Phil Collins: the world won’t listen

  • Phil Collins, the world won’t listen, 2004-07, synchronized three-channel video installation; color, sound; 56 min. Courtesy Shady Lane Productions, Berlin and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.


  1. Mar 24, 2016, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Level 0, Lecture Hall

In his three-part video installation the world won’t listen, Phil Collins compiles original footage of music fans in Colombia, Turkey and Indonesia performing karaoke to the 1987 album The World Won’t Listen by celebrated British indie rock band The Smiths. The musical soundtrack, part of a fully functioning karaoke machine built especially for this project, was recorded in Bogotá in 2004 when Collins collaborated with local musicians to reproduce The Smiths’ music with uncanny precision. Subsequent iterations of the project took place in Istanbul in 2005 and were featured in the 9th Istanbul Biennial, while the final edition was produced in 2007 in Jakarta and Bandung.

Each video has a resolutely karaoke aesthetic: static backdrops with solid colors and generic landscape scenes, simple lighting, and low-fi microphones. The videos resulted from months of intense on-site work in each city researching, mobilizing potential performers, building sets, and filming. Collins launched small-scale media campaigns in each city, appearing at dance clubs, on the radio, and posting flyers calling on Smiths fans to perform with his karaoke machine before a fixed camera. The final videos (assembled in the album’s original order) show non-professionals, none of whom are native English speakers, standing alone or in groups singing their favorite Smiths song with impassioned energy. Sometimes humorous, often genuinely moving, the totality of the performances contemplates global connectedness as well as the universality of alienation. the world won't listen replays The Smiths’ iconic outsider perspective through figures far removed from the band’s home in Manchester, England, revealing a poignant argument about the unifying power of music and popular culture.

The final video, filmed in 2007 in Jakarta and Bandung, Indonesia, will be screened at the Carpenter Center.  

Introduced by James Voorhies, the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center. 

Mark your calendars: April 7! Phil Collins in person at the Carpenter Center to screen his feature-length film Tomorrow Is Always Too Long (82 min.) followed by a talk with the artist.

Phil Collins

Phil Collins is a British-born filmmaker, visual artist, cultural organizer, and educator based in Berlin and Wuppertal. His diverse practice is characterized by close engagements with place and communities, which over the years have included, amongst others, disco-dancing Palestinians, fans of The Smiths across three continents, Kosovan-Albanian refugees, the youth of Baghdad, anti-fascist skinheads in Malaysia, the homeless population of Cologne, and teachers of Marxism-Leninism from the former German Democratic Republic. Rather than static portraits, the works resulting from these collaborations articulate the nuances of relations embedded in the aesthetic regimes and economies that define everyday existence, from news and politics to entertainment and shopping. Throughout, Collins upholds a commitment to myriad forms of experience across the social spectrum, and an interest in the contradictory impulses of intimacy and desire within the public sphere. 

Collins’s works are represented in collections such as those of Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Tate Gallery, London; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In Spring 2016 his first feature film Tomorrow Is Always Too Long (2014) will be theatrically released in Germany.

Since 2011 Collins is Professor of Video Art and Performance at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne.