Video: Ai Weiwei Parodies 'Gangnam Style,' Confuses Pundits

After last night's Dancing With the Stars version of the Gangnam Style dance, we thought we had seen it all. However, today Ai Weiwei jumped on board the ever-growing list of video tributes to the song when he tweeted a link to a new video on his YouTube channel (embedded above) entitled "Grass Mud Horse (草泥马) Style," making a reference the to the now-infamous pun used to critique Chinese Internet censorship. 

Filmed in Beijing's Caochangdi art district, the video features the world-famous Chinese artist dancing around in a pink shirt with his team in scenes where the original artist PSY had originally appeared, but his typical dark political humor (possibly) comes out when he is featured at one point dancing handcuffed to Chinese rock star Zuoxiao Zuzhou (左小祖咒). In the background are pink chrysanthemums, flowers which are typically given at funerals in China and also feature prominently in mourning ceremonies, such as when President Hu Jintao laid down chrysanthemums for victims of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. The character for chrysanthemum (菊) can also carry political connotations. In addition, the artist Zhao Zhao (赵赵), Ai Weiwei's protege, has been identified as one of the video's extras.

Responding to the video, American media have been searching for deeper political meanings, without much luck. Washington Post's Max Fischer states, "I can't claim to understand the significance of this, if there is any." Perhaps it is a comment on "why China lacks Gangnam style," an issue recently examined by Evan Osnos at The New Yorker.

Others have critiqued Ai Weiwei's dancing skills. According to Austin Ramzy at Time, "Despite the restrictions on his movements, he has continued developing new works and cultivating his a reputation as an activist, artist, documentarian, microblogger and photographer. But dancer? That will take some work." Ai Weiwei clearly wasn't taking his dancing too seriously; he tweeted that the video was done with "no dress rehearsal" and "no practice, everyone improvised."

Tell us what you think. Does the video have an underlying message, or is Ai Weiwei just having fun with this one?

About the Author

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Liz Flora is a contributor to Asia Blog. She has a master's degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University.