Tag: Lady Gaga

On Binding: Queen Pasiphae, Hans Belmer & the Meat Dress

by on Sep.23, 2010

Some of you may know that I recently wrote a book called Maximum Gaga (Action Books, 2009). When I wrote the book, I’d never heard of Lady Gaga, but I’m thrilled by the happy overlap, by our joint interest in gender performance and excessive aesthetics. Maximum Gaga is a book about Pasiphae, the queen from ancient Greek myth who enlists the inventor Daedelus to build a cow costume/machine so she can copulate with an enormous white bull. This machine may have been the first industrial sex toy, the first meat dress (as Danielle notes), the first mechanical abattoir.

For Pasiphae, this Miraculating Machine, as I call it in the book, is certainly about pleasure, the pleasure of inhuman cock. Like Lady Gaga’s meat dress, it is unclear what is wearing who, and the lines between live female body and corpse, skin and costume, animal and human, machine and body are thrillingly collapsed. Pasiphae’s fucking results in the birth of the Minotaur: monstrous female pleasure engenders even nastier monsters.

The Miraculating Machine detourns the traditional binding of the female body, the intense bodily manicuring that heteronormativity requires of women: the bleaching, plumping, waxing, sculpting, hiding, painting, shaving, revealing, camouflaging, highlighting, etc. All of which is on fat display in Cher’s get-up at the recent award ceremony. All of which masks the fact that, as Vanessa Place says, “We are nothing but chipped beef.”

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Lady Gaga in Hell

by on Sep.15, 2010

To continue the Gagathon, it’s interesting to think about Paglia’s unwitting advertisement for Gaga in contrast with something Mary Gaitskill wrote last year called “Lady Gaga in Hell”!

“This video is to me a picture of hell. It is so normal, yet so terrible. The girl looks like a dream vision of normal, a hologram of herself—and then she looks like a reanimated corpse.

She can’t move right, or doesn’t move right; in some clips, shots, whatever they are called now, half her body moves with wild energy and the other part just hangs there; she walks across the hellish pool patio in her leather suit, one arm swings freely, the other hangs there. It’s not that she can’t move that arm, she sometimes moves it vigorously and charmingly; at one point she sticks it out so some invisible thing can kiss her hand. But it does not usually move in tandem with the rest of her body, like whoever put the thing together forgot people’s bodies move in tandem.”

One thing that annoys me about Paglia’s analysis—as well as many other people’s—is that she totally extracts Gaga’s queerness when she expects her to trot out some retro version of feminism. Gaitskill, of course, restores that queerness by pointing to the fragmentation that Gaga constantly performs and embodies to the point of exuberance. She even puts Gaga on the side of Dionysus by linking her to Blake: there is “a moment of heaven on earth, carrying the creative seed of hell” not in her actual music video but in her reception among gays, girls and children.

I’m reminded of a passage in David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives:

“And to be surrounded by this sense of displacement, as this guy’s tongue pulls across my closed eyelids and down the bridge of my nose, or to be underneath all that stillness with this guy’s dick in my mouth, lends a sense of fracturing. It’s as if one of my eyes were hovering a few feet above the car and slowly revolving to take in the landscape and the small car with two humans inside slowly licking each other’s bodies into a state of free-floating space and semiconsciousness and an eventual, small, momentary death.”

While this is a description of gay sex, it could probably describe the Gaga project at its best. It’s true that other icons take it much further, but what’s thrilling about her is that she understands the highly self-conscious pleasures and risks of being in a non-normative body. She brings hell to the suburbs.

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Lady Gustav

by on Sep.15, 2010

Has anyone noticed the curious similarities between Lady Gaga and Gustav Klimt’s portraits? Let’s first dispense with the most obvious, the face: the angular jaw, the prominent chin, the small mouth, usually slightly open – and yes, the lack of affect (Paglia). Klimt’s faces all look alike even though he used different models, which only appears strange until we realize that he wasn’t the only one who painted faces like that: it’s a classic Art Nouveau type. Somehow, Lady Gaga embodies that type in the present.

Lady Gaga

Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt

Job by Alfonse Mucha

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