First, there was Gangnam Style by PSY, a Pop song celebrating/lampooning a wealthy South Korean lifestyle. It is absurd, catchy, and quickly became an international sensation. Then Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei did a parody of this already ridiculous video. Except when he mimics the dancing of the original video, he occasionally adds handcuffs.
Anish Kapoor, bringing in other art world influentials, felt compelled to make another Gangnam Style parody in support of Ai Weiwei. Museums, galleries, and others such as MoMA and Sepertine Gallery have all joined in contributing a video clip as a gesture of support for the artist who has notoriously battled with Chinese authorities over making and showing his art. And it is awesome.
Hopefully it will be spread the message of the need for human rights and freedom of expression in China. (And not just China, as you can see in the video, the wall also has a Pussy Riot tag among others.) Internet censorship is one of the issues that Ai Weiwei combats, managing to effectively skirt “the Great Firewall.” Check out Ai Weiwei’s Youtube channel for more insight into a complex and radically different world, such as this video.
However, it isn’t as simple as pointing a finger at China.
The Google Blog just released the most recent transparency report with statistics showing governmental requests for user data and how the number has steadily risen. Russia, formerly quite open, has begun to take measures limiting internet freedom in the manner of China, according to this Economist article. And the New York Times published a fascinating opinion piece last week about how it is not only active government censorship impacts people’s access to the internet, but also supposedly liberal corporations who now dominate our experience of the internet, like Google, through the conservatively geared algorithms they use to direct search engine traffic. This invisible and pervasive force also shapes our experience of the web, and thus our culture.