15 February, 2011

16 Feb - Contemporary Gaga

LAUNCHPROJECTS - In Monday's LA Times, art critic Christopher Knight discussed the "space Age plastic egg" in which pop-music sensation Lady Gaga arrived and later used in her performance on Sunday's Grammy Awards. Knight addressed the similarities between Gaga's egg and and Japanese artist Mariko Mori's Wave UFO sculpture, featured in the 2008 Venice Biennale. Knight further paralleled the meat dress worn by Gaga at this year's Video Music Awards and Canadian artist Jana Sterbak's 1987 sculpture Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorexic, made from 50 pounds of raw flank steak, now in the permanent collection of Paris' Centre Pompidou.

The article jogged my memory to my first experience with Lady Gaga's music. I had heard a few of her songs on the radio, knew she was Julliard trained, and wanted to know more about her. In a quick Google search, the video for the song Bad Romance popped up. I was stunned to watch this contemporary pop icon clearly riffing on Matthew Barney's epic video project, The Cremaster Cycle. I was electrified by the connection. Gaga had successfully transformed an utterly esoteric work of art (even among the erudite and experienced of contemporary art aficionados) into a sexy and accessible 4-minute visual sensation targeting mass audiences and teenage fans across the globe.
Gaga's "sampling" of contemporary art could perceived as the debasement the original artists' intention and process for media attention and pop sensationalism. I have yet to find any artistic credits to Mori, Barney, or Sterbak on Gaga's website and if that does not yet exist it needs to happen. I also feel, however, that it is exciting that contemporary art is influencing videos, album covers, and pop fashion. It provides the possibility of a more mainstream access to the type of art that can otherwise be considered too rarefied for mass consumption. Access creates understanding and appreciation. It ideally also fosters future champions of the arts.
When pop stars incorporate contemporary art into their practice it becomes less intimidating and mysterious to those who do consider themselves "art people." Lady Gaga must give credit to the artists that inspire her ideas. Credit, a brief description, and links to more information about the artists that influence her work on her website could whet the appetite of her enormous fan-base. Gaga could also add a curator to her entourage. Imagine the cultural street cred that would create - a much stronger statement of cultural achievement and sophistication than "poppin' bottles of Crystal." This confluence of culture is a potentially phenomenal vehicle to acquaint a substantial and diverse group of pop music fans to the wonder of contemporary art. Keep it up, Gaga - just give credit where credit is due.

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