Co-ordinated by Terry Urbahn
March 14 - April 12 1998
With his new project The Karaokes, New Zealand's king of
low-brow art Terry Urbahn sets the stage for a head-on collission
between art, music and performance.
Commmissioning ten artists to produce videos especially for the
project, Urbahn has succeeded in transforming the white cube of
the gallery space into a homage to the Karaoke bar, complete with
disco lights and a mirror ball.
Dragging video art from the realm of high-brow installation and
into the flashing lights of the suburban nightclub, The Karaokes
is a project that is both accessible and challenging. Take for instance
Narumi Nobuhira's contribution, an out-take from his infamous Dog-Cam
Project. Narumi's video gives us a dog's-eye-view of Tokyo's red
light district, a journey through the artist's home town that is
at once compelling and unsettling. With no music or lyrics to set
the scene, Dog-Cam Project redefines our conventional understanding
of the music video, prompting us to wonder if subtle ultrasound
is at work in Narumi's creation - a karaoke for canine ears only?
Like web-surfing and channel-hopping, Karaoke has emerged as a way
for the contemporary individual to insert themselves into the flow
of image and data that increasingly structures and defines our day-to-day
existence. For the weekend warrior, what better way to grab their
15 minutes of fame before it passes them by?
Says Urbahn of the Karaoke phenomenon: "Kara comes from Karappo
meaning 'empty,' and oke is the abbreviation of okestura, or 'orchestra.'
Holding a microphone and singing along to the accompaniment of an
'orchestra' you can feel like a professional singer."
And Urbahn insists on the important role that both entertainment
and interactivity play in The Karaokes, a process of introducing
popular culture to the officially sanctioned environment of the
gallery. Without it's audience, The Karaokes remains an incomplete
project. Eschewing the conventionally passive relationship between
an artwork and it's audience, the videos on offer in this installation
invite their viewers to indulge in a few moments of uninhibited
Reviews, Essays & Articles
A visual punch
The Press, 1998 Apr. 1, p. 17
Health, Happiness and Housing, by Ava Seymour; The Karaokes, by Terry