The Watermill Center’s 2014 Gala happened this previous weekend and amongst the myriad performances, exhibitions and happenings were Robert Wilson’s Video Portraits of Lady Gaga Lady Gaga has, for the past few years, been focusing on making what she terms ‘art pop’ and that has, up until now, seemed to consist mostly of Fritz Langesque music videos and vomiting on stage. Sort of a G.G Allin meets Claus Naomi. Although if G.G ever did meet Claus, or indeed anyone who claimed art he would probably break at least a few of their teeth.
What was interesting about Gaga’s inclusion in the rarefied (and fresh) air of the Watermill was that her packaging and business model is different from most of the artists there. There is clearly a line separating the music for the masses from some of the other work at the Watermill event.
Most of the work in the 2014 summer show at Watermill is designed for limited consumption by an audience of preselected patrons, despite the center’s educational writ. The fine art market thrives on that exclusivity, Gaga strives for the credibility, but because of her consumption by a mass populace she is inherently less exclusive, and less expensive.
It’s complicated because it’s hard to get either party to acknowledge their differences, the pop artists (not those pop artists) want to be taken seriously as art creators, and the artists want millions to see their work. It’s a tenuous peace, and each has always influenced the other. Gaga was a subject after all, not the creator, and the work brought to mind the relationship we as art consumers have with ourselves as consumers of celebrity.
It’s interesting to talk about, so when Robert Wilson makes his Video Portraits of Lady Gaga he uses the sell-ability of celebrity, with the urge towards credibility and packages into a box as neat as the one they put Tilda Swinton in and as shiny as whatever Jeff Koons has decided to fabricate lately.
That’s not to say at all that the video portraits are not great, they are, it is just an interesting example of the growing closeness of these two seemingly disparate cultures. The portraits all take from classical art, like The Head of John The Baptist, and The Death of Marat. Images that are so iconic that there will be no one who isn’t in on the plot.
Is the point that these images are so iconic that they are just as well known as Gaga? There is only one Lady Gaga, there is only one Death of Marat, but their images are packaged and copied and sold so much that really they are not that different after all.
It’s refreshingly unpretentious if thought about in those terms.
Text by John Hutt
Photographs by Andrea Blanch