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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon)

Twenty-five simultaneous fans cover Lennon's album Plastic Ono Band.
By Anita Senaratna
July 29, 2013
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By Anita Senaratna
July 29, 2013
  shares

Carriageworks is pretty quiet on a Saturday afternoon post-Eveleigh Markets. But that's probably the best way to experience Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon), a video installation by Berlin-based artist Candice Breitz, which is tucked away in Anna Schwartz Gallery at the far end of the building.

The installation features 25 John Lennon fans selected by Breitz to record their own version of Lennon's first solo album, Plastic Ono Band, and they all play simultaneously on individual screens. Standing right in the middle of the dark room, listening their voices echoing around the giant empty space is pretty surreal. It definitely adds to the experience.

It might seem weird for a 'portrait' of John Lennon to not have any actual images of him, but in Working Class Hero, the focus is on the fan — their relationship with the music and the way it means something different to each of them. It brings to mind that quote from Almost Famous, about how being a fan means "to truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts". You can see it in their facial expressions, the emotion in their voices, the way they perk up or the way they start bopping away when one particular song comes on.

Working  Class Hero is the fourth part of a series of similar 'portraits' by Breitz — Legend, King and Queen, which were about Bob Marley, Michael Jackson and Madonna respectively — all available on her website. They're not essential viewing, but you do get a better sense of what Breitz is trying to capture. And the contrasts between the different groups of fans. For instance, there's a lot more dancing in the Michael Jackson and Madonna ones, while John Lennon and Bob Marley fans prefer to sing with a bit of swaying and head bopping here and there.

Even if you're not a hardcore John Lennon fan, the experience of being a fan, and having that one album that you'll always know inside out, is something everyone can relate to.

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