Vice magazine recently published an article titled “A Guy Who is Scamming Rich European Kids for Free Drinks.” The article describes the exploits of a French-Korean, Dennis Karre, who has travelled to Barcelona Fashion Week for the past two years wearing fancy suits and sporting sunglasses mimicking the most viewed artist on youtube, a South Korean artist known by his stage name Psy. Psy’s fame came into the limelight on his six album with hit “Gangam style.” His charismatic dance routine and catchy beat in the 2012 hit became the first video to exceed one billion views on youtube. Certainly a spectacular feat any artist would like to make but he is also a repeat offender. In 2013, Psy’s video “Gentleman” became his second video on youtube that claimed the most viewed heavyweight title, passing artists Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and other notable mainstream pop artists. A force to be reckoned with, surely, but how was Karre mistakenly recognized as Psy?
As Karre’s entourage entered various night clubs to mingle with all the beautiful people, patrons began to notice a face they all knew, or thought they knew. This situation is a prime example of Jean Baudrillard's notion of Simulacra and Simulation, where the copy has replaced the “real” version of the artist. Even though this was Karre’s repeat appearance at the fashion week, none of the party goers seemed to mind that he was imitation, or remember that he had received a lot free drinks out of their pockets the year before. Karre was immediately ushered into VIP sections where he posed for photographs with his “fans” and even at one point got on stage and performed a dance that was no way reminiscent of the famous “Gangam Style”.
The video that started it all.
The imitation of the “real” Psy had become as much as “real” as if the actually artist had travelled from the Republic of South Korea to attend the Barcelona Fashion Week. Perhaps it was because to the alcohol, perhaps it was because of the environment that allowed for the perception of an image of a famous person to take the place of the actual artist as a reality. It might not have helped that Maciej Pestka, the author of the Vice article, doctored Karre’s entourage with photographers, beautiful women, a well tailored suit and the symbol of sunglasses Psy’s image is known for, the most recognizable aspect of the parody they were playing on the city of Barcelona. Pestka has written a book on the experience, titled The Life of Psy, which you can learn more about here. That, however, is what makes up all the difference in producing a simulation as described by Baudrillard. The ability to trick a crowd of people at the top of their field into believing they had been in the presence of greatness is an example of how reality is formulated. It didn't matter whether or not he was real, he was "real" to them. As they share the photographs taken with the famous artist across social media, they will remember that they had met the actual “real” Psy instead of Karre, a French-Korean with no affiliation with the most viewed man on youtube.