtube, a chance to make a difference and support my school at the same time, so I went for it,” said Mohammad Kully who works in Student Life. “With education, and showing that we’re all in this together fighting for a cause, it could change the world.”
The video, which can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/tcjFzmWLEdQ is meta-performance art at its finest and will likely go down in political art history.
LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.