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There is something heroic about the way my fans operate their cameras. So precisely, so intricately, and so proudly. Like Kings writing the history of their people, it is their prolific nature that both creates and procures what will later be perceived as the kingdom. So the real truth about Lady Gaga fans, my little monsters, lies in this sentiment: They are the Kings. They are the Queens. They write the history of the kingdom and I am something of a devoted Jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond, or the lie I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be or rather to become, in the future. When you are lonely, I'll be lonely too. And this is the fame. (Lady Gaga, Manifesto of Little Monster)
Plastic Pop is an exhibition of pop media produced by or reflective of Lady Gaga's viral artistic project. It emphasizes pop's plasticity as an object of performance, participation, dynamic collaboration, collective mobilization, and rapid discourse. It examines the role that Lady Gaga's s persona, grounded in self-referential celebrity, plays in the structuring of the contemporary pop narrative. The choice of tumblr.com as a medium reflects the aesthetic of Gaga's cultural productions: intensities of undiluted image. A faux-television screen frames each video; a self-referential gesture that performs the 'digital spectacle' of Gaga's affective media. The exhibition begins with Robert Nameth's highly edited documentation of Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable (E.P.I.), featuring the musical styling of The Velvet Underground. Andy Warhol's pop 'happening' was characterized by a cacophonic mixture of flashing light, sound, and projection. It speaks to Gaga's fragmented pop productions: garnering the affect of the masses in instances of collective mobilization via an economy of image flow.
Vocalist, songwriter, performance artist, fashion designer, expert pianist, and creative director of Polaroid, 24 year-old Lady Gaga is a media circus. She has an insatiable appetite for the image. Reflector shades. Exotic headdresses. Disco ball bras. Futuristic bubble dresses. Lady Gaga is a self-made avatar, a walking flipbook of pop culture: exploding the glossy surface of contemporary consumer culture and exposing its gritty underbelly.
At the age of 19, Gaga dropped out of the acclaimed NYU Tisch School of the Arts in order to immerse herself into the art culture of the Lower East Side. A routine response paper from her freshman year labeled, "Assignment #4: Reckoning of Evidence," offers fragmented, yet intimate insight into the mind of the artist. In a critique of form and de-formation in Spencer Tunick's controversial installations, which showcase piles of nude bodies in various locales, Germanotta argued the malleability and artistic potential of the human body: foreshadowing the hybrid aesthetic of her shape-shifting alter-ego. Paralleling Tunick's raw approach of spatial and corporal distortion, the thesis of the Gaga manifesto is the manipulation of objects, including the body, "freeing them of their social significance and thus endowing them with endless possibilities of form."
Quoting Michel de Montaigne's "Of a Monstrous Child," Gaga highlights the beauty and artistic potential of anathema: "What we call monsters are not so to God, who sees in the immensity of his work the infinity of forms that he has comprised in it." As the first line of Gaga's "Bad Romance" suggests, there is no separating the sexy from the stigmatized: "I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want your everything, as long as it's free." In an act of subversive resistance grounded in celebrity, Gaga reifies herself into a cosmopolitan image apt for universal consumption and immune to ideological norms. Simultaneously an in-vogue dress-up doll and a self-proclaimed monster, she plays the dual role of fashion forerunner and harbinger of taboo.
With an affective arsenal of image 'bioweapons,' Gaga exposes the ills and stereotypes immanent within our commercial society: the all-consuming prospect of fame, the voyeuristic capacity of the camera, the prevalence of surface, and the voracious hunger for the image, and its commodity counterpart. Gaga is often criticized for being addicted to attention, capitalizing on her 'difference,' the allure of the 'Other,' to transform herself into a media magnet. But Gaga is no static magnet. She is a media monster, a conductor of the masses: both a conduit and an active force of social mobilization. The dynamic flow of her image has rendered her a media maelstrom, an incubator of the icon.
Lady Gaga, the human media object, races through networked channels of information relay. The music video for Telephone received over two million views within the first twenty-four hours following its online release on March 11th, 2010 at 11:30pm (EST). Gaga provokes the masses to donate their free digital labor in the forms of YouTube viewership and video uploads; vocal, synth, and video mash-ups; fan sites, blogs-turned shrines, and religious twitter updates. This productive process of information ricochet, nested in the performative qualities of commodification and appropriation, brings continual shifts to her fame narrative and proposes the possibility of social mutation through the rapid circulation of affective and mobilizing media. Unable to render embedded object: File (Picture 16.png) not found.
Robert Nameth, edited documentation of Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable (E.P.I.) with The Velvet Underground, film, 13 minutes.
Lady Gaga, The Brain, tour backdrop into video, dimensions variable.
Lady Gaga, Manifesto of Little Monster, video interlude from the Monster Ball tour, 2009, dimensions variable.
Lady Gaga, live performance of "Paparazzi" at the Manchester MEN Arena, digital recording, 2010.
Jonas Akerlund, The Best Musical You Will Never See Again, faux-trailer documenting the collaboration of Lady Gaga and Francesco Vezzoli at MoCA's 30th Anniversary benefit, 2010, three minutes.
Lady Gaga and Terence Koh, 88 Pearls, labeled 'performance art for the Internet,' video, one minute.
Jonas Akerlund, Telephone, music video, 2010, nine minutes.