Maja Bajevic, Karaoke, 2011, four-screen video installation, color, sound.
Exhibition view: Karaoke, Velan, Turin, Italy (Curator Francesca Referza), 2011.
Karaoke is a four-screen video installation, based on the mixture of text and performance, present in popular karaoke. The first screen depicts a scene filmed in the poor quarters of Palermo, a family gathered, singing karaoke. The screen next to it shows the karaoke text that is also visible in the video. As they sing, the words appear on the screen, as is usual in karaoke.
The third screen shows a scene filmed in Jerusalem, next to the Western Wall, of an exercise of the female part of the Israeli army. At a certain point, we start hearing a prayer from the Al-Aqsa mosque. This prayer is shown as karaoke on the fourth screen.
I first filmed the part in Palermo – explained the artist, who lives and works in Berlin, Paris and Sarajevo. – It was a situation of great inner beauty. We were passing by, after asking if we could take a photo, we were invited to join the party and warmly welcomed. It was taken in the poor part of Palermo. The big family, with all the family members, young and old, was having a party and singing karaoke, many more songs than only this one. I choose this song because some Italian and Albanian friends of mine were often singing it at different occasions. I call it a ready-made video since there was practically no intervention on my part, except for seeing and filming it. The second part, in Jerusalem, I took afterwards, also as a ready-made video. It was a situation that I encountered, next to the Western Wall. I did not ask for permission to film, as it is a public space, and nobody objected.
The image with the female soldiers in Karaoke depicts a group of the Israeli army practicing maneuvers on the backdrop of the Western Wall. In the background, we hear the sound of a call to prayer from a mosque. The piece wants to show different facets of the world we are living in by combining things that do not necessarily fit together.
The women soften the image we have of soldiers as a particularly disciplined group. They seem different and very relaxed. This seems to take away from the common image of the Israeli army as something dangerous. Yet, this army could just as well pose a threat to the existence of the mosque. There’s something absurd in the way the two worlds overlap.
The artist continues:
I find that voices are, in particular singing, triggers and keepers of memories. A song functions like a smell, it brings us, like a time machine, back to the moment of memory. In Karaoke, I am using a very seductive, melodical song in a family context, juxtaposed with a political situation. I think the intimacy of the first situation makes the second situation stronger, although both are layers of the world that we are living in.