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Are you really listening?


I haven’t had a chance to trek to Dallas and check out Phil Collinsthe world won’t listen at the DMA
and sadly, I doubt I will before the show closes. However, I’m lucky
enough to have seen most of Collins’ video works (the film festival I
worked with, Cinematexas, had a retrospective, as well as the American premiere, in conjunction with Lora Reynolds Gallery, of the first part of the world won’t listen: el mundo no escuchará in 2005).

Christina Rees, in her review of Collins’ DMA
, is completely right in her "creeping sense that Collins’ goal
isn’t as warm and fuzzy as this piece seems to be." It is part of
Collins’ project to remain mysterious and terribly
calculating in what he lets on and to make you think that he is
transparent. A name that Reece forgot to mention when discussing
Collins was Andy Warhol, who I see as his most important influence. One of
my major references when thinking about the world won’t listen is Warhol’s
screen tests.
Andy Warhol's Screen Test: Lou Reed (1966). Photograph: The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute

Meaning is infused into this recording of faces and
personalities, of "Superstars" by the context of their creation,
selection and presentation. Like Andy, Phil courts ambivalence and
confusion about his intentions. Like Andy, Phil exploits to reveal the
omnipresence of exploitation.

The choice of locales for his trilogy is a bit more important for
their economic and political dimensions than just for being "far
flung." The key to decoding the work is in the title: THE WORLD WON’T
. I’ll let a much better writer than myself explain my point: in
an essay on Collins’ video work (up to that point) written for the 2005
Cinematexas catalog, Spencer Parsons wrote:

no question that the event is in terrible taste, but then again, good
taste is scarcely at work in the living conditions of contemporary
Colombia. But if song titles like "Unloveable,"
and "Half a Person," not to mention the name of the album itself, are
enough to spike any pleasure with guilt, witnessing the unbridled
thrill of these singers in this context is something else altogether, a
joyful fulfillment of desire.

Collins: In terrible taste?

It is a testament to Collins’
talent that he manages to use the tools of international television (an
enviable passport, a video camera, an "exotic" background) to attack
the awful imperialist ideology that works so hard to isolate us from
the unwashed (and exceedingly "brown") masses of the developing world,
a necessary ignorance for the hegemonical day to day comfort of living
where and how we live. Despite the pop veneer of the world won’t listen
and its fantastically bourgeois venues, Collins’ project is incredibly confrontational and political, forcing audiences from developed western
nations (and for the most part terminally upper to middle class) to watch and
listen to the rest of the world singing the songs that made us
smile and the songs that made us cry

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