Will Lady Gaga Transcend Her Tampon Costume?

by Art Fag City on May 7, 2010 · 80 comments Newswire

POST BY PADDY JOHNSON

Is Lady Gaga an artist? According to PS1 Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach, the answer to this question was “no” two months ago but when David Byrne published the sentiment on his blog, and word got around he changed his tune. Now the answer is not only “yes”, but, “Let’s go to MoMA together, you will bring artist Terence Koh.” Guess who was spotted at MoMA yesterday with Biesenbach?

So be it, but something seems a little icky about this. For one thing, Lady Gaga isn’t an artist, she’s a performer (though yes, technically anyone’s an artist who says they are. Hello can of worms and distinction made anyway). She’s not doing anything particularly innovative musically, and while the same can not be said of her work as a pop star, I worry any collaboration between her and the museum will fall within the throw away blockbuster genre of programming. Showing up to the MoMA dressed as a tampon just isn’t going to have the same reasonance as doing so at the MTV music awards.

But Biesenbach claims he was just misquoted, writing to Byrne over email, “Of course Lady Gaga is an artist”. Personally, I don’t buy this; Byrne wrote that Biesenbach justified his initial thoughts on the subject with Susan Sontag, so the conversation seems far too involved to misconstrue. Here’s hoping the only issue is communication, not the desire to capitalize on the performer’s ability to bring new visitors and benefactors into the museum. While I’m at it, I’ll add to my “hope list” that such a collaboration will transcend previous notions of menstruation art..

  • http://www.michellevaughan.net Michelle

    Agreed and fair.

    On tampon art: might have been interesting for a second in the 70′s, made me depressed in art school in the 90′s and just makes me want to hurl now. Am sure Terence Koh thinks it’s awesome…

  • http://www.michellevaughan.net Michelle

    Agreed and fair.

    On tampon art: might have been interesting for a second in the 70′s, made me depressed in art school in the 90′s and just makes me want to hurl now. Am sure Terence Koh thinks it’s awesome…

  • http://www.tatianaberg.com Tati

    I dunno, Paddy. Not to be a Gaga apologist, but once again I don’t really feel like this justifies an “icky” feeling. Also saying that Gaga “isn’t an artist, she’s a performer” seems like a ridiculous distinction to me.

  • http://www.tatianaberg.com Tati

    I dunno, Paddy. Not to be a Gaga apologist, but once again I don’t really feel like this justifies an “icky” feeling. Also saying that Gaga “isn’t an artist, she’s a performer” seems like a ridiculous distinction to me.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    I mean, listen, maybe Biesenbach did all sorts of research and changed his tune about Gaga because he likes her. That would be great. I’m just saying the appearance is not great. And yes, I have my doubts about Gaga, but I’ve definitely heard compelling arguments made on her behalf and buy some of them.

    What I think is ridiculous is this idea that nothing that wants the term art should be excluded from its definition. All this talk about how limiting it is for art to be defined keeps anyone from saying anything substantial about it.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    I mean, listen, maybe Biesenbach did all sorts of research and changed his tune about Gaga because he likes her. That would be great. I’m just saying the appearance is not great. And yes, I have my doubts about Gaga, but I’ve definitely heard compelling arguments made on her behalf and buy some of them.

    What I think is ridiculous is this idea that nothing that wants the term art should be excluded from its definition. All this talk about how limiting it is for art to be defined keeps anyone from saying anything substantial about it.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    reminder: Only comments with their full name will be approved.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    reminder: Only comments with their full name will be approved.

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    I think many people are confusing the fact that Gaga is undeniably quite creative with her being an artist.

    Then again I have a difficult time accepting some famous “genuine” artists as such as well (such as Yoshitomo Nora or Marcel Dzama).

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    I think many people are confusing the fact that Gaga is undeniably quite creative with her being an artist.

    Then again I have a difficult time accepting some famous “genuine” artists as such as well (such as Yoshitomo Nora or Marcel Dzama).

  • Howard Halle

    Paddy,

    How much difference is there really between something like Marina Abramovic and Lady Gaga, at this point? IMO: zero.

  • Howard Halle

    Paddy,

    How much difference is there really between something like Marina Abramovic and Lady Gaga, at this point? IMO: zero.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    @Howard I guess that’s what’s interesting about the tampon costume and her appearance at MoMA.

    Difference: How the work is sold. Where it’s showcased. Most importantly, how it’s experienced. So maybe it all falls under the category of art or whatever you want to call it, but there are different layers to the way we experience art and they will remain intact. There’s a difference between how we experience Bravo’s art reality television show and the art produced on that show. (some of these thoughts come out of a conversation with Hrag Vartanian)

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    @Howard I guess that’s what’s interesting about the tampon costume and her appearance at MoMA.

    Difference: How the work is sold. Where it’s showcased. Most importantly, how it’s experienced. So maybe it all falls under the category of art or whatever you want to call it, but there are different layers to the way we experience art and they will remain intact. There’s a difference between how we experience Bravo’s art reality television show and the art produced on that show. (some of these thoughts come out of a conversation with Hrag Vartanian)

  • http://www.michellevaughan.net Michelle

    To be clear about what I wrote above, I am a huge Gaga fan, as is my husband. But she’s a pop music artist and she marketed herself brilliantly as such. She creates stories/imagery with video directors and fashion designers that knock our socks off. I think it’s correct to define her as a pop artist and not a visual artist.

    But this brings up a good question about David Byrne; what the hell is he then? He’s a musician. But he shows art, we own/dig his “Tree Drawings/Arboretum” drawing book. Why is it more seamless for Byrne, and not for Gaga?

    Hmmm… OK now I’m confused.

  • http://www.michellevaughan.net Michelle

    To be clear about what I wrote above, I am a huge Gaga fan, as is my husband. But she’s a pop music artist and she marketed herself brilliantly as such. She creates stories/imagery with video directors and fashion designers that knock our socks off. I think it’s correct to define her as a pop artist and not a visual artist.

    But this brings up a good question about David Byrne; what the hell is he then? He’s a musician. But he shows art, we own/dig his “Tree Drawings/Arboretum” drawing book. Why is it more seamless for Byrne, and not for Gaga?

    Hmmm… OK now I’m confused.

  • Jennifer Hutchinson

    I read in a previous post one of the commentators asked “when will contemporary art die?” when talking about the eternal “painting is dead” debate. I think that this is a serious subject to consider; the fact that in a technological era many people are becoming very literate in contemporary concepts, and conceptual art appreciation is leaking into mainstream pop music. Would it be fair to say that having Gaga bringing MoMA to the masses may steal the appeal from elitists who find their niche in what the masses (of us inferior animals) are not schooled in?
    Is it too crazy to say that conceptual art is very sick in bed?

  • Jennifer Hutchinson

    I read in a previous post one of the commentators asked “when will contemporary art die?” when talking about the eternal “painting is dead” debate. I think that this is a serious subject to consider; the fact that in a technological era many people are becoming very literate in contemporary concepts, and conceptual art appreciation is leaking into mainstream pop music. Would it be fair to say that having Gaga bringing MoMA to the masses may steal the appeal from elitists who find their niche in what the masses (of us inferior animals) are not schooled in?
    Is it too crazy to say that conceptual art is very sick in bed?

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    Lady Gaga is a pop star. She is a mimic and an “absorber” (relevant to the tampon costume?) of styles and trends. Besides the obvious pop-star tropes/personalities that she quotes (i.e. Madonna, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Marilyn Manson, etc.), certain modern/contemporary art tropes have also become part of her repertoire.

    The tampon costume could relate to Carolee Schneemann’s “Interior Scroll” performance, but only as a visual cue, an echo. Just because she mentions Warhol all the time, played on a Hirst butterfly piano, and is now performing/hanging out/museum-hopping with Koh doesn’t anoint her as an artist.

    I like Lady Gaga, and I appreciate her nods to modern/contemporary art & culture (the cyborg/polio-patient getup she wears in her “Paparazzi” video — taken from the machine-man in Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” — is great, and she owes a lot to Leigh Bowery, etc.). But she hasn’t done much to really transcend her being a pop star. She drains her sources by converting them into outfits/affects in the same manner that fashion designers enact their vampirism that turns everything into wearable commodities.

    @Halle: Abramovic is a performance artist (though her appearance on “Sex in the City” definitely complicated things!). I don’t think that Lady Gaga can hold a candle to the scope and significance of her practice — if there’s ever a case of apples and oranges, this is certainly one of them!

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    Lady Gaga is a pop star. She is a mimic and an “absorber” (relevant to the tampon costume?) of styles and trends. Besides the obvious pop-star tropes/personalities that she quotes (i.e. Madonna, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Marilyn Manson, etc.), certain modern/contemporary art tropes have also become part of her repertoire.

    The tampon costume could relate to Carolee Schneemann’s “Interior Scroll” performance, but only as a visual cue, an echo. Just because she mentions Warhol all the time, played on a Hirst butterfly piano, and is now performing/hanging out/museum-hopping with Koh doesn’t anoint her as an artist.

    I like Lady Gaga, and I appreciate her nods to modern/contemporary art & culture (the cyborg/polio-patient getup she wears in her “Paparazzi” video — taken from the machine-man in Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” — is great, and she owes a lot to Leigh Bowery, etc.). But she hasn’t done much to really transcend her being a pop star. She drains her sources by converting them into outfits/affects in the same manner that fashion designers enact their vampirism that turns everything into wearable commodities.

    @Halle: Abramovic is a performance artist (though her appearance on “Sex in the City” definitely complicated things!). I don’t think that Lady Gaga can hold a candle to the scope and significance of her practice — if there’s ever a case of apples and oranges, this is certainly one of them!

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    @AFC: Wait… you’re calling her “bleeding” during her gig at the MTV music awards a “tampon costume,” not that she actually did her MoMA tour *dressed as a tampon*, right? She often later appends some sophomoric symbolic “explanation” to her outfits/shows, and supposedly the MTV performance/song was all about Princess Diana, so…

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    @AFC: Wait… you’re calling her “bleeding” during her gig at the MTV music awards a “tampon costume,” not that she actually did her MoMA tour *dressed as a tampon*, right? She often later appends some sophomoric symbolic “explanation” to her outfits/shows, and supposedly the MTV performance/song was all about Princess Diana, so…

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    Yeah it wasn’t the moma tour she did bloody, it was the MTV performance. And yeah, her explanations for the outfits and shows are really sophomoric. Of course, it may just be that she’s never been forced to talk about it that much. It’s not like the public dialogue on art is all that advanced.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    Yeah it wasn’t the moma tour she did bloody, it was the MTV performance. And yeah, her explanations for the outfits and shows are really sophomoric. Of course, it may just be that she’s never been forced to talk about it that much. It’s not like the public dialogue on art is all that advanced.

  • http://www.postmastersart.com magda sawon

    why isnt everybody TIRED of LG – she is in too many places, too desperate, trying too hard to subvert without trancending. the outfits are excessive kitsch, props and sets are heavy handed idiocy, and the music is generic. can I go out on a limb here to say that sure she is an artist. bad artist.

  • http://www.postmastersart.com magda sawon

    why isnt everybody TIRED of LG – she is in too many places, too desperate, trying too hard to subvert without trancending. the outfits are excessive kitsch, props and sets are heavy handed idiocy, and the music is generic. can I go out on a limb here to say that sure she is an artist. bad artist.

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    @AFC: Regarding public dialogue on art not being that advanced… yup. Will Gaga become more proficient in having a public dialogue about art? Maybe, but not if she plans on absorbing Koh’s manner of sparkly, misspelled, text-message, “Nell” style of dialoguing about it. Hangin’ w/Koh will/has given her gay-art/club-boy cred (as if she needed more), but his affected vapidity gives me hives.

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    @AFC: Regarding public dialogue on art not being that advanced… yup. Will Gaga become more proficient in having a public dialogue about art? Maybe, but not if she plans on absorbing Koh’s manner of sparkly, misspelled, text-message, “Nell” style of dialoguing about it. Hangin’ w/Koh will/has given her gay-art/club-boy cred (as if she needed more), but his affected vapidity gives me hives.

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin
  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin
  • http://justinsimoni.com Justin Simoni

    I am 100% completely and totally sure – no foolin’ that

    David Bowie is a true, innovative artist.

    Those wild costumes! The alter-egos! Those media stunts! The ties with Fashion! (Turn to the left!) The ambiguous sexuality! (RIGHT!) Remember when he dressed as a Nazi?! And made songs about woodland creatures? Rex Ray collabs?!

    Absolute, total innovator. Remember his apperance on SNL was Klaus Nomi?!

    Although that movie he did was a weird Elvis Presely movie…

    Oh. Lady Gaga. As long as she never thinks she’s Andy Warhol.

    Well, that’s too late… Paddy – did you see the “Banksy” movie that was about Mr. Brain Wash? I think Mr BW and Gaga actually have a lot of things in common…

  • http://justinsimoni.com Justin Simoni

    I am 100% completely and totally sure – no foolin’ that

    David Bowie is a true, innovative artist.

    Those wild costumes! The alter-egos! Those media stunts! The ties with Fashion! (Turn to the left!) The ambiguous sexuality! (RIGHT!) Remember when he dressed as a Nazi?! And made songs about woodland creatures? Rex Ray collabs?!

    Absolute, total innovator. Remember his apperance on SNL was Klaus Nomi?!

    Although that movie he did was a weird Elvis Presely movie…

    Oh. Lady Gaga. As long as she never thinks she’s Andy Warhol.

    Well, that’s too late… Paddy – did you see the “Banksy” movie that was about Mr. Brain Wash? I think Mr BW and Gaga actually have a lot of things in common…

  • http://justinsimoni.com Justin Simoni

    Actually, I would defend Lady Gaga with that one quote I’ll paraphrase about how, in 20 years we’ll all go, “Hey, remember that girl that wore those weird fuckin’ costumes?!”

    and we will, and we’ll smile and that’ll be pretty fun. Maybe for a second.

    I think that’s a honestly nice thing to hope your career turns into – not culture-changing, but just a nice memory.

    But yeah, her music is worthless. It’s extremely engineered. Her whole self-corporation has the budget of a blockbuster film and it probably makes as much. Thinking of it as a live-action film is the easiest way for me to make sense of so much bad taste in one small arena – the only place I can think where I”ve enjoyed so much mindless kitsch and had so much fun, because of it.

    Whoa – actual posts, with contents, instead of quips! I think I’m turning a new leaf, Paddy.

  • http://justinsimoni.com Justin Simoni

    Actually, I would defend Lady Gaga with that one quote I’ll paraphrase about how, in 20 years we’ll all go, “Hey, remember that girl that wore those weird fuckin’ costumes?!”

    and we will, and we’ll smile and that’ll be pretty fun. Maybe for a second.

    I think that’s a honestly nice thing to hope your career turns into – not culture-changing, but just a nice memory.

    But yeah, her music is worthless. It’s extremely engineered. Her whole self-corporation has the budget of a blockbuster film and it probably makes as much. Thinking of it as a live-action film is the easiest way for me to make sense of so much bad taste in one small arena – the only place I can think where I”ve enjoyed so much mindless kitsch and had so much fun, because of it.

    Whoa – actual posts, with contents, instead of quips! I think I’m turning a new leaf, Paddy.

  • Gianni Schneider

    I agree that LG’s music is completely uninteresting – I can’t listen to it for more than 6 seconds.

    BUT her whole “persona” and relationship with image is completely interesting because it activates something that “edgy” contemporary art hasn’t really done – it communicates through image. It may go back to the whole Borys Groys (spelling?) thing of the “weak” vs. “strong” image.

    I find the whole youtube video thing completely amazing – millions of people watching it. Her “realm” may not be “art” but she does better at utilizing “image” than any contemporary video artist does. Sorry, I’ll pass on Douglas Gordon, I don’t have 24 hours, thanks. I have been changed by this whole LG thing to be honest because art, in New York, and its contrivance to be celebrity fails miserably…and the artists who are better celebrities make generally unmemorable work…

    The question she brings up for me is also the feeling that in the “art world” very few people make decisions for an audience of themselves with no apparent regard for the “audience” at large. That’s the feeling I get right now, that the “art world” has been behind for about 2 years busy looking at its own belly button.

    LG’s pop-kitsch “conceptual” jokes have an actual audience. The divide between “art” and “performance” is not an interesting issue these days because, just like LG, “anyone” can be an artist: the divide being the 15-people artworld audience who decide who shows where vs. 250 million Youtube video audience. The artworld really does seem Versailles-like vs. Gaga’s populist raunchy, the-ugly-can-win act.

    My question is, why aren’t “artists” doing that? Why is art always so opaque and reflective of the past rather than present? Why is art so often delimited by the confines of the exhibition spaces or “history” or whatever? I am not a gaga music fan, but her whole “act” brings up a lot of questions for me about what constitutes an audience.

  • Gianni Schneider

    I agree that LG’s music is completely uninteresting – I can’t listen to it for more than 6 seconds.

    BUT her whole “persona” and relationship with image is completely interesting because it activates something that “edgy” contemporary art hasn’t really done – it communicates through image. It may go back to the whole Borys Groys (spelling?) thing of the “weak” vs. “strong” image.

    I find the whole youtube video thing completely amazing – millions of people watching it. Her “realm” may not be “art” but she does better at utilizing “image” than any contemporary video artist does. Sorry, I’ll pass on Douglas Gordon, I don’t have 24 hours, thanks. I have been changed by this whole LG thing to be honest because art, in New York, and its contrivance to be celebrity fails miserably…and the artists who are better celebrities make generally unmemorable work…

    The question she brings up for me is also the feeling that in the “art world” very few people make decisions for an audience of themselves with no apparent regard for the “audience” at large. That’s the feeling I get right now, that the “art world” has been behind for about 2 years busy looking at its own belly button.

    LG’s pop-kitsch “conceptual” jokes have an actual audience. The divide between “art” and “performance” is not an interesting issue these days because, just like LG, “anyone” can be an artist: the divide being the 15-people artworld audience who decide who shows where vs. 250 million Youtube video audience. The artworld really does seem Versailles-like vs. Gaga’s populist raunchy, the-ugly-can-win act.

    My question is, why aren’t “artists” doing that? Why is art always so opaque and reflective of the past rather than present? Why is art so often delimited by the confines of the exhibition spaces or “history” or whatever? I am not a gaga music fan, but her whole “act” brings up a lot of questions for me about what constitutes an audience.

  • http://c-monster.net c-mon

    omg. this really really really makes me want to get dressed up as a tampon and visit MoMA…

  • http://c-monster.net c-mon

    omg. this really really really makes me want to get dressed up as a tampon and visit MoMA…

  • Adam

    I think both Jennifer Hutchinson and Gianni Schneider make excellent points, Gaga represents the mainstream catching up and absorbing what has become the pretty vapid and insular world of conceptual contemporary art. I have far more respect for Gaga then I do Koh, even though I think, like Simoni, Gaga at her best is merely an ant compared to the towering fantastic-ness of 70′s Bowie.
    I think Gaga is just the beginning of a more radical challenge toward the art world’s conceptual, video and performance art in general. The art world has long been hypocritically exclusive and elitist (I’m looking at you Relational Aesthetics) and at this point conceptualism has become academic. So a challenge is a really good thing. ( And not to drift back into a previous thread, I think painting is actually going to hold its own during this storm, its always been capable of being both populist and forward thinking with a whole language and history of craft to fall back upon..but that’s just my opinion…)

  • Adam

    I think both Jennifer Hutchinson and Gianni Schneider make excellent points, Gaga represents the mainstream catching up and absorbing what has become the pretty vapid and insular world of conceptual contemporary art. I have far more respect for Gaga then I do Koh, even though I think, like Simoni, Gaga at her best is merely an ant compared to the towering fantastic-ness of 70′s Bowie.
    I think Gaga is just the beginning of a more radical challenge toward the art world’s conceptual, video and performance art in general. The art world has long been hypocritically exclusive and elitist (I’m looking at you Relational Aesthetics) and at this point conceptualism has become academic. So a challenge is a really good thing. ( And not to drift back into a previous thread, I think painting is actually going to hold its own during this storm, its always been capable of being both populist and forward thinking with a whole language and history of craft to fall back upon..but that’s just my opinion…)

  • Vinness Clemsahn

    Gaga is like the emporer who wore no clothes–I am pretty indifferent to her and do not understand the huge amount of depth some are attributing to her. Everything about her is totally derivative, which is fine–but people act as though it’s creative or conceptual in some way, and it’s not. Maybe it’s a generational thing? I’m in my thirties btw. Grew up with Madonna and didn’t buy her soda pop rip off shit either.

  • Vinness Clemsahn

    Gaga is like the emporer who wore no clothes–I am pretty indifferent to her and do not understand the huge amount of depth some are attributing to her. Everything about her is totally derivative, which is fine–but people act as though it’s creative or conceptual in some way, and it’s not. Maybe it’s a generational thing? I’m in my thirties btw. Grew up with Madonna and didn’t buy her soda pop rip off shit either.

  • Vinness Clemsahn

    Also, Jesse P. Martin, I’ve really enjoyed reading your thoughtful commentary here lately. Keep it comin’!

  • Vinness Clemsahn

    Also, Jesse P. Martin, I’ve really enjoyed reading your thoughtful commentary here lately. Keep it comin’!

  • pbd

    the only reason anyone would notice gaga running about in tampon outfits is because it’s stuck on top of her “pop” music, music which is frankly awful, but gets the Big Media Push.

    gaga must know that her music is banal. are we really to believe that she tolerates the job of having to record and perform it – the ONLY part of her output that we know she actually makes – just so she can have a platform to like freak people out with crazy costumes? that puts a lot of onus on said costumes, which i’m not sure if say viktor & rolf (who designed the ones in the telephone video) could justify. it also ignores her backstory as someone who’s been knocking around in the music business for years, writing songs for people, being signed and dropped from labels previously when she had a rather less glamourous persona.

    we know that people who see something and say “that’s not art” always end up losing the argument. at the same time, we can look at what gaga actually does and use the same criteria we use when evaluating contemporary art: is there a familiarity with the historical and contemporary contexts in which art is created and understood? does gaga employ a variety of models and conceptual approaches in the production of her work? of course she doesn’t – everything she makes is founded on her inane music. it’s the same as when kanye west claims he invented a new art form and then calls it “pop art” and it’s laughable.

    so sure, gaga’s an artist but only because of the vague definition of the word, and i agree with paddy. to put gaga on the same register as someone like abramovic makes no sense. besides, at least abramovic got her vag out.

  • pbd

    the only reason anyone would notice gaga running about in tampon outfits is because it’s stuck on top of her “pop” music, music which is frankly awful, but gets the Big Media Push.

    gaga must know that her music is banal. are we really to believe that she tolerates the job of having to record and perform it – the ONLY part of her output that we know she actually makes – just so she can have a platform to like freak people out with crazy costumes? that puts a lot of onus on said costumes, which i’m not sure if say viktor & rolf (who designed the ones in the telephone video) could justify. it also ignores her backstory as someone who’s been knocking around in the music business for years, writing songs for people, being signed and dropped from labels previously when she had a rather less glamourous persona.

    we know that people who see something and say “that’s not art” always end up losing the argument. at the same time, we can look at what gaga actually does and use the same criteria we use when evaluating contemporary art: is there a familiarity with the historical and contemporary contexts in which art is created and understood? does gaga employ a variety of models and conceptual approaches in the production of her work? of course she doesn’t – everything she makes is founded on her inane music. it’s the same as when kanye west claims he invented a new art form and then calls it “pop art” and it’s laughable.

    so sure, gaga’s an artist but only because of the vague definition of the word, and i agree with paddy. to put gaga on the same register as someone like abramovic makes no sense. besides, at least abramovic got her vag out.

  • collinlafleche

    Since my comment didn’t pass the full name muster earlier I guess I have to re-post.

    #1 – Why does this matter? Who cares whether or not Biesenbach thinks Lady Gaga is an artist? What am I missing here?
    #2 – It seems much more likely that Biesenbach invited Koh, who invited Lady Gaga.
    #3 – Drawing lines in the sand between artists and performers is indeed ridiculous and one of the reasons that it wasn’t until now that MoMA staged a major exhibition on performance.
    #4 – Limiting what is allowed to fall into the ‘art’ category is not only arrogant, it also does precisely what you are saying, Paddy: it keeps people from saying substantial things about it.
    #5 – Why is this blog so obsessed with Lady Gaga?

  • collinlafleche

    Since my comment didn’t pass the full name muster earlier I guess I have to re-post.

    #1 – Why does this matter? Who cares whether or not Biesenbach thinks Lady Gaga is an artist? What am I missing here?
    #2 – It seems much more likely that Biesenbach invited Koh, who invited Lady Gaga.
    #3 – Drawing lines in the sand between artists and performers is indeed ridiculous and one of the reasons that it wasn’t until now that MoMA staged a major exhibition on performance.
    #4 – Limiting what is allowed to fall into the ‘art’ category is not only arrogant, it also does precisely what you are saying, Paddy: it keeps people from saying substantial things about it.
    #5 – Why is this blog so obsessed with Lady Gaga?

  • Gianni Schneider

    LG is by no means innovative, but neither is contemporary art. I am not a fan of LG per se, but the phenomenon is not the “costumes” but the fact that the images of the costumes travel the world a million times over and are actively searched and watched.

    That’s incredibly interesting. Non-photojournalistic Images that are, not Hollywood perfection, shared by millions and built and excavated by her. Why is it that “appropriation” in art is considered (still) somewhat radical and appropriation in pop music is “derivative” and “bad”? Why is it then that Kelley Walker gets tons of museum shows and Lady Gaga is “derivative”? Do you ever get to see Kelley walker’s images outside of the artworld? No. Does anyone outside the artworld care? No.

    Again, I am not a “fan” of LG but what I see is something interesting happening with regards to audience.

    It is meaningful whatever Biesenbach says about Gaga because as we all know he gets to make a lot of decisions that will historicize what “art” is and since the canon of contemporary art seems to be driven by about 15 people’s decisions, here you go.

    This is a very interesting opportunity for artists to consider what audience means. The museums and “artworld” got in a way too big but in another way too small, limiting audiences and the scope of artists that get shown. Art CAN’T just be something in a museum, or in someone’s studio, it HAS to be in the world somehow. I think she has taken the mid-level art “model” and applied it to the pop arena.

  • Gianni Schneider

    LG is by no means innovative, but neither is contemporary art. I am not a fan of LG per se, but the phenomenon is not the “costumes” but the fact that the images of the costumes travel the world a million times over and are actively searched and watched.

    That’s incredibly interesting. Non-photojournalistic Images that are, not Hollywood perfection, shared by millions and built and excavated by her. Why is it that “appropriation” in art is considered (still) somewhat radical and appropriation in pop music is “derivative” and “bad”? Why is it then that Kelley Walker gets tons of museum shows and Lady Gaga is “derivative”? Do you ever get to see Kelley walker’s images outside of the artworld? No. Does anyone outside the artworld care? No.

    Again, I am not a “fan” of LG but what I see is something interesting happening with regards to audience.

    It is meaningful whatever Biesenbach says about Gaga because as we all know he gets to make a lot of decisions that will historicize what “art” is and since the canon of contemporary art seems to be driven by about 15 people’s decisions, here you go.

    This is a very interesting opportunity for artists to consider what audience means. The museums and “artworld” got in a way too big but in another way too small, limiting audiences and the scope of artists that get shown. Art CAN’T just be something in a museum, or in someone’s studio, it HAS to be in the world somehow. I think she has taken the mid-level art “model” and applied it to the pop arena.

  • Howard Halle

    @everybody What I meant other day when I offered that there was zero difference between Gaga and Abramovic is simply this: That the art world is being inexorably absorbed into the larger entertainment-industrial complex, and there is no going back.

    Paddy can talk about how differently art is received, say, on Bravo than it would be in a gallery or museum; Jesse can talk about the difference in the significance of Abamovic’s work, compared to the lack therefore in the efforts of Gaga. It’s all irrelevant. What’s at issue is the big picture as I mention above but let me try to restate here: that the production and consumption of what we used to regard as fine art is being monetized for a mass audience.

    The Tim Burton show had the third highest attendance figure in MoMA’s history; only shows by Picasso and Matisse garnered larger crowds. This is hardly lost on the people who run MoMA, and I’m sure everyone here will agree that the place has huge overhead costs.

    However much one wants to argue the art-historical significance of Abramovic’s work, there is no doubt that her retrospective was staged with a mass audience in mind. Hence, the performance piece/staring contest/shoot-out at the center of show, complete with movie lights and FLICKR page filled with celebrity cameos; also the young, lithe nude actors in the re-stagings of her key pieces.

    No accidents here, people, and it’s not just the museum world, but galleries as well. To whit: New York Gallery Week—of which, yes, TONY is official media sponsor, so I suppose my description of the way things are going as I see them could be described as self-serving—if I was actually making any money off the deal, or felt comfortable about the whole thing, which I am not and do not. It’s just clear to me what’s happening.

    The ultimate outcome will be to resolve how the business of the galleries are conducted (dealing with a limited elite group of paying customers, otherwise known as collectors) with the way museum’s conduct theirs (presumably, everyone else). Art fairs, have, in fact, already changed the equation. It used to be that collectors would come to the galleries to buy work; that is no longer the case. Yet the effort and expense of hanging monthly shows continues, so who are those exhibitions meant for, and how do they factor in to the necessary task of staying in business? The answer is still up in the air from what I can tell.

  • Howard Halle

    @everybody What I meant other day when I offered that there was zero difference between Gaga and Abramovic is simply this: That the art world is being inexorably absorbed into the larger entertainment-industrial complex, and there is no going back.

    Paddy can talk about how differently art is received, say, on Bravo than it would be in a gallery or museum; Jesse can talk about the difference in the significance of Abamovic’s work, compared to the lack therefore in the efforts of Gaga. It’s all irrelevant. What’s at issue is the big picture as I mention above but let me try to restate here: that the production and consumption of what we used to regard as fine art is being monetized for a mass audience.

    The Tim Burton show had the third highest attendance figure in MoMA’s history; only shows by Picasso and Matisse garnered larger crowds. This is hardly lost on the people who run MoMA, and I’m sure everyone here will agree that the place has huge overhead costs.

    However much one wants to argue the art-historical significance of Abramovic’s work, there is no doubt that her retrospective was staged with a mass audience in mind. Hence, the performance piece/staring contest/shoot-out at the center of show, complete with movie lights and FLICKR page filled with celebrity cameos; also the young, lithe nude actors in the re-stagings of her key pieces.

    No accidents here, people, and it’s not just the museum world, but galleries as well. To whit: New York Gallery Week—of which, yes, TONY is official media sponsor, so I suppose my description of the way things are going as I see them could be described as self-serving—if I was actually making any money off the deal, or felt comfortable about the whole thing, which I am not and do not. It’s just clear to me what’s happening.

    The ultimate outcome will be to resolve how the business of the galleries are conducted (dealing with a limited elite group of paying customers, otherwise known as collectors) with the way museum’s conduct theirs (presumably, everyone else). Art fairs, have, in fact, already changed the equation. It used to be that collectors would come to the galleries to buy work; that is no longer the case. Yet the effort and expense of hanging monthly shows continues, so who are those exhibitions meant for, and how do they factor in to the necessary task of staying in business? The answer is still up in the air from what I can tell.

  • pbd

    i’ve got no opinion on points 1, 2 and 5 but for 3 & 4 i would definitely propose an alternative, especially as those are BG (beyond gaga) issues:

    3: it’s only ridiculous if you are playing with the vague meanings of the words “artist” and “performer”, in which case there’s loads of overlap. if you look at the goals and contexts of most commercial music performers, they are different than those of most contemporary artists and there’s no indication that lady gaga has anything to say about the latter.

    #4 drawing a line of what is art is different than drawing a line saying “this art takes on the practices and contexts that have been read as art, and this art doesn’t”. i just don’t believe we live in a monoculture, i do believe our cultural forms are defined by reference, and the references of the former are generally what define contemporary art. even if there’s some small aspect of lady gaga’s work that might have something to say about contemporary art, there’s no indication that the decisions to create it were hers. she writes the tunes, most everything else is the machine, and it doesn’t keep people who are concerned about the histories of pop music from saying quite substantial things about it.

    thats no reason to keep lady gaga from performing anywhere, just like it’s no reason to say keep martin creed’s band off the radio. but his band is not the same as his art practice (i’ve asked him) and that’s even when they are coming from almost identical process-based systems. sure we can read one as the other if we feel like, but beyond the “is it, isn’t it” that this discussion is doing, i don’t think there’s much to get into.

  • pbd

    i’ve got no opinion on points 1, 2 and 5 but for 3 & 4 i would definitely propose an alternative, especially as those are BG (beyond gaga) issues:

    3: it’s only ridiculous if you are playing with the vague meanings of the words “artist” and “performer”, in which case there’s loads of overlap. if you look at the goals and contexts of most commercial music performers, they are different than those of most contemporary artists and there’s no indication that lady gaga has anything to say about the latter.

    #4 drawing a line of what is art is different than drawing a line saying “this art takes on the practices and contexts that have been read as art, and this art doesn’t”. i just don’t believe we live in a monoculture, i do believe our cultural forms are defined by reference, and the references of the former are generally what define contemporary art. even if there’s some small aspect of lady gaga’s work that might have something to say about contemporary art, there’s no indication that the decisions to create it were hers. she writes the tunes, most everything else is the machine, and it doesn’t keep people who are concerned about the histories of pop music from saying quite substantial things about it.

    thats no reason to keep lady gaga from performing anywhere, just like it’s no reason to say keep martin creed’s band off the radio. but his band is not the same as his art practice (i’ve asked him) and that’s even when they are coming from almost identical process-based systems. sure we can read one as the other if we feel like, but beyond the “is it, isn’t it” that this discussion is doing, i don’t think there’s much to get into.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    @collinlafleche It’s not my fault MoMA’s programming is safe and PBD puts it exactly right when he says, “sure gaga’s an artist but only because of the vague definition of the word”.

    I also think it’s weird to say I have an obsession with Lady Gaga. Art news sources have been covering the whole Biesenbach/Byrne/Gaga thing for two weeks now, and I’ve only now written a single post on the subject. This is hardly obsessive coverage.

    Anyway, I do have the sense that people want to talk about media phenomenons and that the driving force behind this has to do with money, (which we call a lot of these things these days that don’t sound the same ie: entertainment).

    What I edited out of my comment to Howard a while back, re-iterates what he just wrote.

    “We’re not there yet. We’ve got at least two years before 20×200 starts running double editions of Gaga and Abramovic”

    It was a joke based on real things, but I removed because of the nagging doubt that going to too many art fairs was coloring the way I look at art. But you know, in my experience on the blog, people don’t want to talk about art that isn’t also part of the marketplace. On some very basic level we not only understand stuff better that’s for sale and believe in its merit.

    I’m digressing here, but ultimately I think this is the issue net artists are still working through.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    @collinlafleche It’s not my fault MoMA’s programming is safe and PBD puts it exactly right when he says, “sure gaga’s an artist but only because of the vague definition of the word”.

    I also think it’s weird to say I have an obsession with Lady Gaga. Art news sources have been covering the whole Biesenbach/Byrne/Gaga thing for two weeks now, and I’ve only now written a single post on the subject. This is hardly obsessive coverage.

    Anyway, I do have the sense that people want to talk about media phenomenons and that the driving force behind this has to do with money, (which we call a lot of these things these days that don’t sound the same ie: entertainment).

    What I edited out of my comment to Howard a while back, re-iterates what he just wrote.

    “We’re not there yet. We’ve got at least two years before 20×200 starts running double editions of Gaga and Abramovic”

    It was a joke based on real things, but I removed because of the nagging doubt that going to too many art fairs was coloring the way I look at art. But you know, in my experience on the blog, people don’t want to talk about art that isn’t also part of the marketplace. On some very basic level we not only understand stuff better that’s for sale and believe in its merit.

    I’m digressing here, but ultimately I think this is the issue net artists are still working through.

  • pbd

    @gianni i’d suggest just the opposite here: that the mass consumption of lady gaga images is rather uninteresting. at least compared to the images of wildebeasts fighting lions, holidaymakers snuggling up to seals and people setting farts on fire that are watched even more than lady gaga images and don’t have a concerted industry effort to get people to watch them (and even then those images aren’t terribly interesting to me in relation to art practice, but hey thats my practice). the effect of networked distribution as it relates to audience that you find interesting has little to do with lady gaga specfically, i’d think.

    @howard i’d posit that a small minority of what we use to regard as fine art is being monetized for a mass audience, and it’s a specific minority that’s already been familiarized to mainstream taste. certainly artworks are being represented and dealt outside of the traditional gallery, and i’m curious to see how the chips will fall too, but the post-entertainment-industrial complex and the internet (where all art IS being inexorably absorbed) are not the same thing.

  • pbd

    @gianni i’d suggest just the opposite here: that the mass consumption of lady gaga images is rather uninteresting. at least compared to the images of wildebeasts fighting lions, holidaymakers snuggling up to seals and people setting farts on fire that are watched even more than lady gaga images and don’t have a concerted industry effort to get people to watch them (and even then those images aren’t terribly interesting to me in relation to art practice, but hey thats my practice). the effect of networked distribution as it relates to audience that you find interesting has little to do with lady gaga specfically, i’d think.

    @howard i’d posit that a small minority of what we use to regard as fine art is being monetized for a mass audience, and it’s a specific minority that’s already been familiarized to mainstream taste. certainly artworks are being represented and dealt outside of the traditional gallery, and i’m curious to see how the chips will fall too, but the post-entertainment-industrial complex and the internet (where all art IS being inexorably absorbed) are not the same thing.

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    @Halle: There’s nothing new about art being mass-produced for mass-consumption. Maybe the rate & degree by which this is happening has accelerated (due in a large part by CEC), but there needs to be efforts made to contextualize — and give meaning to — artwork and artists who will inevitably be folded into the predominant paradigm of late-capitalist-spectacle-everything-culture.

    To dismiss (and declare as “irrelevant”) the significance of artworks/artists and how they are received & differentiated suggests that such efforts at resisting total monetization for the sake of mass-consumption are mere exercises in futility. Such a view also suggests that applying connoisseurship, meaning, criticality, scholarship, experience, subjectivity, etc., are outmoded whimpers into the void. Flattening Abramovic’s life’s work into the fledgling (albeit as an international superstar) career of Gaga is negligent, as is equating the popularity of a museum/gallery exhibit with the significance of what’s being shown & why.

    To my knowledge, the “Degenerate ‘Art’” show remains the most widely attended Modern Art show to date. To discuss that phenomenon solely through a the lens of a generalized economic business-plan (“big picture”) rather than invoking one’s own ethical, moral, aesthetic, intellectual, cultural, and poetic facilities would, I think, make a good case as to why we constantly need to reappraise — in an informed way — who & what defines art. Only privileging the perspective of the “big picture” just further abstracts everything and feeds into what drives the “big picture” in the first place: a cynical refusal to seek knowledge beyond what’s popularly deemed as relevant or useful, while also abstaining from the risky business of sharing your own feelings & experiences with a given artist or work.

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    @Halle: There’s nothing new about art being mass-produced for mass-consumption. Maybe the rate & degree by which this is happening has accelerated (due in a large part by CEC), but there needs to be efforts made to contextualize — and give meaning to — artwork and artists who will inevitably be folded into the predominant paradigm of late-capitalist-spectacle-everything-culture.

    To dismiss (and declare as “irrelevant”) the significance of artworks/artists and how they are received & differentiated suggests that such efforts at resisting total monetization for the sake of mass-consumption are mere exercises in futility. Such a view also suggests that applying connoisseurship, meaning, criticality, scholarship, experience, subjectivity, etc., are outmoded whimpers into the void. Flattening Abramovic’s life’s work into the fledgling (albeit as an international superstar) career of Gaga is negligent, as is equating the popularity of a museum/gallery exhibit with the significance of what’s being shown & why.

    To my knowledge, the “Degenerate ‘Art’” show remains the most widely attended Modern Art show to date. To discuss that phenomenon solely through a the lens of a generalized economic business-plan (“big picture”) rather than invoking one’s own ethical, moral, aesthetic, intellectual, cultural, and poetic facilities would, I think, make a good case as to why we constantly need to reappraise — in an informed way — who & what defines art. Only privileging the perspective of the “big picture” just further abstracts everything and feeds into what drives the “big picture” in the first place: a cynical refusal to seek knowledge beyond what’s popularly deemed as relevant or useful, while also abstaining from the risky business of sharing your own feelings & experiences with a given artist or work.

  • Gianni Schneider

    @pbd I would think Gaga is more interesting than lions, etc…because she is presented as an “artist” and “performer” – and this is how she overlaps with the artworld. The images you have described are less interesting in that regard because they are not self-reflexive. Gaga has to do with “celebrity”, as a joke.

    The artworld has flirted with celebrity for so long and failed to produce a remarkable “celebrity”. In the arts you have the hipsters who are in the fashion magazines but they are actually conservative when it comes to images of themselves or their work. Even Jeff Koons comes off as an oily overpaid CEO.

    I used to be into “avant-guarde” until I spent enough time in New York to realize that it was basically a club busy re-hashing ideas that were about a century old…and that one has to really conform and win the approval of the tribal elders…there is nothing radical about a roped-off club.

  • Gianni Schneider

    @pbd I would think Gaga is more interesting than lions, etc…because she is presented as an “artist” and “performer” – and this is how she overlaps with the artworld. The images you have described are less interesting in that regard because they are not self-reflexive. Gaga has to do with “celebrity”, as a joke.

    The artworld has flirted with celebrity for so long and failed to produce a remarkable “celebrity”. In the arts you have the hipsters who are in the fashion magazines but they are actually conservative when it comes to images of themselves or their work. Even Jeff Koons comes off as an oily overpaid CEO.

    I used to be into “avant-guarde” until I spent enough time in New York to realize that it was basically a club busy re-hashing ideas that were about a century old…and that one has to really conform and win the approval of the tribal elders…there is nothing radical about a roped-off club.

  • http://markbilly.net Mark Billy

    Calling something not art, is the fastest way to make that thing art. It is natural. It is quantum physics. It reminds me of Schrodinger’s Cat. Two cats are in two different boxes. The boxes are so far away that there is no way that they are connected. Both cats are alive until you look into one of the boxes. If you look in one of the boxes and the cat is dead then the other cat is definitely alive, even though they have no known connection. And if you look into one of the boxes and the cat is alive then the other cat in the other box is dead. So lady gaga is or is not art until you call her not art now she is art. Klaus should have never opened that box.

  • http://markbilly.net Mark Billy

    Calling something not art, is the fastest way to make that thing art. It is natural. It is quantum physics. It reminds me of Schrodinger’s Cat. Two cats are in two different boxes. The boxes are so far away that there is no way that they are connected. Both cats are alive until you look into one of the boxes. If you look in one of the boxes and the cat is dead then the other cat is definitely alive, even though they have no known connection. And if you look into one of the boxes and the cat is alive then the other cat in the other box is dead. So lady gaga is or is not art until you call her not art now she is art. Klaus should have never opened that box.

  • pbd

    @gianni i definitely agree about the “avant-garde”, and i think that’s probably why when most people use the term they refer to a specific set of dead people and practices, not anything that’s happening today. the hipster and celebrity comments i guess i’m with but i don’t really know what hipster means anymore.

    but who is presenting gaga as an artist – when she obviously isn’t – and why? if it’s just to get people in the door at a museum, which is what i can gather from this discussion, there’s nothing interesting about that.

    gaga vs. lions, i’d still hold that the cause here i.e. why a certain image is viewed a million times, is mostly down to the means of distribution, not her being presented as an artist. the fact that somebody is paying good money to get gaga images up and get you to view them empties it a bit for me compared to images that are up for reasons i really have to work out and no one cares whether i view them or not.

  • pbd

    @gianni i definitely agree about the “avant-garde”, and i think that’s probably why when most people use the term they refer to a specific set of dead people and practices, not anything that’s happening today. the hipster and celebrity comments i guess i’m with but i don’t really know what hipster means anymore.

    but who is presenting gaga as an artist – when she obviously isn’t – and why? if it’s just to get people in the door at a museum, which is what i can gather from this discussion, there’s nothing interesting about that.

    gaga vs. lions, i’d still hold that the cause here i.e. why a certain image is viewed a million times, is mostly down to the means of distribution, not her being presented as an artist. the fact that somebody is paying good money to get gaga images up and get you to view them empties it a bit for me compared to images that are up for reasons i really have to work out and no one cares whether i view them or not.

  • jason lujan

    best to go with one’s instincts on this one. trust them and don’t be swayed by opinions.

  • jason lujan

    best to go with one’s instincts on this one. trust them and don’t be swayed by opinions.

  • Amos Satterlee

    @Mark: quantum mechanics don’t work in the macro world, much less in the cultural world.

    I agree with Paddy, Gaga (who I enjoy, mind you) is not an artist. I even have my doubts about Marina (oh, horrors!).

  • Amos Satterlee

    @Mark: quantum mechanics don’t work in the macro world, much less in the cultural world.

    I agree with Paddy, Gaga (who I enjoy, mind you) is not an artist. I even have my doubts about Marina (oh, horrors!).

  • http://schroederromero.com Lisa S

    “We’re not there yet. We’ve got at least two years before 20×200 starts running double editions of Gaga and Abramovic”

    Paddy-this quote is brilliant!

  • http://schroederromero.com Lisa S

    “We’re not there yet. We’ve got at least two years before 20×200 starts running double editions of Gaga and Abramovic”

    Paddy-this quote is brilliant!

  • Howard Halle

    @Jesse Let me be clear: I don’t think attempts to ascertain qualitative differences are futile; I’m merely saying one shouldn’t forget the forest for the trees.

  • Howard Halle

    @Jesse Let me be clear: I don’t think attempts to ascertain qualitative differences are futile; I’m merely saying one shouldn’t forget the forest for the trees.

  • http://www.whitevinylspace.com Andy Whore Wall

    When I was 14 years old (1969) my best friend and I went to a halloween party as siamese twin tampons. We cut 2 holes in a sheet stuck our heads through, tied a red string in our hair and doused ourselves with ketchup. We were the hit of the party! 40 years later? meh…

  • http://www.whitevinylspace.com Andy Whore Wall

    When I was 14 years old (1969) my best friend and I went to a halloween party as siamese twin tampons. We cut 2 holes in a sheet stuck our heads through, tied a red string in our hair and doused ourselves with ketchup. We were the hit of the party! 40 years later? meh…

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    @Howard: Your saying that there’s “zero difference” between Gaga & Abramovic was what I was responding to, a point that was reinforced by your subsequent post which stated that “there is no going back” and that “it’s all irrelevant” to the “big picture.” Such statements seem to eschew the need for “ascertain(ing) qualitative differences” at all. Maybe I’m misconstruing your invoking such final-sounding declarations as more than “merely saying” (maybe you’re just being hyperbolic, polemical), but I took your point as reflecting a very strong belief that the “forest” is all that matters now, and that the “trees” are “irrelevant.” I agree that we have to consider both, but you appeared to be emphatically privileging one above the other… and then backpedaling when this provoked a response.

  • http://www.jessepatrickmartin.com Jesse P. Martin

    @Howard: Your saying that there’s “zero difference” between Gaga & Abramovic was what I was responding to, a point that was reinforced by your subsequent post which stated that “there is no going back” and that “it’s all irrelevant” to the “big picture.” Such statements seem to eschew the need for “ascertain(ing) qualitative differences” at all. Maybe I’m misconstruing your invoking such final-sounding declarations as more than “merely saying” (maybe you’re just being hyperbolic, polemical), but I took your point as reflecting a very strong belief that the “forest” is all that matters now, and that the “trees” are “irrelevant.” I agree that we have to consider both, but you appeared to be emphatically privileging one above the other… and then backpedaling when this provoked a response.

  • Myriam

    Art makes me think. Lady Gaga does not.

  • Myriam

    Art makes me think. Lady Gaga does not.

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