Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Let's Call EVERYTHING On Youtube Performance Art. No?

"Dozer casse la merde chez Le Sacre Coeur" -
a collaboration between Braque and myself,
inspired by Schnabel
          If I were to invite Julian Schnabel over to my house to watch me break all of the dishes and then arrange them into a cubist-inspired (I’m a Braque fan, I can’t help it) rendering of my cat, would it be art? What if I revived Andy Warhol from the dead to help me make sidewalk chalk Campbell’s soup cans in the driveway? Maybe it would be art, but it wouldn’t be good art. I’m concerned by the buzz about the so-called “performance art” coming from Jay Z.
          First of all, didn’t he retire? I mean, clearly, that was a joke, and we all knew it. Or maybe it was a publicity stunt. Whatever it was, I would have preferred that to the self-aggrandizement bubbling out of the creation of the music video for Picasso Baby. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a total rip off of Marina Abramovic’s performance art work The Artist Is Present. He’s calling it a “Performance Art Film.” Marina Abramovic even made an appearance! What Jay Z does in this film is rap, up close and personal, with various people dancing, sitting, or standing in front of him. Is this performance? Yes. Is this Performance Art? I don’t think so.
            Maybe I’m splitting hairs. Yes, music is an art form. And as musicians, we perform. As a musician, however, I have a hard time swallowing the idea that someone having a good time giving a concert and engaging his audience is creating “performance art.” The former term invokes something more daring, line crossing, and visual. I think of the sorts of things that might make me really uncomfortable, like people covered in poop and throwing themselves at walls. Or something less gross but that might make you wonder about something, such as Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box
Remember these? Simultaneously killing
the earth and your arteries at the same time?
Now you can buy them on Ebay.
            Jay Z taking a rap video and calling it performance art is a summation of everything that’s wrong with culture in America. People want their culture handed to them in a Styrofoam Big Mac box. They want to open it up, eat the garbage inside, and then chuck the rest in the trash and never think about it again. They want it to taste good, be ready fast, and they don’t care if it has no nutritional value. If you want evidence of this, all you have to do is walk into a big name bookstore and take a look at what they have out on the front tables. When was the last time you saw Proust on a center table? I don’t want to read it either, but I also as a general rule avoid anything I see on the tables in the middle of the bookstore and refuse to purchase or read any book that has a pink cover.

            The radio is filled with crap. You know that as well as I do. Selena Gomez, Justin Blubber, people whose names I haven’t even heard of that probably had shows on the Disney Channel, or Nickelodeon, or were illegitimate children of the characters of Degrassi: The Next Generation. Mediocrity is more infectious than MRSA and adults still don’t know how to buy shoes that fit (I realize that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic, but it is irritating me to the point of irrational anger, lately. Just look down a minute and take a look at all of those feet hanging off of sandals and ill placed arches. It defies logic).
            There’s an editorial on npr.org about the Jay Z music video (Stubborn like a mule I am, I'm not calling it a performance art video). The author, Cedric Shine, claims in the title that the big money mogul is putting hip-hop and art back in the same room. They were never in the same room. The author would know that if he read his own words. In the first two paragraphs he describes Jay Z’s marketing – a Samsung ad announcing the title of the ad during the NBA finals, and then how the recording industry adjusted their policies so that Samsung could buy a million copies of the album before it even dropped. The next paragraph champions Jay Z’s thoughts on how he’s bringing more revenue to a “dying music industry model.” What Cedric Shine has just described is commercialism – not art. 

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