Let's forget any kind of Twitter feuds going on, any competitions between songs, any deleted slams, any scary defensive fans, any unwanted leaks, and any unfairness or irrational behavior in general. Let's maybe put our paws down for three minutes and thirty-five seconds and watch "Applause," the new Lady Gaga video shot by Inez & Vinoodh (before raising them up and making them touch).
Pop Art, at its inception, was meant to turn critics on their heads, to question the ideals of gallerists and curators, and to bring the public into a space becoming a little too private at the time. The problem with dismantling a system with which so many were comfortable was that the members of the art-world jury, stunned by change, took it personally. The outcome, we can see, though, is still celebrated, and inarguably an extremely important movement in fine art. After much upheaval, usually, the applause for the art is what persists.
"Applause" (the first single from ARTPOP, which comes out November 11th, 2013), as Lady Gaga has stated, is not about fame or attention, but about involvement in art—an art that is for everyone, even more so than the soup cans and blown up comic book frames that started this discussion in the 1960s.
In V85, the "Donatella" version, Gaga explains, "[t]he difference between what people were feeling about Pop Art and where I want to take ARTPOP:" She says to performance art pioneer Marina Abramović, in an interview that spans four versions of the V Fall issue (on newsstands in the US August 29th), that "[t]o say something is Pop Art for some artists was as simple as putting something in a museum or a gallery—it became art if it’s there. But that’s not what my feeling is about art. I don’t believe that trick works anymore. I think the real challenge is, How do I take a place that is not an artistic space and transform that space and make it into an artistic space?"
This newest Gaga video questions not the spaces in which fine art has almost always existed but those which is hasn't commonly inhabited yet: the online realm of social media and identity reconstruction—the place where Lady Gaga has her most candid moments with her millions of fans, and the place where everyone can reach her, and, essentially, be her. Naturally, it's a space where she can be anything.
Botticelli's Venus de Milo, Tchaikovsky's "black swan," a vaguely Vishnu-like being, Pierrot, Madonna, Icarus, David Bowie, Klaus Nomi, John Galliano and "bad Romance"-era Gaga herself show up in this video, but none of them are not the one and only Gaga, too. If the lyric video for "Applause," released last week, gives us any more insight into the song (which mentions Jeff Koons, another artist who famously references pop culture and religious iconography), we're to understand that all the world—at least the world of ARTPOP—is a drag-show stage. And isn't it, especially now, when anyone in the Internet can become something else, either by catfishing her audience or creating a heroic persona (or both, simultaneously)?
There is a fine line between the inspirational and the upsetting, as there is a fine and wavering line between art and "not art." In online feuds, everything is misconstrued and made an oversimplified battle of personal politics, and the only damage control available is a tipping of scales. Meaning, everyone can continue to read a back-and-forth until only one side becomes overwhelmingly popular—enough so to essentially quell any other reactions.
Instead of striving for the reality of a situation, "Applause" asks you to strive for the thing that should rise to the top of a search result page—to create a fantasy, and to listen only to the roar of positive feedback you'll recieve. Pay homage to the art you love in a stageplay of beautiful makeup and effects, and live for the applause (applause, applause), because it will echo longer than anything else will, anyway.
Lady Gaga will perform "Applause" and open the VMAs this Sunday, August 25th at 9pm