Published by November 12 2013
The themes beneath Lady Gaga’s
theatrics are more than just a gag
In 1987, Canadian artist Jana Sterbak made a statue of meat dangling off of a dress mannequin titled, “Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorexic,” which evoked a commentary on bodily decay and the harms of vanity. In 1935, Surrealist pioneer Salvador Dali constructed an entire room of furniture fashioned to look like actress Mae West’s face. More recently, renowned modern artist Jeff Koons debuted a series of sculptures this year with blue balls known as “Gazing Balls” meticulously placed on each piece. The series was supposed to serve as a retrospective opportunity for onlookers to view things through a different lens. Now on a much more jarring and seemingly random note, in the summer of 2012, pop star Lady Gaga changed her Twitter header to, “When Pop Sucks the Tits of Art.” At first it was thought to be completely bemusing and odd. But in coalition with the title to her third studio album, “ARTPOP,” which was announced shortly after, one could guess it was in reference to the pop art movement from the mid-20th century. Just months later, I came across a video of Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic, in which she readies herself for a fashion shoot alongside Givenchy house designer Ricardo Tisci. She then describes the photo, saying, “I will sit here, and you will wear a tuxedo, sit on my lap, and suck on my tits, because I am the art, and you are the fashion.” And in that moment, it all became so clear.
In just five short years, the pop-tune-chugging provocateur by the stage name of Lady Gaga has managed to seamlessly train the popular media into looking further into her works beyond the surface. What’s the underlying meaning to this song, this video, this performance? Does it even have a deeper meaning? Is what we’re looking at art? It seems all these questions raised by her work are worth their weight in all the art reviews from magazines that one probably wouldn’t care about. At the risk of making Lady Gaga seem like an art history and pop cultural sponge, releasing what seems to some as watered regurgitations of what it takes in, Gaga has cultivated many different references to what she sees fit for her visions.
Even more enthralling, some of these iconoclastic moments of high-end art within the pop music landscape have ended up being some of her most famous and jaw-dropping moments. Remember that meat frock worn at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards? A dazzling reference to the world of avant-garde art, and perhaps a nod to Sterbak herself. Or that time when Gaga’s mystic black perfume started to appear in your nearest Macy’s? Well, its accompanying commercial (which aired on national television by the way) features a surrealist face of furniture depicting Gaga herself. And of all clashing moments of art and pop culture, one of her most captivating moments opened for the mass market to purchase on November 11th, in the form of a pop music album. The prized result? An original Koons sculpture of Gaga in your classic birthing position, with none other than one of his Blue Gazing Balls strategically placed in between her legs, literally birthing a moment of art and pop history. This museum exhibit is being injected into the mass marketplace by way of places like Target and Wal-Mart. Gaga and Koons, along with other collaborators, such as above-mentioned performance artist Marina Abramovic, stage designer and painter Robert Wilson, and fashion photography duo Inez Van Lamsweede and Vinoodh Matadin, are setting a new standard for the industries of music, art, fashion, technology and entertainment, which will all be combined in Gaga’s new app that accompanies the ARTPOP album.
What seems to be happening before the eyes of the onlooker is an introspective look at high-end art through the translation of people in the public forum, such as Gaga herself. Through the constant references of art, film, fashion and music that have driven pop culture, one can conclude that art has always driven pop. Pop has been born, bred and breast fed from the nurturing of artistic integrity and the ideas created in such a high-brow world. It may take a few years or even decades for pop culture to catch up, but through every nuance, every slight brush stroke, every lip couch seen on TV, every instance in which a glimpse into the aesthetic of the high end museum piece is appearing on your television, or a music album cover, every reference to a banana you see on some random purse you overpaid for, or better yet, every bottle of Perrier water you now buy which contains the infamous Andy Warhol design, pop sucks the tits of art, and it feeds off of art to survive.