Friday, 27 June 2014

Five Things Lady Gaga Needs to Do To Be a Proper Performance Artist.

Because it is so difficult to define, anyone can claim to be a 'performance artist.' Applying Guffman's theories, everyone one is performing all the time, which makes it even easier for me to claim a lineage that includes Abramovic, Bausch and Franco B whenever I put on my hat and use the ATM.

Lady Gaga has demonstrated an interest in being more than a mere international pop star - as this loving article explains, she fancies being a live artist. Getting spit roasted on stage, and being covered in spew is a good start, but if Gaga wants to be taken seriously when applying for Buzzcut, she'll need to up her game.

1. Wander about in the scud
one for the ladies
The whole 'strutting about in your shreddies' thing is so 1963. Ever since the Lord Chamberlain got bored reading every play written in the UK, and suggesting changes along the lines of 'replace 'fucking hell' with 'blooming Nora',' even scripts include a bit of bedroom fun. Gaga spends a great deal of her time in outfits more suitable for the beach than the stage, but that just makes her a burlesque routine.

Even Miley Cyrus did the full monty, that time on the wrecking ball (a subtle attempt to illustrate the feminist concept that 'the master's tools won't dismantle the master's house'). If Gaga is serious about her desire to share the heritage of Yves Klein (who gave himself a heart attack when he watched a film of himself), nudity is the elementary stage. If she covered herself in gold paint and sat on a child's swing, she could call it a Franco B tribute.

Plus it would quash all those rumours that she has a penis.

2. Nail herself to a car
This one could be doubly effective: she could arrange for Ford to sponsor her tour, and finish the night off by being crucified on the bonnet of an old Cortina. Admittedly, getting nailed on a car is more common round the back of Tescos than on-stage at the Hydro, but the interaction of Christian imagery, self-harm and the commodification of art would send a message to those pretenders than Gaga means Dada.

Unlike pop videos, which rely on a montage of images and a suggestive narrative, performance art is often all about the visual moment. As per Franco B (above), the physical presence of the artist combines with an immediate semiotic mesh, and the suggestive use of piercing and motor-cars can mangle the sweet spot between sex and death. I am thinking it would be a symbol of Mother Earth being tortured by human's use of oil, maybe the symbolic death of the artist through mechanisation, the eternal conflict between the creative genius and the forces of capitalism.

Chris Burden's original version uses a Volkswagen, which gets extra points for evoking Nazism, probably, but fails on the grounds that the style looks dated. He might as well be wearing flairs.

3.Dress up as a swastika
The recent Captain America film reminded everyone that, in an ever changing geo-political climate, the Nazis are always the baddies. Despite Lemmy's attempt to buy up as much Third Reich Memorabilia as he can afford from his dwindling record sales, English speakers can still find true evil through wearing cheap monocles, Hugo Boss designed jackets and throwing 'schweinhund' and 'achtung'  into a sentence.

Actually, maybe there is a bigger conspiracy behind this. The real villains, probably the Masons, realised that dressing up in WWII fancy dress would make everyone think that a secret cabal of Germans was behind international terrorism. I expect Captain America III will clarify this.

One of the downsides of all this, though, is that they have to make special versions for German release. It is not allowed to represent a swastika in Germany. While I bet they made this law so they didn't have to watch all those American films about the War in which they are depicted as baddies, and I have problems with the explicit censorship - far-right sympathisers should tattoo the fucking thing on their foreheads so I can see them coming, or just carry a copy of The Daily Mail, it did lead to this brilliant art work.

Martin Kippenberger With the Best Will in the World I Can't see a Swastika 1984
Now: imagine Gaga's cheeky smile poking out of the top of this. And let the world's press have fun. Gaga oh la la! Then she could explain how brilliant Deepak Chopra is.

4. Do a Press Release that makes no sense
I won't pick out any names here - it is invidious to mention one live artist over another. However, writing gibberish, and thereby mystifying both process and product is as endemic to performance art as using the British libel laws is silence opposition is to wealthy celebrities. Gaga has an advantage here: not only did she do her dissertation on Damien Hurst, giving her a working knowledge of International Art English, she likes Deepak Chopra, who uses quantum physics to explain why not taking your medicine is a great idea.

Admittedly, unlike every other suggest, this would be a step down for the author of lines like Cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin/I'm not lying I'm just stunnin' with my love-glue-gunning. But here's a suggestion for the release of the next single.

Gaga uses the language of romance to interrogate the function of music by calling to attention the displacement in time and location that occurs in its realm.

Moving from a structuralist account of desire in which positive words are awarded a semiotic meaning that structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, Gaga re-articulates the question of desire into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

To put it another way, she uses a lot of dirty chat to undermine the traditional romantic notion of love.

5.Stick a baseball bat up her arse
Sadly, this isn't me being unnecessarily violent, and it refers to an artist whom I rate pretty highly. Ron Athey explores the danger and violence implicit in the human body, using his own skin as a canvas and his fluids as paint, in a manner of speaking. Athey is a live artist, but he evokes a medieval aesthetic, echoing those pictures of saints with the added bonus of being staged in real life.

Admittedly, this is the real rough stuff - Athey isn't out to take prisoners. It has ensured that his work is not amenable to the mainstream - Athey won't be doing an Abromovic and mistake having a chat with a fan for a serious art work any time soon. Strangely, Athey's work is not offensive, beyond the visceral reaction he provokes. There is an element of compassion to his performances, and through his extremity comes a calm, which might be close to the spirituality that people like Madonna claim to have paid for. 

Athey, however, might be one step ahead. I think he is doing a Lady Gaga routine already.

On a final note, I think Gaga knows her options already. Her use of the keytar is clearly influenced by the boundary pushing influence of Bryony Kimmings and her poster for the Art Rave Tour looks like one of those things I slap up from press releases on Paint. And I know she'll be reading this and thinking how she can add me as dramaturg for the next tour. Since her last move was to hang out with Marina Abramovic, who was last vibrant around the time someone thought Ayds a good name for a slimming tablet, I'll be by the phone.

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