Lady Gaga? Seriously?

Here are a few of the Gaga-related posts that have turned up in my feed-reader over the past couple of months:

“Deconstructing Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ Video”/Aylin Zafar/theatlantic.com

Herein lies the convenient Catch-22 Lady Gaga has created for herself. Much like Warhol, she has as much a part in feeding into pop consumer culture as she has in making a statement against it. Whatever product placement or triviality exists within her videos can be excused as art under the pretense of her participation in the pop art movement—whether “Gaga” as a product is really who she is or the product of a label is almost irrelevant when you consider that maybe she’s the modern-day Marcel Duchamp or René Magritte.

“Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ – Observations and Discussion”/only words to play with

It goes without saying that the diner is a staple of American culture, and the fact that they chose this space to launch an attack signifies a coordinating attack (terrorism?!) against the mom-and-pop, cherry-pie side of America.  Yet, once they have killed the diners, Gaga, Beyonce, and their posse do a dance dressed in outfits bearing the American flag, hippie garb, and lots of red, white, and blue.  As if America is destroyed by America; the revolution is destroyed/followed by the revolution; America turns rabid on itself.

“The Splendid Rot of Fame”/Ben Woodard/Naught Thought

Lady Gaga’s approach to pop clearly recognizes the double short circuit of fame – the short circuit of the meaningless and the meaningfull and the short circuit between the intentional and the accidental.  This two procedures are carried out by LG in her simple act of going crazy before she actually did – where the popular psychological explanation of the odd behaviors of celebrities (Spears’ shaved head, MJ’s everything, and any other eccentricity) is often that fame got to them, LG simply smashes the two together – the pursuit of fame itself is maddening and always already mad.

CFP: Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art about Lady Gaga

Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga is a new technological breed of journal that intends to take seriously the brazenly unserious shock pop phenomenon and fame monster known as Lady Gaga.

“Aase Berg’s With Deer and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” Video: Skins”/Steve Halle/Fluid / Exchange

Berg’s work, like Lady Gaga’s video, sets up a series of allegories in which Berg puts the narrator into certain animal skins, such as the fox and the deer…

“Lady Gaga & the Dead Planet Grotesque”/Jason Louv/h+

At once very human and also indistinguishable from the inhuman culture machine that promotes her, she is the perfect evolutionary advance, designed to outlive the cockroaches themselves. She is a successful gray alien hybrid, stripped of all human emotion or compassion, a thing made to flourish in this grim, mechanical age.

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13 Responses to Lady Gaga? Seriously?

  1. David G says:

    It is remarkable that nothing, not the sophomoric, pathetic video, not the unworthy of comment product placement, not even Beyonce, can distract from the primordial fact that this song sucks. Nothing has shocked me about Lady Gaga more than the seeming need for people to “deal” with her “shocking” “art.” I’ll take Britney in an art fight any day of the week.

    • It says in the Atlantic that she’s a genius.

      I won’t really fight with you about this though I think you’re exaggerating both how crappy the song and video are and how shocked you are that people see her as a sort of example of current pop culture kitsch carried to a logical, absurd and debatably self-aware end. She’s no Warhol (much less Duchamp or Magritte), but she’d still art the shit out of Britney. She’d art Britney so hard that K-Fed would feel it.

      • David B says:

        It reminds me of Paul Morrissey’s films. The biggest difference that comes to my mind, is that the video is one long string of well-tread effects. I have been taught that Flesh, Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., etc., were pretty revolutionary for their time. Chris, does it really say in the Atlantic that she’s a genius, or did you say that strictly for Dave’s benefit? To me, she seems like someone that would only be shocking to those that don’t know their history. I don’t think she deserves much critical recognition as something new, if you know what I mean. I liked the product placement, though, that was a nice touch. And she has a nice ass.

        • I’m pretty sure I read something of the sort, but it was mostly for Dave’s benefit.

          Revolutionary is not to word for her, unless by that you mean another turn of the same old wheel. There’s definitely nothing dangerous about her. Warhol’s context at least included drugs and VD. But I do find her focus, in The Fame Monster, on the non-human and the non-living (so I’m tempted to describe the long string of well-tread effects as a sort of Frankenstein monster) timidly interesting.

      • David G says:

        Chris, the The New Yorker also called her a genius.

        • Ouch. Check mate.

          • material lives says:

            It seems like in order for something to be “art,” it has to have inherent aesthetic value, consciously challenge some norm (and transcend the lack of beauty, such as was the case with Duchamp’s toilets), or produce culturally relevant meaning. I’m sure there’s more that I could classify as “art,” but those three things immediately come to mind. This video, and Gaga in general, fit into none of these three categories and none other that I can think of. As far as I can tell, her shock value antics mean nothing and create a balloon of hot air around themselves. Dada used nonsense as critique. But there is nothing being critiqued here. Gaga may be self-aware, but of what? So while I might find her entertaining, I don’t think I’ll ever call her artistic. I definitely will never describe her as a genius, either. But I also have never had the urge to buy either the Atlantic or the New Yorker. I’ve yet to see People Magazine laud her as a genius, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

          • Harsh! Well, I don’t know what “inherent aesthetic value” is, but I’m a little tempted to argue that art is the thing that occasions speculations about what art is so I can declare myself the winner. I don’t really think that though; I guess I tend to think of art as an activity…either as a kind of play, in which case I have no problem talking about Gaga’s art, or else as a thing we do to cope with mortality, in which case I’ll admit that what Gaga does is something else (that probably goes for Warhol too) although Michael Jackson’s death is clearly a condition for this video.

          • material lives says:

            I don’t know what “inherent aesthetic value” is, exactly, either. Let’s delete “inherent.” That doesn’t solve the problem of what constitutes “aesthetic value,” but basically, I’m saying that art generally is either disturbing/disruptive/not beautiful for the sake of challenging norms, or aesthetically interesting in some way. I don’t find Lady Gaga to be producing art towards the production of aesthetic pleasure (and I’m speaking of her performance here, because her music, of course, must reach towards this) or engaging in understandable, meaningful critique. I’m not comfortable with saying anything that makes us debate or think is “art,” since that could even raise George W.’s “neologisms” to the status of “art.” But I think what is bothering me under the surface is attributing some of her work, such as this video, to her authorship. Does this woman speak intelligently or meaningfully about this work as her production?

          • Are you baiting me, Cydney? Because I was about to go all Foucault on you, ask “what is an author?” and accuse you of Romanticizing the figure of the Genius Artist. This is the dynamic observed in the Louv article about her indistinguishability from the culture industry that promotes her. The necessity to think of Gaga as a complex of distributed agency as opposed to an autonomous genius is a lot of what I find interesting about her.

            But anyway, to answer your question, she studied for awhile at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has written songs for other artists as well as herself. Here’s excerpts from an early interview she gave about what she thinks about what she does. Judge for yourself:

            …I would say the catalyst for making music and all art is to make something that’s beautiful…GaGa is not a character. There’s the fashion, the music, the films and the videos. Everything that you see is an extension of me. It’s not a character that I play on television…I’d look at pop art and politics and write essays. I don’t do that anymore, but I still think in that way. I applied that same kind of reckoning to the album. The album doesn’t say one thing or another about fame. It explores the different, shocking orifices of fame…It’s not my intention to make fun of pop culture; it’s my intention to review it…

          • David G says:

            I’d like to respond to all this bait (how can Cydney possibly claim that art requires people to “speak intelligently or meaningfully” about creation?), but you guys are way over-thinking it: the main problem is not whether her music or performance is or is not art, it’s that her music sucks. SUCKS. And that is why Britney Spears would out-art her: some of her music does not suck.

            In defense of The Atlantic: that quote came from a blog on their website; the magazine is still pretty great. The New Yorker, on the other hand, is a magazine worthy of calling Lady Gaga genius in print.

          • material lives says:

            I didn’t claim that art requires people to “speak intelligently or meaningfully about their artistic production,” (I simply asked if Gaga does, and yes, that was bait) although I’d be happy to in this context because what we were talking about was her status as an autonomous “Genius” and artist. Those were the terms on the table. After all, it is Gaga’s bank account where the $$$ go to, and not the bank account of Distributed Agency, just as it is Foucault’s account that all of the $$$ that are the production of his intellectual labor go to. The irony of Foucault critiquing the concept of the individual should not be beyond any of us.

            Also, though, the reason why we think about the Death of the Author is because of the presence of text. A text produced in which the author is not before us. In Gaga’s case, she has inserted herself into the framework in which we “read.” And Gaga says it herself:”everything you see in an extension of me.” “Gaga is not a character.”

            Although I have always conceptually loved Foucault, show me a person who does not engage in some kind of biographical research on the artists/writers they love and try to connect text with the mind that produced it.

          • Cydney A says:

            Also, David, fess up: what’s a song of Britney’s that doesn’t suck? I must admit, I find “Poker Face” listenable.

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