I'm the new Jean Michel, surrounded by Warhols
July 11, 2013 3:40 PM   Subscribe

"By then, somehow, he'd taken me around my waist, and we were strutting around the room. My hands were ice cold. I was shaking. My reactions were shot. The entire time were together, there was no doubt in my mind that he was controlling me, taking my energy and giving it back, manipulating the space around us. I felt like my internal ship was on fire and useless. I loved it. And him. And this." Jerry Saltz visits Jay-Z's performance art piece at the Pace Gallery in Chelsea: performing his new song, "Picasso Baby", for six hours. To one person at a time.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (36 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This "piece" has been giving me a dull, throbbing rage migraine all day. What is he bringing to the table here aside from the power and privilege (and, okay, stamina) necessary to act out his Marina Abramovic fantasies for a few hours? And Jesus, the track- namedrops that show not so much a familiarity with or understanding of the subject as the ability to use Wikipedia, a 2012-trendy mention of voguing, and RRGH

Besides, Hova is clearly just jealous of Picasso's sweet El Dorado.
posted by Merzbau at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Damn. Maybe not "to one person at a time", but he really did.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Everyone loves Jerry.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:50 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pitchfork featuring Vines of Hov's debut as a conceptual artist.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:50 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is simply the logical conclusion of a performance technique Hov and Ye experimented with on the WTT tour performing the same song over and over for almost an hour.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:53 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

i really like this. of course, i also loved tilda swinton sleeping in a box.

here are 15 vines of his performance.
posted by nadawi at 3:53 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

oh, i also loved the whole play the song 11 times in a row for an encore thing. i normally hate jam bands, but the idea of rap artists as jam band with that song in that context - fucking awesome.
posted by nadawi at 3:54 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why is he wearing skinny jeans? I thought his xxxx couldn't fit? Maybe he's humbler now...although i hope knot.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:55 PM on July 11, 2013

This is simply the logical conclusion of a performance technique Hov and Ye experimented with on the WTT tour performing the same song over and over for almost an hour.
See, though, that's kind of interesting! Doing that live in concert is at least breaking a certain set of expectations from the viewer; doing it in an art gallery with Abramovic actually standing there doesn't do a damn thing to challenge the audience. (Also, man, "N***** in Paris" versus "Picasso Baby"? No contest.)
posted by Merzbau at 3:56 PM on July 11, 2013

I think it's cool. A piece very much of its time, reflecting some major trends: intimacy, direct experience, temporariness.

Not every artwork/art event has to rise to the level of greatness to be interesting.
posted by Miko at 3:56 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

True. I can admit I'm letting my loathing for the track itself color my reaction to this performance.
posted by Merzbau at 3:58 PM on July 11, 2013

I think the critic's reaction is interesting. He seems genuinely surprised Jay-Z is a performer that knows how to work a crowd. Of course he does. Even late-stage aging millionaire Jay-Z still has 20+ years of performing experience.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:58 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

He's probably rocking the new APC x Kanye jeans.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:59 PM on July 11, 2013

in much the same way as the paris song, though - jay-z is in a place that you don't normally see people like him and he's flaunting it - much like private jets, he's coming for whatever our unofficial racist class system tries to keep from him.

...now, there's of course the conversation to be had that the art world has been latching onto/exploiting/holding up as a curiosity the underclass/minorities/etc for a very, very long time now. but his point often seems to be more about breaking down every single one of those barriers individually.
posted by nadawi at 4:02 PM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

Ghostride The Whip - i was having this discussion just the other day - that a lot of critics seem to think that rap artists can't put on live shows. i remember in the early days of east vs west coast stuff (maybe just before?), some of the stadium rap tours did poorly because they hadn't quite figured out how they wanted all of that to scale and how to sell it to rapidly changing audiences - but we're a very long time from there and rap can be very, very good live. jay-z is a great example of that - like you say, a performer with 20 years of experience.
posted by nadawi at 4:05 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

All the rap shows used to use backing tracks with vocals. Jay-Z Don't fuck with the vocals.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:14 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

So, we love celebrities, on average. We watch them, we consume their product, we feel as if we know them, somehow. And yet, of course, we don't know them, not at all, not even a little bit. Even when we think "of course we barely know them," we still think we know them more than we actually do.

Taking a celebrity and having them do their performance in such an intimate way? Amazing, for three reasons.

First, each person experiencing that intimacy has to do so as a partipant, not an observer. Much more intense, much more emotionally engaging, and much more real. You find out what they smell like. You hear the rustle of their clothes. You feel their breath on your shoulder. You're on the spot, you're uncomfortable, the performer is actually witnessing your response, individually, intimately. Which is probably a lot like the difference between firing a weapon in a video game and firing one in real life, or watching a speedboat go by under a bridge 100 yards away versus actually being in the boat.

Second, despite all that intimacy, everything you just experienced remains a performance that does not reflect the reality of the performer in any intimate way. You still don't know them at all, but more than ever you feel like someone who does. You may not realize it right away, but when you do, that's something quite interesting to think about.

Third, because you are not a trained performer, the performer got to experience your actual, unfiltered reactions. Meaning that he actually knows you in a small but substantive way, and since you still don't know him at all, he now knows you better than you know him.

That's pretty damn compelling, I think.
posted by davejay at 4:16 PM on July 11, 2013 [24 favorites]

Danny Brown is doing a performance piece in Detroit where he manages not to die for 2 weeks.
posted by Teakettle at 4:27 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thanks for that cold water in the face, item. I was watching YouTube videos thinking what a great performer Jay-Z is, and I guess I needed a reminder that he is crap.

I'm back with the program now, where were we? Ah yes, judging frm his lyrics it seems as if he learned about art from from that 10k ultimate art package, he doesn't even have an MFA.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:06 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would never even want to do this, because it's too public and intimate at the same time. Simultaneously, I am resentful that I do not have the opportunity to do it. Galling.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:23 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bleek is doing a performance piece where he gets a job at Whole Foods deli counter and never raps again.
posted by Teakettle at 5:26 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

item: Read what davejay wrote. Think about it. Can you write an insightful critique?

(davejay, your imagination made the hairs on my arms stand up. Excellent evocation of intimacy. Thank you.)
posted by Leon at 5:43 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really hope Ellen Grossman was there.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:46 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I really hope Ellen Grossman was there.

The documentary Where I'm from that clip is from is pretty cool. He points out 560 State street a couple times, I lived a block away on State street towards the prison in my late teens.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:04 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Recently my favorite band The National played one of my favorite songs, Sorrow, at MoMa for 6 hours straight in a performance art piece. Interesting concept but I would have wanted nothing to do with that.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:04 PM on July 11, 2013

Wonderful PR stunt.
posted by smidgen at 6:55 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like it. I like Jay, so I guess I'm predisposed to like this, but I like it.

I guess what it makes me think is that at least he's being innovative in some compelling and not explicitly commercial way (when it comes to this performance). When was the last time one of my favorite MCs did something outlandish and quirky simply for the sake of pressuring his audience to think about the tension between performer and observer? Who else in the game is using his/her platform to at least fool around a bit in this space?
posted by elmer benson at 7:25 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

He could've achieved the same thing if he'd just stood on that platform bellowing "LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME!" for six hours.

That would not have acheived at all the same thing - especially for the people who experienced the close connection with him, as davejay described. You might not love this, but there's more going on here.
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was in the first group of background artworld VIPs at the event - It was a pretty well produced music video shoot which Jay Z really stage directed - and it was was fun, everyone basically freaked out when he first invited the crowd to step over the barrier - then he told everyone to get back behind the barrier again, and he laughed, and everyone else laughed. If I have anything to really add it would just that he seemed super warm and comfortable with everyone.

@elmer benson: I don't think that the performance really had too much to do with the tension between performer and observer, I think it had a lot more to do with like, making a music video about buying objects and also like - having the people that are making those objects, selling those objects, and writing about those objects in your video watching you, or dancing with you, or walking around the room with you. The shoot really wasn't like a sit down with Marina at MoMa and which is an art project that directly addressed those tensions (it is the art piece that Jay Z is riffing off of — worth noting that Marina Abromovic was in attendance).. I mean, it was a music video shoot, and definitely an event and definitely a performance, but.. I dunoo if it really brought up that stuff. Kind of a weird "celebrity" on "celebrity" scene?
posted by armisme at 8:09 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wonderful PR stunt.

All art is PR.
posted by empath at 9:02 PM on July 11, 2013

All art is PR.

I'm not sure I agree with that, but I did mean the wonderful part.
posted by smidgen at 9:50 PM on July 11, 2013

Man, I don't even like HOV, but I would have hung out for 6 hours of him doing his thing. The videos look great, the crowd looks great, Jay looks great. If only North West had been there to drool on his shoulder. Hell, I'da drooled on his shoulder given the chance.
posted by artof.mulata at 10:33 PM on July 11, 2013

Ad hominem: All the rap shows used to use backing tracks with vocals. Jay-Z Don't fuck with the vocals.

The T-SHIRT! Caravaggio!
posted by victory_laser at 2:16 AM on July 12, 2013

The T-SHIRT! Caravaggio!

I think that is from the
PYREX VISION Spring/Summer 2013 “Youth Always Wins” Collection. Designed by Virgil Abloh, Creative director of Kanye's design company DONDA.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:10 AM on July 12, 2013

When Abramović appeared, serene, in a voluminous black gown, the room fell silent. “I need energy from everybody. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” a member of the production crew barked to the stunned crowd. The artist slunk in, discarding her shoes and her belt along the way, holding her arms out to the side, palms facing forward. What followed was a slow, seductive dance, the artist and the rapper pacing around, staring intently into each other’s eyes, occasionally pressing their foreheads together, the mind-meld complete. “I had no idea what I was going to do,” Abramović said afterward. “I just came here and felt the energy. I love his music, because it’s social issues, it’s political, and really goes to everybody’s heart. It’s so good. It’s like a volcano.”
posted by Miko at 8:07 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

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