Brief thoughts about pop culture spilling
into “art” and vice versa:
Installation view of The Last Brucennial. Foreground Sculpture: HUSK, 2013 by Parker Shipp, Video:AMERICAN REFLEXXX, 2013 by Alli Coates and Signe Pierce


            Many
people have probably witnessed some of the debates about gender equality and
representation when the two music videos for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”
came out last year: one with topless women as props, a more PG version with
semi-clothed women as props. Either way the women served as props for the men’s
videos (nothing new here)—I’ve seen some argue that they can’t believe this
sort of blatantly disrespectful sexism is still used (successfully) as a part
of popular promotional tactics (are they that surprised?) and others argue that
the videos are actually empowering to women because they are so overtly
utilizing the device of female sex appeal (I am not too sure about this side of
the argument).
           Another
related debate resulted after Robin Thicke performed the song with the infamous
Miley Cyrus during MTV’s Video Music Awards, where the discussion involved not
just the demeaning and destructive double standards of female performers (look
at Cyrus, that horrid mess) but also issues of “race” and the ethically
questionable appropriation of “black” culture (really nothing new either) by
“white” culture. (In my own opinion, the performance was quite offensive,
especially because it sought to justify and legitimize a very cookie cutter
Disney-turned-trash girl trying to “twerk” by using black female bodies asprops).
            In
any case, “Blurred Lines” seems to have come to symbolize (in a relatively
short period of time) debates about gender and also race.

Installation view of The Last Brucennial. Top: I FEEL… LOUD, 2014 by Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos, Bottom: Feminist Performance Art, 2013 by Christen Clifford.


           Since
then I have seen and heard many references to the debates via simply turning on
the song at particular moments—mostly in media, or more casual talk-show or
YouTube show-type settings. But recently I’ve been encountering references in
“fine art.” One was in AMERICAN REFLEXXX,2013, a video by Alli Coates and Signe Pierce at The Last Brucennial organized by Vito Schnabel and the Bruce High Quality Foundation (great show by the way… if you haven’t seen it, see it! Up until April 4th). In that
work, a man?, wearing a reflective mask over his face (no features, just a
smooth metallic surface) walks around the streets in high heels, a short,
tight-fitting dress, and a long blond wig. “Blurred Lines” is creepily slowed
down in a nightmarish way as s/he struts through the midst of sometimes quite
brutal jeers and insults about how “nasty” it is that a man is walking around
like that, dressed as a woman (guesses are made by the size of feet, at one
point).
            Another
work is Jordan Wolfson’s animatronic sculpture, (Female figure), at David Zwirner Gallery. In this one, a machine
wearing a mask, high heels, short, revealing dress, and a long blond wig,
dances to a slightly slowed down (equally creepy) excerpt of the song. This
“female” wears a mask with features of a goblin, though, and dances against a
mirror to which s/he is attached by a (strip club?) pole.
            Clearly,
both works use “Blurred Lines” to comment on female sexuality and the
meaning/meaninglessness of popular signifiers. I don’t feel like going into
detailed analyses of either, but I wanted to make the observation about how
quickly the debates in popular culture made its way into aesthetic commentary.
            Or
maybe not so quickly, since word/data/info travels so fast now.

            Oh,
and… noticing billboard ads around the city for random things, but showing
“artists” in their studio against a backdrop of colorful Ab-Ex-type paintings.
Or I noticed, during the whole Banksy craze a few months back, ads along this
route, but “street artists” standing against colorful graffiti. Big companies’
target audiences now include the billions of “aspiring artists” in
metropolises, it seems. And their ads reflect what they think their target
audiences think is “good art.” Maybe. Just thoughts…


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