Curated by Heather Keung, Maiko Tanaka and Serena Lee | Presented in conjunction with the “Empty Orchestra” exhibition
Get out your rhinestone boots and practice your Stevie Nicks pout! Empty Orchestra Live! is a collision of video visionaries and local karaoke superstars. Ranging from hip hop to Elvis, this commission and performance program merges the glitz of Western karaoke with the heartfelt crooning of its Japanese origins. Five performers sing along to new karaoke videos of their favourite songs, freshly commissioned from Canadian video artists by Reel Asian and Gendai Gallery. Empty Orchestra Live! is the second half of a special presentation that examines the history and practices of karaoke as cultural exchange. Karaoke, underneath the disco-ball-and-reverb veneer, is a rich intersection of community, democratized entertainment, personal expression, and politics of identity.
Empty Orchestra Live! is inspired by Toronto’s Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC), which hosts a vibrant Karaoke Club for its members, first-, second-, and third-generation Japanese Canadians, singing in Japanese and English. Founded in 1981, the JCCC Karaoke Club is the first of its kind, rich with personal experience and perennial charm.
Drawing from a wealth of kitsch and clichés, karaoke videos are as diverse as their singers. They illuminate karaoke clubs and bars all over the world, often alternating between cheesy American music videos and low-budget Asian soap operas. They highlight lyrics with syrupy camp and earnest sentimentality, but always allow performers to make the songs their own. RA’s commissioned video artists take inspiration from the unique visual aesthetics and tradition of karaoke videos and offer new interpretations of the classics. By pairing local performers with video artists from across the country, Empty Orchestra Live! shines a new light on the B-side of music videos. Empty Orchestra Live!’s performances will be followed by a hot dose of RAMeN, RA’s live music showcase.
All Directors In Attendance
(J.Bass/M.Mathers/L.Resto – Originally Performed By Eminem) | Performed By Mandy Cheetham
Dir: Alison S. M. Kobayashi | Canada 2008 | 5:30 | Video | World Premiere
Kobayashi’s video is a mix of literal representations of the Eminem lyrics along with more interpretive visual illustrations that allow the karaoke singer to read the song through images. Cheetham chose to perform “Lose Yourself” because it speaks to everyone who has ever chosen to face fear with determination and spirit.
Alison S. M. Kobayashi is a visual artist working in video, performance, and print. She studies art and art history at the University of Toronto at Mississauga and Sheridan College. In 2006, Kobayashi won the TSV Artistic Vision Award at Reel Asian for her video From Alex To Alex.
Mandy ‘May’ Cheetham has been a regular on the karaoke scenes in Toronto and London. She is well known for her dynamic performances and was featured on Much Music’s The New Music for Hip Hop Karaoke’s one-year-anniversary celebration.
Sadame Gawa | Without Destiny
(Japanese Enka – Originally Performed by Hosokawa Takashi) | Performed by Stan Kayama
Dir: Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay | Canada 2008 | 4:00 | Video | World Premiere
This enka ballad is embroiled with intimacy and heartbreak and was popularized in the past decade by one of Japan’s most popular male vocalists, Hosokawa Takashi. Sadame Gawa takes us back to karaoke’s roots, as unabashed sentimentality is re-examined by Nemerofsky Ramsay.
Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay is a Montréal-born artist, diarist, and aspiring bon-vivant. Since 2000 his work has examined the untranslatability of emotions into language and how emotions are mediated by technology and popular culture. Nemerofsky Ramsay’s award-winning video works have screened in festivals and galleries across Canada, Europe, and East Asia.
Stan Kayama is president of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s karaoke club.
Say No Go
(S. Allen, Paul Huston, V. Keith Mason, John Oates, Posdnuos, Trugoy The Dove – Originally Performed by De La Soul) | Performed by Sean And Kagan McLeod
Dir: Karilynn Ming Ho | Canada 2008 | 4:45 | Video | World Premiere
Kickin’ it old school – “Say No Go” is the quintessential rap song and comes with a message. Ming Ho’s video interpretation reconsiders the ’80s anti-drug campaign, violence, and girls under the influence.
Karilynn Ming Ho is an interdisciplinary artist based in Vancouver. She has exhibited her video and performance-based works throughout Canada and Europe. She is currently completing her MFA at Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts.
Sean and Kagan McLeod form rap group The Chuds, and are regular attendees at Toronto’s Hip Hop Karaoke and authors of YouTube hit “Weng Weng Rap”.
(S. Nicks – Originally Performed by Fleetwood Mac) | Performed by Sarah Jarvis
Dir: Ann Marie Fleming | Canada 2008 | 3:12 | Video | World Premiere
“I was introduced to this song while washing my hands in a public restroom. And it’s the only place I hear it. A lot of restaurants choose to play it. It always makes me cry, no matter how good the meal. It’s the perfect pop song. Simple and heartfelt.”
–Ann Marie Fleming
Ann Marie Fleming is an award-winning independent filmmaker, writer, and artist who is known for her explorations of her multi-culti family and the nature of relationships in various forms and formats.
Sarah Jarvis was born and raised in Vancouver. Jarvis inherited her parents’ passion for music and studied classical voice for many years. Jarvis runs special events for the Canadian Opera Company and is occasionally found at the Gladstone, enjoying a little taste of the spotlight.
(B. Loweik. Mann – Originally Performed By Elvis Presley) | Performed By Steve Comilang
Dir: Stephanie Comilang | Canada 2008 | 4:00 | Live Overhead Projection | World Premiere
“Since my dad is an Elvis impersonator – or tribute artist, as he likes to say – I call any project I do in collaboration with my father ‘Children of the King’. It started as a ’zine, wherein I would tell embarrassing stories from childhood involving my father – stories like friends coming over to hang out and my dad dressing up like Elvis and singing and me always ending up behind the couch really, really embarrassed. I would include photos of him, photos of me, Elvis paraphernalia, etc. The project kept rolling and branched out to mini-films, accompaniments to Collingwood, performances, puppet shows, and now this karaoke thing for Empty Orchestra.”
Stephanie Comilang has a BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design, and is a romantic realist who performs with live shadows and drawings on the overhead projector. Comilang has performed with the Polaris prize–winning band Final Fantasy, and has collaborated with experimental theatre company Mammalian Diving Reflex.
Steve Comilang is an Elvis tribute artist, based in Toronto.