Kapoor Style: Anish Kapoor to Parody Gangnam Style in Support of Ai Weiwei

Amy Lin of Saffronart explores what is sure to be the next big viral video: Anish Kapoor’s Gangnam Style

In the coming week, a video that we believe will instantly go viral is Anish Kapoor’s Gangnam Style. Jumping on the parody wagon, renowned British Indian artist Anish Kapoor is filming his version of the South Korean internet sensation by Psy to support Ai Weiwei and free speech. When Weiwei was detained by the Chinese government for more than two months last year, Kapoor participated in a campaign to free him. Censorship has always been an issue in art and we recently covered the topic here.

Anish Kapoor and co. rehearsing for Gangnam Style video
Image Credit: London Evening Standard

Many of you may recall watching Ai Weiwei sporting a hot pink shirt while dancing to Gangnam Style with his entourage in his own version of the video. Weiwei also brandishes handcuffs in a cowboy-esque fashion and cuffs himself to a friend at some point in defiance to his arrest last year. Perhaps the most subversive part of the video is its title, ‘Caonima Style’. Caonima literally translates as “grass mud horse” but sounds like an obscene profanity in Mandarin that we cannot repeat, but is explained here. This term has become an internet meme, and has been used in recent years to subvert censorship in China with its dual meaning as a ridiculously cute mythical alpaca and a cringe-worthy swear. Such duality has been a theme in Weiwei’s art. If you’ve missed this epic video, you can watch it here:

Kapoor’s parody was shot in his studio and features an army of artists. The overwhelming cast has over 250 participants and features big names such as dancer Deborah Bull, designer Wayne Hemingway, and artist Mark Wallinger, among many others. The dance is choreographed by British Bangladeshi artist Akram Khan who participated in the London Olympic opening ceremonies. I personally hope Mr. Kapoor will sprinkle a dash of Bollywood flair in his video.

Artists are occupying Kapoor’s Clamberwell studio while practicing the steps in handcuffs in what looks like an epic cross between Gangnam Style and Jailhouse Rock. Kapoor is overjoyed by the support. “It’s extraordinary, the support we’ve had,” he said. “Even people who can’t be here are sending footage of themselves doing the dance.” On a side note, he added, the video will be “bonkers” and we will act like a village of “idiots.”

Rehearsing in Anish Kapoor’s SE London studio
Image Credit: London Evening Standard

Former Royal Ballet dancer Deborah Bull sums up the message, “Art speaks to people in a way regimes find hard to understand. It communicates at a level that makes it hard to control. You can control actions but not emotions.” When asked if the video will bypass Chinese censorship, Kapoor replied confidently, “With most issues there’s a certain tipping point. If enough people are interested we’ll get it to China too. I’ve a feeling governments are incapable of stopping it.” While Weiwei’s video may have only been some studio fun, Kapoor is cementing it with a deeper political purpose by recruiting artists and activists to spread the message.

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