Archive for the ‘Remediation’ Category

ARIN6903: Lady Gaga as the embodiment of remediation

September 15, 2010

Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga is big. Very big.  Six million Twitter followers, 17 million Facebook friends, 15 million album and 51 singles sales (The Guardian: 2010), hundreds of millions of YouTube views….and so on.

The music itself is standard catchy modern pop – it’s nothing that unique to write home about. What makes her stand out are all the extra things that come with the music – the outlandish outfits (meat dress anyone?), the constant profession of being an outsider, the spectacle of her live performances and most importantly, her mastery of many different forms of media in which she brings her fans with her into the vortex of fame.

Lady Gaga Meat Dress

Lady Gaga Meat Dress

Her success is due to this mastery of media, without which she would still be plain ol’ Stefani Joanne Germanotta.  The success is not due to the music which is rather bland and formulaic.  She does have a beautiful voice, which you can sense watching her pre-fame performances, but this gets lost in the hype machine.

Gaga is so heavily stylised and has appropriated from so many genres, icons and cultural references that it’s hard to know who the woman behind the mask is. But that’s just the way she likes it in her quest to become a modern icon. Feminist icon Camille Paglia last week weighed in to the debate, calling Gaga a “ruthless recycler of other people’s work”. (Paglia, 2010)

It’s for these reasons that Gaga makes for a fascinating study for media theorists curious about her impact on pop culture, media and society in general.

This brings me to the concept of “remediation” as espoused by Bolter and Grusin which I want to extend here to an individual, rather than simply media forms. Gaga is everywhere, constantly in the press for her latest controversial outfit or performance. She has transcended the archetype of the female pop singer to become almost her own medium and is increasingly hypermediated whilst she remediates pop music. She perfectly fits what Bolter and Grusin identify as a desire to get to the real via hypermediation (1999). She states that Lady Gaga is not a character, but is her real self.

Gaga references fame and media constantly in her own media artefacts – her breakthrough album was called The Fame Monster, its big hits included Paparazzi and Telephone and her latest song is called Living on the Radio, as though she recognises she is nothing without the media she so heavily employs.  She has multiple websites which are all cross-referenced and embedded with different media types showcasing her presence on other websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. She also has a massive merchandising operation.

Lady Gaga's hypermediated website

Lady Gaga's hypermediated website

Elle Bedard writes that “Sometimes she resembles other pop stars, sometimes a character from Japanese animation, or a Roy Lichtenstein print.”(2010:1)

Just some of the influences she has appropriated as she constructs her identity are:

Surrealism in the form of the meat dress she wore this week, her past outfit featuring a lobster headpiece and, come to think of it, pretty much most of her creative output

Madonna, mostly via her fashion choices, prolific output and ubiquituity

Grace Jones via her stage costumes

Queen via her choice of name inspired by their 80s hit Radio Gaga.

Andy Warhol who she has acknowledged as an influence and refers to when discussing aspects of fame

Gaga Pop Art magazine cover

Gaga Pop Art magazine cover

For those of us old and cynical enough to recognise the endless cultural references she makes, the hypermediation is quite obvious and almost jarring – I believe for this group of people the “real” that is attempted is not achieved. For her younger fans, this is all completely new and I think that they experience Gaga as “real”. Awareness of this mediation is just not part of the experience for them, it is invisible.

Adding to the debate by exploring Gaga as a character or an individual, Bedard quotes Baudrillard to assert that Gaga is “pure simulacrum, “a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.”  Put differently, Lady Gaga does not exist.” (2010: 1)

Gaga is a one-woman media industry and it’s hard to believe she really only came to prominence in the last two years. I’m beginning to wonder how many clones of herself she has just to manage her overwhelming media presence.

References

Bedard, E. (2010) “Can’t Read My Poker Face”: The Postmodern Aesthetic & Mimesis of Lady Gaga
Accessed from: http://gagajournal.blogspot.com/2010/08/cant-read-my-poker-face-postmodern.html
Last accessed: 15 September 2010

Bolter, J.D. & Grusin, R.A. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge, Mass;  London: MIT Press

Paglia, C. (2010) Lady Gaga and the death of sex
Accessed from: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/public/magazine/article389697.ece
Last accessed 15 September 2010

The Guardian (2010) Pass notes, No 2,843: Lady Gaga
Accessed from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/sep/08/pass-notes-lady-gaga-meat-bikini
Last accessed: 15 September 2010

Other reading

Gaga Stigmata – theoretical analysis of all things Gaga
http://gagajournal.blogspot.com/

ARIN6903: Exit Through the Gift Shop – an elaborate joke on the art world?

August 22, 2010

The recently released film Exit Through the Gift Shop is a fine example of what Bolter and Grusin termed “remediation” (the process where digital forms borrow and attempt to surpass earlier forms, Bolter, J.D. & Grusin, R.A., 1999) – featuring and focussing on a dizzying array of artistic and film styles to form a picture of Thierry Guetta, the surprising LA-based street art success.

The film began life as thousands of hours of footage that Guetta shot of street artists working around the world – he first gained entry to this clandestine world via his cousin Space Invader Eventually, Guetta was able to ingratiate himself into the upper echelons of the street art world, gaining the trust and advice of wunderkinds such as American Shepard Fairey (responsible for the Barack Obama “Hope” portrait) and the mysterious Bristol-born Banksy. Guetta worked for different street artists as a fixer of sorts, assisting them in the dead of night to erect their artworks, many times risking arrest or injury to do so.

Guetta would religiously film every time he went out to assist, the artists (and Guetta himself) under the impression that he was also a director working on a documentary about street art.  What they were unaware of is that Guetta had no filing system for his footage, simply storing the tapes in masses of boxes at his home. The job of reviewing and putting together the footage would be mammoth.

Exit Through the Gift Shop was marketed as “A Banksy film”, however it is actually about Guetta.  Guetta’s deception becomes clear when Banksy asks to see the footage that Guetta has assembled.  The first edit of the “film” called Life Remote Control is a mess, a jumble of visuals smashed together with no clear narrative form.  Banksy then decides to take control, taking the raw footage Guetta shot and creating the film, with Guetta as the main character. Writing in The Vine, critic Chris Cork says:

Exit Through The Gift Shop gradually reveals itself to have all along been not so much a documentary, but instead a boiling, subversive and exacting work of Banksy art in itself; one of equal merit to anything the artist has ever sprayed on the outside wall of a pub. (Cork, C. , 2010)

In the meantime, Guetta decides to have a crack at being an artist, adopting the pseudonym “Mr Brainwash”. In a modern day version of Warhol’s Factory, Guetta recruits a team of LA graphic designers with the aim of putting on his own art show. This is not before he installs some stencil street art in prominent positions around LA. With his designers, Guetta is almost like a song composer and conductor of an orchestra – he himself does not create the artworks – communicating his “vision” to the graphic designers who realise it for him. With a knack for self publicity, Guetta attracts quite a lot of attention from the LA art press and later enjoys a huge crowd to his debut show which also makes huge sales. Behind the scenes, the production of the show had been in tatters due to Guetta’s almost ADHD-like inability to focus. Eventually, some of his staff take charge to make the final placements of different pieces.

Now, to the art itself.  It is manifestly clear that Guetta was heavily influenced by the street artists he was so privileged to have access to. His work is a meld of styles:  stencils, reverse negatives, Warhol-like portraits. Banksy himself is critical of Guetta’s work, believing that it lacked originality and was cheap. Some film critics have suggested that Banksy and Shepard Fairey are simply jealous of Guetta’s success and the film is an elaborate swipe at him.

Regardless, the film does raise many questions about art and some of its recent incarnations: what is art? Is something that is remediated or remixed considered original? It also raises questions about the modern culture of consumption and the use of PR and public image manipulation (indeed part of Banksy’s allure is the fact that he remains unidentifiable).

Critic Peter Bradshaw writing in The Guardian comments

Perhaps the point of Banksy’s art is that it inhales the wild spirit of forgery: his work makes free with brand identities and the symbols of authority, it replicates them, debunks and devalues them, it is a form of benign subversion. (Bradshaw, P. , 2010)

Is Banksy’s work worthless graffiti? Perhaps it is, but it certainly gets people talking about art and debating street art’s merits. It also always has a message behind it, usually controversial.

To my mind, artists such as Fairey and Banksy are inherently more original than Guetta who cheapened the process by creating an assembly-line production system and appeared to be more about getting rich, after seeing the success of Banksy in particular.

The film itself is also considered to be a possible elaborate hoax on the artworld itself, with rumours that the real director is either Spike Jonze or Harmony Korine. As Banksy has discovered himself, there is nothing like mystery and rumour to stir intrigue.

View the Exit Through the Gift Shop trailer:

Guetta’s Warholian Kanye West portrait:

Mr Brainwash's Kanye West portait

Mr Brainwash's Kanye West portait

Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster:

Shepard Fairey's "Hope" poster

Shepard Fairey's "Hope" poster

References:

Bolter, J.D. & Grusin, R.A. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge, Mass; London:  MIT Press

Bradshaw, P. (2010) Exit Through the Gift Shop
http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/mar/04/exit-through-the-gift-shop-review
Last accessed: 20/8/10

Cork, C. (2010) Exit Through The Gift Shop – movie review
Accessed at: http://www.thevine.com.au/entertainment/movie-reviews/exit-through-the-gift-shop-_-movie-review20100601.aspx
Last accessed: 20/8/10