Institute of Para-Enactment Research
Softcore Historicism and Embodied Heritage



The term “historiogrtaphical karaoke” was outlined by Mexican curator Cuauhtémoc Medina  on his pivotal text about Jeremy Deller´s The Battle of Oreave, where he describes how “the aesthetics of participation have shifted from the realm of avant-garde art to defining the space of reproduction of capital, (so that) we should not be surprised that various types of historiographical karaoke are proliferating.”

The etimology of the word karaoke  derives from the conjunction of Japanese words “karappo”, meaning empty or void , and 'okesutura' meaning orchestra, as  Karaoke songs are versions of songs replicated without the voice of the singer, so that a non-professional amateur audience can reenact the performance of the singer.  In doing so, karaoke operates as an imitation or simulacrum, and therefore can be also read as a reenactment.

The connotations used by Medina to Karaoke in regards of historiography refers to what has been described by Karen Tongson as “the rampant "amateurism" that has arisen in various modes of creative production in the media age, from music, art and film, to literature and criticism”. This connotation is further explained by the expression also mentioned by Togston, and described by novelist Dubravka Ugresic, author of Karaoke Culture, of “individual freedom”  of current societal system that actually refers to merely achieving “the freedom of imitation" of something that already exists.

From the perspective of queer aesthetics, as also noted by Togston, Karaoke functions as a performative practice that, like lip singing, travestism or drag, is “actually contingent upon a particular set of decorums, historically contingent repertoires, and meticulous methods of recreation and practice”.

The following excerpt  by Cuauhtémoc Medina  introduces the term historiographical Karaoke  within the discourse of reenactment studies.

“In a classically postmodern mingling of functions such as education, leisure, tourism, sports, entertainment and political identification, citizens of various classes gather during their off hours to relive the childhood pleasures of disguising themselves as soldiers, pirates, Indians, cowboys and scouts, to stage determined historical events. Organized in hundreds of historical reenactment societies and often working in association with museums, hotels, orchestras or governments, these groups reconstruct “period” costumes, weapons, tools and languages with almost fetishistic devotion, in order to socialize under the pretext of traveling to another historical period. We are dealing with a central transition, where spare time is interpreted as an escape from self-time. In an age when culture has radical misgivings about abstraction and representation”.

︎︎︎Medina Cuauhtémoc. “History Repeats Itself... Otherwise, It Wouldn’t Be History.” Essay. In Jeremy Deller: El Ideal Infinitamente Variable De Lo Popular = the Infinitely Variable Ideal of the Popular. México, D.F.: MUAC, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, UNAM, 2015.

︎︎︎ Berlin, 2022

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