Meta Gaga (or Lets Betray Modernism)

by on Sep.15, 2010

Joyelle and I just had a discussion about Lady Gaga so I thought I’d write down some of our thoughts.

1. Isn’t it curious that discussions about poetry are seldom if ever as interesting as discussions about Lady Gaga.

2. I.e. lets discuss the “marionette” body of Chelsey Minnis. Lets discuss the spasmatic body of Aase Berg. Lets talk about the stutter of Johan Jönson. Lets talk about the “exuberant performance of fragmentation” in Ronaldo Wilson. Lets talk about the “non-normative” bodies of the Gurlesque, bringing “hell to the suburbs” (see Danielle Pafunda).

3. Camille Paglia’s attack on Lady Gaga proves an important point: Lady Gaga IS a theorist. That’s why Paglia has to defend her turf.

4. Gaga, Dada: words that mean nothing and that everybody feels threatened/fascinated/ repelled by. But also: Everybody’s invited to the word, the party.

5. The moralist attacks on Lady Gaga mirror almost exactly the critiques/attacks on the gurlesque: it’s decadent, it’s immoral, it’s anti-feminist, or “it’s not new” (this claim made obsessively, seen through the moral-investment in the purist “newness” of modernism, is also a moralist critique), it’s been stolen, plagiarized, it’s a ruse, a costume. Both Gaga and Gurlesque have to be policed. The horror of Decadence!

6. Gaga goo-goo, and your Luftwaffe and your Gobbledygook.

7. Lets betray modernism.

8. Gaga has a name that is not her name, she has face that is not a face, a body that is not a body (or a hellish body or a corpse body or a costume body), her backstory doesn’t seem to “add up” (where’s the trauma, where’s the important event, where’s the interiority): what is missing? Why is something always missing?

9. Is it Daddy? Madonna’s “papa” (don’t preach)? No, it’s Papa-razzi, the most incestuous papa of all. But at the same time, Gaga seems totally without a daddy.

10. Hook hand, stutter, mask, fame, kitsch: It doesn’t cohere into family romance (it’s “sexually dysfunctional”), into meaning.

11. It’s a bad romance.

9 comments for this entry:
  1. Ken Chen


  2. Robb

    “daddy” and 10, along with the “something’s missing” insistence of negative valuations of Lady Gaga made me think of this bit from Massumi’s Parables of the Virtual:
    “Reagan politicized the power of mime. That power is in interruption. A mime decomposes movement, cuts its continuity into a potentially infinite series of submovements punctuated by jerks. At each jerk, at each cut into the movement, the potential is there for the movement to veer off in another direction, to become a different movement. Each jerk suspends the continuity of movement, for just a flash, too quickly to perceive but decisively enough to suggest a veer. This compresses into the movement under way potential movements that are in some way made present without being actualized. In other words, each jerk is a critical point, a singular point, a bifurcation point. At that point, the mime almost imperceptibly intercalates a flash of virtuality into the actual movement under way. The genius of the mime is also the good fortune of the bad actor. Reagan’s gestural idiocy had a mime effect. As did his verbal incoherence in the register of meaning. He was a communicative jerk.”

    It’s less precise than Massumi to paraphrase and extend from this by suggesting that Reagan (far more than maybe any other politician in recent memory) as field of emergence might be put alongside Gaga as field of emergence in a useful way. This chapter from Massumi’s book ends on a call to think the political in a way that gives priority to affect, and to unpack its relation to ideology; it seems like one of the most compelling criticisms of Gaga is that, in some way that’s difficult to coherently argue, her politics are off–it’s an anxiety producing cultural politics that she provokes, and one that might stand in contrast to someone like M.I.A. for that reason. My intuition is that the claim that Gaga is “affectless,” which floats around, is just wrong, and that it’s exactly the difference in affect that precedes any critique of her (potential) politics. But, for the same reason that a lot of people still have a hard time understanding that the affective will always trump policy, these critics are passing over the presence of affect in Gaga. That the body that is not a body is not important for what’s not there (baroque surface, no interior) but for what is–ie, strike the negation, it was a trick of the camera.

  3. Lucas

    I mentioned Gaga to a writer yesterday and he nearly self-destructed.

    Glad to see the Wilson interview. I’ve actually been planning to write about him. The poem with the bloody ass in it.

  4. Johannes

    Cool lets both write about him. It’s hard not to write about the bloody ass (aren’t there several). Have you read Auden’s “Letter to a Wound”? Which is about the wound old WH got from sex. It’s pretty great. It’s from The Orators.

  5. Lucas

    No! I’m going to look for it right now.

  6. Johannes Göransson

    It’s also in “Early Auden. Make sure you read “Journal of an Airman” as well from The Orators. Its one of the most interesting and weirdest and funniest depictions of homosexuality around.

  7. Joyelle McSweeney

    hey, I’m writing about The Orators too, Orators and vetriloquism/body possessed by media. we’re going to have to all go get jobs at Yale now. JM

  8. Fredia Deptula

    I think people should fretful around lady gaga´s meat clothe and turn nearly group starving…

  9. The Immorality of the Gurlesque - Montevidayo

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