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Many citizens of the world spoke together this summer—via pop music and the web—through two songs: Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, and Gangnam Style by PSY.

Friends, celebrities, lonely teenagers with webcams, companies and organizations from across the globe made their own versions of the two hits, which saw them lip syncing their hearts out, and prancing around on imaginary horses. Along the way we got to see each other dancing, singing, laughing, and sometimes we got a chance to understand what we are activating around and thinking about.

Oregon Tradeswomen Inc, a group that promotes and supports women working in the trades as a form of empowerment, released their version of Call Me Maybe. With music videos often a site for women to merely be objectified, this video invites us to gawk: at the accomplishments, sexiness, and diversity of ways sisters doing it for themselves!

Contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, a dissident with a sense of humor, recently released his version of Gangnam Style, using the images from the video to draw a comparison between the freedom enjoyed in other parts of the world with the restrictions experienced by him and his fellow citizens in China (Listen to this podcast about the savvy politics at play).

From General Idea’s AIDS which was a riff off of Robert Indiana’s LOVE, to the Russian agitprop influenced graphics of Little Elvis and The Silence = Death Project this form of appropriation and remix to draw in audience and make a point has been fundamental in the creation of art in response to HIV / AIDS.

In 1993, Canadian director John Greyson brought together multiple musical and visual styles, including pop and opera for his film Zero Patience. The musical works to dispel the myth that one person, “patient zero”, introduced HIV in North America. Greyson rightly understood the homophobia, and sexual hysteria that was included in such a claim. While making an important and paradigm shifting point, Zero Patience is fun. This seems to be the key to using pop music to make a point.

Pop music has the power to make us feel, and creates a sense of community through the shared experience of hearing; it is the perfect vehicle to communicate ideas to a broad audience. As Day With(out) Art approaches, and people feel the urge to make art about HIV/AIDS, Visual AIDS looks forward to how they will use the cultural markers of our time to entertain and enlighten.

Contact us at Visual AIDS!