[ISEA98] Panel: John Kefala-Kerr – Bouquets and Backing Tapes: Karaoke Opera

Panel Statement

Panel: Sonic Boom

Karaoke and opera inhabit the cultural margins, existing as complex and rarefied instances of musical performance. They share common points of contact in terms of their semi public origins as well as the role and importance of technology – opera with its history of elaborate stage gadgetry and efects, and karaoke with the ‘representational technologies’ of recorded sound and video. The rich semantics inscribed beneath karaoke’s seemingly superficial surface reveal relationships which, it appears, are implicit within, and symptomatic of human interactions with technology. Karaoke provides a loaded paradigm for a set of technology dependent practices, relationships and themes within which musical material is coined. Karaoke looks to the popular song and the star singer as the locus for a mimetic ritual not of ‘self-transformation’ (as one would find in the related culture of the exercise video) but of ‘self-transportation’.

Karaoke 0pera’s appropriate this paradigm, casting their narratives and sequences within its borrowed frame of reference, yielding a novel metaphorical and performative framework wherein the use of microphones, backing tapes and video projections serve to activate what we may dub ‘karaoke discourses’ ie. those to do with identity, utopian self-actualisation (the DIY ethic), narcissism, social fragmentation etc. These themes are embodied within a species of technology interactions which inhabit both the private and the social sphere, confuse traditional distinctions between performer and audience, and invariably constitute both a (revolutionary) response to, and a (colonial) product of processes of post-industrialisation and hyper commodification. These positions are variously celebrated and satirised in The Karaoke 0pera Company’s work

  • John Kefala-Kerr (UK),┬áThe Karaoke 0pera Company, Newcastle-upon-Tyne