Saturday, September 19, 2009

Michael Jackson and the Memorial Competition

So I’ve just been looking at the results of the ‘Michael Jackson memorial’ competition found here: and I’m quite impressed with what is there. A few initial thoughts:

(1) The winner is a very impressive and simple display that rather has more to do with copyright laws and politics than it does with Michael Jackson himself. It is a pleasing concept, and it has something to say, but it’s just as easily adaptable to anyone else. There’s nothing particularly MJ there. Though it is interesting that I once wrote something about Creative Commons and ‘copyleft’ that used “Billie Jean” as an example and considered the implications if Michael Jackson suddenly decided to relinquish copyright claims over his most iconic song. So interesting that the monument is built around that song as well.

(2) Perhaps more impressive than the winner, if rather less realistic, the runner-up is much more aesthetically successful. The main idea is the streets of the “Billie Jean” video writ large and covering a whole dancefloor somewhere in the middle of the desert. A wind turbine provides the power and it pumps out Michael Jackson music, presumably 24/7, in a fully self-generating capacity (well, generated by wind of course). It’s very pretty and it walks the divide between useful and useless all too well – which art should, really. Interesting that it also takes inspiration from (the video of) “Billie Jean”, confirming that song’s status as Michael Jackson’s most iconic recording.

(3) The third place entry is an interesting exhibit (bed as art – like Tracey Emin) that pays tribute to a thought-provoking comment Michael Jackson once made, but unfortunately it was produced from within the realms of Michael Jackson fandom, where outside opinions can be forgotten, overlooked or even scorned. I mean, there might be a day when uncomfortable questions of sexual habits are mere memories of a different era and not one of the main things people associate with Michael Jackson. But we’re nowhere near there right now, and an artwork that actually goes out of its way to associate Michael Jackson with the bedroom is either one that seeks to directly confront Michael Jackson’s detractors or one that blithely ignores their existence. Problematic either way.

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