K-TOWN: Five karaoke videos by artists

Compiled by Meera Margaret Singh and Luke Painter

1. Wrik Mead: I’m Not in Love by 10cc

Wrik Mead’s video begins with a celestial introduction, leading into an otherworldly, sensuous, glamorous journey through the glimmering bodily landscapes of two drag queen lovers. As Mead slows down their gestures, the physical tension between them heightens: red-lipsticked lips gently caress, silver nail-polished hands sweep across flesh, fake eyelashes bat, all with a sense of longing and a hint of laughter. The entire performance a profession: I’m not in love, I’m not in love. This playful, kitchy-cool video will inspire one to pick up a microphone, put on their own form of drag, and get their 10cc on. - MMS

Courtesy of PayneShurvell Gallery, London.


2. Johanna Householder: Is That All There Is by Peggy Lee

An homage to the 1969 Grammy award-winning hit originally performed by Lee. In the song, Lee sings of seeing her house on fire as a little girl, visiting the circus and falling in love. She asks: Is that all there is to a fire, a circus, falling in love? In a moment of existential awareness, unsatisfied with these experiences, she proposes that we “break out the booze and have a ball”. Householder faithfully re-creates the filmed version of the song where Lee is doubled in the same shot eerily portrayed in high-contrast soft black and white. Covered by everyone from Chaka Khan to PJ Harvey, Householder adds her own unique, performative voice to this uncanny rendition. - LP


3. Kotama Bouabane: Super Bass by Nicki Minaj

Toronto-based photographer Kotama Bouabane films his 13-year-old niece singing along to the recent popular Minaj song. Staring into the camera, she smiles and giggles nervously at the beginning, but confidently launches into rapping and singing the song in a serious, almost deadpan, manner. Setting up a tension between the shyness of adolescence and Minaj’s confident lyrics, Bouabane straightforwardly and effectively shows us the awkwardness of youth searching for identity in music and pop culture. - LP

Courtesy of Erin Stump Projects, Toronto.


4. Edward Birnbaum and Michael Jacobs: Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye

Birnbaum and Jacobs have not only created a masterpiece of a karaoke video, they have invented a sure-fire cure for dispiritedness. Karaoke videos often exhibit an unabashed dissimilarity to their lyrical content, creating unintentional forms of irony. Birnbaum and Jacobs, on the other hand, keep the irony alive while choreographing a visual and lyrical synchronicity. Appropriating instructional CPR, square-dancing, kitty-litter training and wrestling video footage, the artists have collaged a wickedly uncanny, jaw-dropping chunk of video cheese that echoes Gaye’s plea to wake up and get busy. - MMS


5. Jenn Norton: I Fall to Pieces by Patsy Cline

Cline’s classic of hurt and longing, lovingly transformed into a curious and surprising narrative. Guelph-based Norton plays with our expectations of the genre, first by creating a familiar story of heartbreak and then turning it on its head through a series of unusual events. Norton’s character sits in her house, lamenting a lost love, while construction vehicles demolish the street outside. Cups and plates fall off the table, duplicate and hover within the kitchen space in a surreal manner. Using video and animation compositing techniques, Norton deftly explores the reality of a heightened emotional state, ending it all with disturbing playfulness. - LP

Meera Margaret SinghMeera Margaret Singh is a Toronto-based artist who holds a BA in Anthropology, a BFA in Photography from the University of Manitoba and an MFA from Concordia University. She is the recipient of several residencies and awards, including Canada Council for the Arts production/creation grants, an Ontario Arts Council Mid-Career grant, and a Toronto Arts Council Visual Arts Grant. Her work has been included in numerous exhibitions and festivals in Canada and the U.S. She is an instructor in the photography department at OCAD University, and a self-diagnosed karaoke addict.

Luke PainterLuke Painter is a Toronto-based artist, curator and educator. Upcoming exhibitions include a solo show at LE Gallery in Spring 2012 and a two-person exhibition with Amanda Nedham at Bonneau-Samames Art Contemporain in Marseille, France in Fall 2012. Luke is the co-curator (with Meera Margaret Singh) of a traveling karaoke-themed performance and video night called K-Town. Luke has received research and artist grants from hexagram/Concordia, Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. His work has been reviewed in Canadian Art, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, NOW, Mix and was included in Magenta’s Carte Blanche Vol. 2 - Painting, a national survey of Canadian painters. Luke is an Assistant Professor and Chair of Printmaking at OCAD University where he teaches painting, printmaking, digital media and graduate studies.