University of Southern California

USC Event Calendar

Visions and Voices

  • The Art of the Empty Orchestra: Creativity in a Karaoke Culture

    Visions and Voices


    Karaoke—a Japanese word that translates into English as “empty orchestra”—is everywhere. A participatory karaoke event, exhibition and discussion with New Sound Karaoke, Amy Von Harrington, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Valerie Tevere and Angel Nevarez will explore karaoke as a technology, an aesthetic and a participatory cultural practice.

    Schedule of Events:

    Exhibition: Wednesday, November 5 to Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    • Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    Opening Reception and Roundtable: Wednesday, November 5, 7 to 11 p.m.

    • 7:30 p.m.: Roundtable with the Artists
    • 8:30 to 11 p.m.: Reception and Open Mic Karaoke

    Karaoke—a Japanese word that translates into English as “empty orchestra”—is everywhere. The “empty orchestra” can accompany us on our smartphones, on our tablets, on YouTube and—depending on where in the world we are—in our taxis or “on demand” through our cable or satellite providers. A roundtable discussion, participatory karaoke event and week-long exhibition will explore karaoke as a technology, an aesthetic and a participatory cultural practice.

    Some of the featured artists in the exhibition—including Bobby Abate and Lynne Chan aka New Sound Karaoke and performance artist Amy Von Harrington—connect karaoke to vaudeville and LGBT performance practices. Visual artist, writer and USC Roski School of Art and Design alumnus Jibade-Khalil Huffman explores karaoke as a gateway to a new literary formalism. The exhibition also includes documentation of live, politically motivated karaoke performances, such as Valerie Tevere and Angel Nevarez’s “Another Protest Song: Karaoke with a Message.”

    About the Participants:

    New Sound Karaoke
    (Bobby Service and Black Waterfall aka Bobby Abate and Lynne Chan) have produced and directed an epic body of music videos that tell the unique, inspiring and riveting story of their marriage. The duo has performed, reconceived and rewritten mash-ups of popular music in some of New York City’s hottest venues. The vocalistas met two years ago by chance at a vogue-ing competition. It was love at first sight. They quickly escaped to the nearest karaoke joint, sang the night away and eloped the next morning. The duo rose to stardom in the exploding New York City underground karaoke scene of the late 2000s. (Official website, Twitter, Vimeo)

    Bobby Abate, named by Film Comment magazine as one of the “Top 25 Emerging Filmmakers for the 21st Century,” came of age immersed in Internet subcultures charged by alter egos, supernatural fantasies and vice, dynamics that shape his darkly humorous film and video work. His work has been screened at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival and New York Film Festival, as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Francisco Cinematheque and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. (Official website, Vimeo)

    Lynne Chan’s multimedia art investigates subcultures, group identity and social bonding through participatory events. Chan has exhibited and performed at venues including Art In General, Participant Inc., Glasslands Gallery, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, X-Initiative, Artists Space, Public Assembly, La MaMa Galleria, Canada Gallery, Anna Kustera, Jon Connelly Presents, the National Center for Contemporary Arts in Moscow, YYZ Toronto and La Centrale Montreal.

    Jibade-Khalil Huffman is the author of the poetry collections 19 Names for Our Band and James Brown Is Dead. His art and writing projects have been exhibited and performed at MoMA PS1, Public Fiction, Scaramouche, Samuel Freeman Gallery, Southern Exposure and the Los Angeles Biennial (Made in L.A.). (Tumblr)

    Angel Nevarez and Valerie Tevere’s multimedia projects explore contemporary music, dissent and public fora, reflecting upon the projection of political agency through transmission and song. Their work has been exhibited around the world. (Official website)
    Amy Von fawn don de la lawn-boy Harrington is a sherpa by day and performative visual artist by night. Her current projects include a series of interactive multichannel video installations and a daily collage blog inspired by the tarot and everyday duties. Von Harrington hosts an ongoing series of performative happenings and collects and encourages artist-made videos. She sees karaoke as a radical tool for encouraging performance coupled with community building. It illuminates mundane consumption as a nuanced and obvious site of reference and identity, which reminds anyone paying attention that the “self” is in a constant state of construction, projection and being read, and, like karaoke, is totally context-based. (Official website, Vimeo)

    Organized by Karen Tongson (English and Gender Studies) and A.L. Steiner (Fine Arts).

    USC Roski MFA Gallery
    Off Campus
    3001 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles

    Reception to follow.

    Admission is free. Reservations for the opening event are required. RSVP at the links below beginning Monday, October 13, at 9 a.m.

    USC Students, Staff and Faculty: To RSVP, click here.
    USC Alumni: To RSVP, click here.
    General Public: To RSVP, click here.