August 7th, 2010
Lady Gaga vs Anthony
Today I was watching a performance that has nothing to do with the two people above, but made me go into a mental diatribe that pit the two against each other. The show was this one, and I am not going to go into it–I think the NY Times did a good enough job there–but the incoherence and disjointedness of the piece as an established “style” reminded me of two particular exchanges I had at work, and how some people are ready to accept such a style as a convention, and some are ready to dismiss it, or even worse, to accept a dumbed-down stereotypical version of it.
I will describe the two episodes first and then go into the details.
Episode One: 1 year ago.
I was playing Anthony and the Johnsons at work and almost everyone around me started making fun of him and complaining about “the noise” (keep in mind I work in the arts). At first I thought they were trying to be ironic, but no. It turned out they found him to be cacophonic, non-sensical, and melodramatic (and I should stop for a second and clarify that I just adore my coworkers). I tried to explain to them that, besides my personal opinion about him being an incredibly talented, thoughtful and thorough artist, many people in the Music and Art worlds thought no less than me about him, and that I was a bit surprised (if not aghast) that they hadn’t heard about him. It was a little disappointing that they were so quick to dismiss him, because the first time I heard him on WFMU I was simply awed. So at the very least I would expect them to say they understand and appreciate what he does, even if they are not into it. Very much like I did when I saw the performance mentioned above.
Episode Two: 6 months ago.
I was at work. Lady Gaga had gone on Larry King the night before to dish out that cheesy shpiel she does about being an artist, and two of the people who 6 months earlier laughed at Anthony were now pontificating on how she was an artist and “she was incorporating art into bla, bla, bla…” (this is the part where my eyeballs roll into the back of my skull, and I let out a snort before passing out).
First of all: Larry King?? Really? Larry King was having an informed discussion on contemporary art and its various devices??
Secondly, are we talking about the same Lady Gaga? Have you heard her music? I mean, have you actually sat down and heard it? From the evidence we have–the music itself–it is very difficult to distinguish her music from the type of crappy sports anthems that suburbanites get drunk to at tail-gait parties, and which we will never be allowed to forget because of all “Classic Collections” on CD cable ads 10 years from now. She is obviously doing a feeble attempt to be known as the type of performer that Anthony already is. (Of course, she is aiming for a middle-brow crowd.) In other words, if you don’t go to museums, and if you fall asleep at the Opera, you would think that Lady Gaga is avant-garde. If you know who Klaus Nomi is (Google it, OK?), or Laurie Anderson, then you know that Lady Gag-gag is a bit late in the game to be acting like she’s some sort of innovator. If anything, she is a Madonna remake for hipsters. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a perfectly respectable living, but please save us the crap about “high art” and how “you studied Duchamp.” Really. For the love of God! My ears bleed every time I hear that dreck.
By now you can probably tell that I don’t care for Lady ArghArgh, and that I am a tad partial towards Anthony, but I am not holding any purist, or naive conceptions either. For all I know they are the best of friends and have their tea together every afternoon. My problem is this: L Gg is clearly yet another corporate product plopped in front of us, and meant to sell us a myriad of other products. She may be outrageous to the most conservative slice of senior citizenry, but she is easily digested by high schoolers and their purchase-abled parentals. And yes, she had a show at Local Project–eyes…skull…SNORT… Oops! Sorry, I’m back.–and yes she went to Tisch, bla, bla, bla… (she didn’t even finish. I mean, c’mon Tisch! How hard could that have been??), but if she is SO educated and SOOO conscientious about art, then why is the music so f*ing mediocre? Yes the costumes look cool, and that’s all honky-dory, but if you are going to do any art claims then you have to do better than dipping yourself in glue and running through an IKEA showroom. That doesn’t make you an artist. That makes you a contestant in Work of Art. In all justice the videos aren’t half-bad once the sound is turned off.[UPDATE: I looked at a few for this post and I have food coming out of my nose that should have been deep into my digestive track by now].
But I digress. My point in all of this is the following:
It takes a true armada of agents, artists, designers, assistants, brown-nosers, minions, peddlers, and even lowly Assistant Producers, to keep one of these attention fiends (a) in the public eye, (b) constantly, and (c) moderately composed or functional. What you see is not the person itself, but the product. The whole person is the product; a package sold to you for YOUR consumption, in its entirety. Do you really think this or that celebrity cares about children? Or is obsessed about her dog? Or whatever other meaningless tidbits they drop by the wayside for you to grovel on? Please! Even their screw-ups are planned. And when they aren’t planned, they are capitalized on. Once that stops happening they are no longer a celebrity; they are Mel Gibson.
So if you like that kind of insipid entertainment, that’s fine. I’m not going to judge you, I will even dance to it with you if absolutely necessary, but PLEASE, pretty please, with sugar on top, visit a library and get some real role models, or refine your senses a bit more. Will ya? Calling Lgggg and artist is paramount to calling Cheetos “cheese.”