Karaoke and Ventriloquism Across Media and Performance. Assocaiton for the Study of the Arts of the Present. October 17, 2018 - October 20, 2018

Instructional Course, Workshop, or Symposium

Our proposed public seminar explores the conflations and contestations of the terms “karaoke” and “ventriloquism” in contemporary art and media practices. Both terms conjure negative associations with derivation and manipulation. Though voice presents itself as the most basic and fundamental connection between these two concepts and practices, we are also invested in exploring karaoke and ventriloquism as sound technologies and cultural metaphors, as well as technologies of power, racialization, and sexualization. Ventriloquism, for all its associations with archaism and mysticism in certain historical contexts, is also depicted as a technology and technique of deception, statecraft, and power. Meanwhile, karaoke, for all its associations with the expressive and participatory potential of amateur vocalization, is also, crucially, a technological apparatus, whose media archaeology bears the traces of intercolonial conflicts, negotiations, and aftermaths. Our seminar will also explore the ways these sound technologies and techniques have been harnessed as broader cultural metaphors for judgments at once moral and aesthetic, and thus become fruitful entry points for exploring critical, intellectual, and affective methodologies that might challenge the presuppositions that come with ventriloquism and karaoke. We will pay particular attention to how these terms specifically map onto racialized, queer, and trans bodies. As an anachronistic, yet surprisingly pervasive, performance practice, ventriloquism is often metaphorized to describe a scenario of artful deception in which a white puppetmaster manipulates the unruly bodies and voices of so-called “asynchronous” subjects. Karaoke, meanwhile, carries the mark of “foreignness” and exoticism, bearing the (post)colonial burden of naming a form of failed, “slavish” mimicry that cannot attain the status of “the original.”

Service Performed By


  • October 17, 2018 - October 20, 2018

Host Organization

  • Assocaiton for the Study of the Arts of the Present

Location or Venue

  • New Orleans, LA