In Forum 59: Phil Collins, Carnegie Museum of Art presents British-born artist Phil Collins’s (b. 1970) ongoing video project the world won’t listen. Traveling to major international cities, such as Bogotá in 2004 (el mundo no eschuchará) and Istanbul in 2005 (dünya dinlemîyor), Collins invites fans of the 1980s band The Smiths to perform karaoke versions of tracks from the British band’s classic album of the same name in front of his video camera. He continues to travel and recruit collaborators for the project on the radio, in dance clubs, and through posters on city streets, inviting “the shy, the dissatisfied, narcissists, and anyone who’s ever wished they could be someone else for a night” to come and perform the decidedly melancholic and angst-ridden lyrics in front of generic, kitschy backdrops of nature scenes or faux-tropical islands.
The resulting video installation offers us a series of poignant portraits of its subjects that are at once intimate and voyeuristic, exceedingly sincere and tragi-comic. In the end, Collins wants us to identify with his subjects by invoking a cross-cultural community of people tied together by their love of The Smiths. In the interplay between our own narcissism as spectators and that of the American Idol dreams of the singers on the screen, the world won’t listen performs its magic.