"[Gaga Stigmata has] very modern, edgy photography to free flowing, urban narratives without censure to analytical essays, et cetera—like Gaga, imagination without ... limits. And the beauty is that anyone can submit work to the site, so artists and writers from all over the [world] have joined this experiment." -The Declaration.org

"Since March 2010, [Gaga Stigmata] has churned out the most intense ongoing critical conversation on [Lady Gaga]."
-Yale's The American Scholar

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Aase Berg's With Deer and Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" Video: Fashion & Skins

by Steve Halle

Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" video shares many of the same concerns with femininity as Aase Berg’s With Deer, albeit using a much different stream of images. Lady Gaga’s video and Berg’s collection of poetry portray the feminine as spectacle that morphs. These morphs are images that get tested, tried out, put on, and taken off again. They are fashions that are shaped, woven, chosen, or imposed.


First, off to the Bath Haus of Gaga to talk about spectacle and the gaze. The opening of Lady Gaga's video, set up like a painting, like portraiture, lets me know that this video will be all about looking, being looked at, and the self's capacity to imagine all the angles of that looking. Lady Gaga will be the center of it all, the hinge for the action upon which all gazes converge. In the opening tableau, Gaga is enthroned with her entourage and her posh accoutrements (Zikmu Parrot by Starck $1600 wireless speakers product placement), revealing that fame has placed her into a rarefied position, and the spectacle of her fashion positions her as well aware (razor-blade spectacles as razor-sharp vision; outfit that looks reptilian and tough yet gilded, armor-like). This image is much like an album cover and the stasis it implies, but once the video becomes dynamic, this (self-)image starts to morph.

The first change we gaze at is Monster Gaga born from the womb of a sensory deprivation chamber, complete with monstrous vinyl innocent-white catsuit and mask alongside background dancers who participate with Gaga in awkward/awful dancing, juxtaposed with a doe-eyed, cute, baby-like Gaga resembling a child's toy and a black-clad chic Gaga, complete with crown, looking at herself in the mirror (mirror-stage?), a reflective, self-examining stance.



And who should come to yank Gaga out of her innocence? Not men as might be expected, but two women, and they appear in the video around the same time as a pristine, status-quo beautiful, Madonna-clone Gaga while almost simultaneously Monster Gaga begins dance moves that parody Britney Spears, the status quo image of feminine fame with her fist pumps. The female orderlies give Baby Gaga a martini to desensitize her, and this produces a Debutante Gaga, complete with tiara and silver lingerie, whose femininity is covered up and cloaked but not for long, as women again expose her to the gaze of the waiting throng of dark-clad men. As Debutante Gaga sexualizes herself, crawling on all fours toward the men, a new Monster Gaga appears in a separate location (later I learn it's the bedroom), complete with grotesque reptilian spine and bat-like form on her head, even as the men begin to bid on her.

Using the bullet-time shooting popularized by "The Matrix," the next Gaga is in black lingerie, jewel laden, and surrounded by men, with an S&M mask that signals her dominance, perhaps, juxtaposed with a Satellite Gaga, transmitting a version of her sexualized body in the round. Cut to a Super-Fashion Gaga in her costume, which is fashion gone bad, turning Gaga into an animal form (note the hair as an ear-like coif) in an ornate suit that looks like a costume Louis XIV might have donned at Versailles. Rarefied by the fame from her transmission into the object of desire, to the point where she can wear golden, decadent outfits, we see Gaga wearing a faux-polar bear skin wedding train and marching to the bed with the highest-bidding suitor, who we can watch Gaga gaze at as the reflection of him undressing is in her mirrored sunglasses.


Vixen Gaga clad in red lingerie emerges next, face made-up the same as the Polar-Bear Gaga, and these are juxtaposed with pristine Madonna-clone Gaga, who looks pained, screaming and is revealed to be wearing the same bat-like hat/headpiece as the reptilian second Monster Gaga. Polar-Bear Gaga does the big reveal for the suitor while the viewer gazes at the scene, Super-Fashion Gaga fires the gun, and the suitor's bed begins to burst into flames as Vixen Gaga  comes into her own and pristine Madonna-Gaga weeps over the corruption of self by lust (romance gone wrong). Polar-Bear Gaga stands in a pose resembling the opening tableau, in the bedroom but not of it. Vixen Gaga triumphs and we get a dirty-legged, smoking, Grotesque Gaga lying in bed next to the skeleton of her suitor, her tits shooting sparks through her bra, the final tableau. She is now the stereotyped sexually "hot" female, sitting and smoking after destroying the suitor with sex, but that's the cliche, isn't it, a monster's been created.


Which Gaga is the real one? All of them, of course, although the reflective, rarefied, toughened-up Gaga of the opening tableau may be the one with which she most identifies now.

***
The correlation between Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" video and Aase Berg's With Deer is a loose one as Berg goes about exploring skins in a much different way and without the burden of fame that is part of Gaga's spectacle of the gaze and the creation of her multiform feminine self. Jordan Davis, in his review of With Deer on Constant Critic, notes the cinematic aspects of Berg's prose poetry, comparing her moves to Bjork or Werner Herzog, while Lara Glenum sees teenage sci-fi parody in Berg's work in “‘From Cosmos to Cosmetics’: A Note on Aase Berg’s Guinea Pigs & Girly Kitsch” in Action Yes!

I agree with these readings, but I view Berg's poetry as having the ability to look at the world through not only a totalizing lens but also a microscopic or subatomic one (her later works like Dark Matter use the language of string theory and theoretical physics). Her work often appears like one of those blacklight fantasy posters with its hard neon colors when shown from afar, but her work also has the ability to zoom in, not unlike the opening juxtaposition of David Lynch's "Blue Velvet," where we toggle back and forth between the idyllic Lumberton and the awful writhing beetles, from quaint meadow to trash to the ants on the decomposing ear.

Berg's work, like Lady Gaga's video, sets up a series of allegories in which Berg puts the narrator into certain animal skins, such as the fox and the deer, and compares the he of the poem with the horse in "In the Horrifying Land of Clay:"
There was an evil horse that galloped with me on its back. Beneath the hair-strap his muscles moved and chafed against the muscles of my taut inner things which clamped down around his body. I was scared and breathless and dynamic for this tall evil horse was my enemy.[...] I froze in my skin—it pined and chafed against the sharp wind that hurled its sharp drops against my egg-face. There was an evil horse that galloped through the horrifying land, an evil and dark horse with manhood and musculature, and I was thrilled to have him as my enemy.
More chafing and discomfort occurs in "Seal Mutilation" in lines like "The seal flesh loosened slowly.[...] I too waited and had sensations in my hull. [...] The armor plates began to chafe against the fur" (the seal skin echoed later in "Deep Inside the Rock") and in the subsequent poem "The Snail Ancestry" where "The girl's skin was bare and chafed-up from the friction of the limp, flailing animal. It was vaguely reminiscent of a fox, but he could not be sure—the animal's forms and shapes had long since ceased to be determinable in this evil landscape."

Later, we find her carrying "Deer Fabric:" "The deer fabric is thin. I carry it cautiously as if it were a cloud in my hands," which later gets dropped: "I release the cloud now, the bundle. And nailed to my increasingly deader body I wait for everyone to turn in my direction, to me and the glowing fabric." Even geometric forms discomfit her as "The Hypotenuse" reveals, and a galaxy is no safe haven:
Out in the Andromeda, out in the hybrid galaxy, the Hypotenuse writhed around her own shoulder. She writhed inside her horrible, backward body, she writhed so that her insides chafed against the shell, so that her muscles rubbed raw against the inside of her skin.
In the poem "Deer Quake," the speaker recounts being inside the deer, inside the cute or pretty body ("I have moved around the deer, I have fastened my fibers to the dancing, severe deer. [...] I have moved around the rare glass deer of September.")  and feeling completely uncomfortable before a change, an emergence, a distancing from the deer happens:
There is a light in the deer, there is a light in the deer, there is a light deep inside the cavity deer! Now the blood surface song surface is heaving! It quakes through me and the deer. Fibers ache in my sharp border. Now the painful deer tears now it breaks. Now the deer and I burst and are exposed—
Here the speaker is born out of or separated from the deer, exposing them both, like the illusion that one can stay within the cute, within the deer fabric that has been fashioned and the speaker has been forced to carry. She has become that thing and separated. There is no skin that does not chafe, nothing in nature has a comfortable flesh to inhabit, from the grass that gets chewed to "seed flour" in the deer mouth to the geometric forms of the galaxy. The speaker finds only chafing, cutting, fluid leakage, and open sores, but the painful discomfort comes before the "time for the cutting to slowly start to heal."


Author Bio:
Steve Halle is the author of the poetry collection Map of the Hydrogen World (Cracked Slab Books, 2008) and the chapbook cessation covers (Funtime Press, 2007).  His creative and critical work has been published in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM), Cordite, Jacket, Moria, milk magazine, and OCHO, among others.  He edits the online journal Seven Corners and is a staff reviewer for Poets & Artists (O&S).  He is a PhD candidate at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gaga Stigmata: Submission Guidelines Update

Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga
Guidelines for Critical Works

We are looking for critical pieces about Lady Gaga that articulate intellectual or creative ways of reading and understanding her work. All submissions should be highly polished, well written, thoroughly cited, and original examinations of some aspect of Lady Gaga's project. We also strongly encourage critical pieces that take a performative approach to criticism, in line with Gaga's aesthetic strategy.

As a journal, our questions regarding Gaga are continually evolving, but most basically center upon the queries: How does Gaga's art function, and what meaning does it produce? Why do Lady Gaga and her project matter? Critical writings may also consider and explore in depth the following:
  • Gaga's relationship to performance/conceptual art
  • Gaga's art and its dialogue with social issues (feminism, gay rights, gender, sexuality, race, etc.)
  • Gaga and fashion
  • Gaga and the disabled
  • Close readings/dialogues of Gaga's videos
  • Gaga and the grotesque
  • Gaga's art and its relationship to post-humanism
  • Gaga's art and its relationship to technology (and bio-technology)
  • Gaga's art and its relationship to consumerism/capitalism
  • Gaga's art and its relationship to evolutionary biology
  • Parallels or dialogue between Gaga's art and the work of other artists in all fields
  • Gaga's art and its relationship to (dialogue with) Warhol
  • Gaga and gender theory
  • Gaga and postmodern theory
  • Gaga and pyschoanalysis
  • Gaga and the spectacle
All submissions will be closely reviewed. Before accepting, we may ask for revisions of your article. Please send all submissions in word (.doc) format. Include a short personal bio in your email.

Send all submissions to gagajournal@gmail.com.

Note: Gaga Stigmata reserves first and second publication rights for all articles published therein. All articles published in the journal will be considered for publication in the final book product.

Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga
Guidelines for Creative Works

We are interested in creative works (visual art, creative writings, music, film, fashion, etc.) that possess an aesthetic strategy in line with Lady Gaga's.  We are also looking for work that takes an unexpected approach to Gaga, offering a new way of encountering Gaga's work or functioning as a surprising evolution or outgrowth of Gaga's project. Creative pieces that are grotesque, highly performative, blur the lines between "high" and "low" culture, and are full of spectacle, are of particular interest.

For this project, we are not interested in works that are a direct homage or replica of Gaga's work.

Please include a short artist statement (50-200 words) and a short personal bio with your email. All submissions will be closely reviewed.

Send all submissions to gagajournal@gmail.com.

Note: Gaga Stigmata reserves first and second publication rights for all creative works published therein. All works first published in the journal will be considered for publication in the final book product.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Our Lady of the Gaga, Gives Us Our Excesses

by Tamiko Beyer





sometimes, waking
to the blank eyes
of the penthouse
windows I miss
you, Lady Starlight

everyone starts small
before they go big
you knew that darling –

starlight’s a faint glow
when the city pulses below

::            ::

my superfans
you little monsters:
who wants to fuck a boy
who wants to fuck a girl
now you see
me now I don’t

::            ::

this door the excess
I adore – once
I couldn’t pay
my LES rent
but I looked
fucking gorgeous –
Versace, Dior,
the real thing
and now what? now
what? bubbles! feathers!
metal collars!
appliqué, sequins, appliqué!

let your tongue
taste every
part of me,
monsters,
this purple satin art-
deco body suit
red lace crown
latex mini hoop
is for you, look
lovelies – lick it,
the waning the waxing
cover your eyes
all you pretty boys and girls
I am the pretty boy
the pretty pretty girl
the hot top
hot comet top

take my body take my body take my eyes

::            ::

Christina said: I didn’t know if it
was a man or a woman

sweetheart,
all that picture proves
is I know how to pack
and the whole world’s
invested in the binary
of shudder fuck shudder

::            ::

the awkward diva’s
born knowing the trick
is finding pleasure

when I explode
all the mirrors flash

::            ::

come write me into relevance
come adore me into stardom
lick and lick and lick
little monsters – you want it –
my cunt-fist-fame
darling god and darling gays

all the world shudders

my body my body my body my fist

my fame a fist my dick a fist

::            ::

dear star,
you cannot pin
the curled script
across my forearm
because I have been
more lonely than you
will ever know – cover
your eyes

::            ::

bring me my heels
my orbiting rings
my center all my
little monsters
drool into my platinum
wig: get to know what wet
feels like: this, your fist-
filled moment: Get out
there’s no other superstar

                         Behind starlight
                         this is the burn, the bend
                         the sunblind


Author Bio:  
Tamiko Beyer’s poetry has appeared in The Sonora Review, Copper Nickel, diode, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of a grant from the Astraea Foundations’ Emerging Lesbian Writers Fund, and a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellow. She serves as the poetry editor at Drunken Boat, and is pursuing an M.F.A at Washington University in St. Louis.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Status Re-sort

by Jeff T. Johnson




 is      violating      the       human 
 condition      is like unlike       is 
never    caught    in   sweatpants
 is          hyperbolized         sexual
 costumes                  is monstrous
 infarction         is  and  or  neither
is hyperboolean ra(n)ge           is
integrated     accoutrements    of 
royalty                  is  the  sacred 
spectacle               is  the  catchy 
surface     is  a  halo  of  hair    is 
the  monster  of  praise            is 
cartoonized  space                   is 
parabolic grace        is grotesque 
prose           is the coughing void 
is out of the oracular         is  the 
body  without  body        is  after 
attribution        is  distraction  as 
attention               is   sequential 
impairment        is  the  ghost  of 
reason                      is    sublime 
ambivalence       is performative 
slumber                  is    dynamic 
boredom      is normalizing grief 
 is                              plasticizing 
contextualization          is formal 
where      is captive audio        is
blandishment in armor             is 
pungent    revision                   is 
captivated   irony              is  the 
 inversion  of  sensory  discourse 
is   the   discourse   of     sensory 
inversion                 is   reversion 
reserved   to   function             is 
grammar  control  tactic           is 
 conscious  image  conscience   is 
formerly  known                 is the 
original copy     is the copy       is 
the  copy           is  the  monster’s 
costume             is  the  formula’s 
formulation                     is      the 
formulation        is association by 
commerce         is the sighs of the 
masses         is the virtual missive 
&       gagagagagagagagagagagaga



*This poem borrows language and ideas from Meghan Vicks's critical essay "The Icon and the Monster: Lady Gaga is a Trickster of American Pop Culture," published in Gaga Stigmata.


Author Bio:
Jeff T. Johnson's poetry is forthcoming in Slope, and has appeared in VOLT, Caketrain, Cannibal and Calaveras. He attends the graduate program in creative writing at The New School.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Icon and the Monster: Lady Gaga is a Trickster of American Pop Culture

by Meghan Vicks


Lady Gaga is, quite literally, a spectacle of American pop music and fame culture. Since August 2008, which witnessed the release of her debut album The Fame, her presence has flooded both American and world culture-scapes. While her music has certainly garnered great chunks of pop culture’s fleeting and finicky attention, it is her persona that has secured the most lasting fascination and discussion. Lady Gaga is much more than the singer of catchy pop songs such as “Just Dance” and “Poker Face”: she is a performance artist that never sets aside her performance. And her project? – To deconstruct the very pop culture that creates and worships her, and to explore and make problematic the hackneyed image of the pop icon while flourishing in the clichéd role itself. In many ways, she is a modern-day trickster: an ambivalent and transgressive figure whose tricks, or art, take on a measure of reality or truth.

Defining the trickster is a notoriously “tricky” task, as the trickster’s main quality is its indefinableness; likewise, this indefinable quality also (un)-defines Lady Gaga. A figure that eludes all categorizing bounds, Lady Gaga is ambivalence embodied. When rumors circulated that she was a hermaphrodite, she neither affirmed nor denied the gossip. She characterizes herself as androgynous, and upon being told that Christina Aguilara quipped, “I don’t know if [Lady Gaga] is a man or a woman,” Lady Gaga replied: “Look at me, I might as well be a gay man. When I hear comments like that, I’m like, ‘She’s dead on,’ because she saw the Warhol in me.”

Besides embracing the ambiguity and enigmatic nature of her gender, Lady Gaga’s costuming often usurps the borders between body and clothes, top and bottom, and sexy and sacred. Recently, she “wore” a blonde sunhat made completely out of her own hair, thereby making problematic the line where her hair ends and her hat, or clothing, begins. She has worn stiletto heals as shoulder pads, which evokes an upside-down aesthetic; razor blades as sunglasses, thereby utilizing as a shield what normally slices; and has styled her hair as a Renaissance halo while wearing a see-through red lace body suit, ultimately producing the literal image of a sex goddess. Moreover, her costuming aesthetic has an ageless quality, and is constantly (de)/e-volving and undergoing transformation. What can be said about Lady Gaga today does not necessarily apply yesterday or tomorrow; paradoxically, the only constant category is her fluid ambiguity.

Intimately related to her ambivalence is her transgressive vitality. Like other trickster figures, Lady Gaga continually crosses the borders that structure our knowable world and in doing so, allows something new access into the culture. Mythological tricksters, via their transgressions, are responsible for bringing fire and even language to humans from the gods. Lady Gaga’s transgressions work to bring seriousness and meaning into what is traditionally considered to be frivolous and meaningless: that is, pop music. She asks, “How do I make pop, commercial art be taken as seriously as fine art? That’s what Warhol did.” One of the main ways that she transgresses the normal bounds of the pop icon is by hyperbolizing and making monstrous the extreme sexuality of that role. For instance, Lady Gaga adopts the cone-shaped bras that Madonna used to accentuate her feminine sexuality and power, but has them shoot sparks and flames. She makes horrific the sveltely thin yet curvy figure of the pop starlet by wearing outfits that distort, exaggerate, and sharpen those sexualized contours of the female body. She wears an ecto-skeleton outfit while caged in her “Bad Romance” video, highlighting the various prisons, both bodily and cultural, that trap the female figure; significantly, by the end of the video she has escaped. Her “Paparazzi” video presents the murder of an abusive and controlling boyfriend, and its centerpiece is a riveting dance number in which the crippled Gaga transcends and incorporates her handicaps by making elegantly jerky movement of broken limbs, a wheelchair, and crutches. Her performance continually transgresses and functions by transgressing, which allows Lady Gaga to be both whimsical and serious, sexy and monstrous, and meaningless and meaningful at the same time.

Lady Gaga has repeatedly stated in interviews that she lives for her art, and that her performance does not end when the music stops; moreover, her end goal is nothing other than the art itself. “Some artists are working to buy the mansion or whatever the element of fame must bear, but I spend all my money on my show,” she says. “I don’t give a fuck about money. What am I going to do with a condo and a car? I can’t drive.” In this way, she is also reminiscent of the trickster, whose tricks are performed not in hope of achieving some pragmatic or didactic goal, but rather for the sake of the trick itself; the trickster’s tricks equate to art and performance. Regarding clowns, fools, and tricksters, Bakhtin writes, “Their being coincides with their role, and outside of their role they do not exist” (Dialogic Imagination 159). Bakhtin’s statement appropriately applies to Lady Gaga as well. She is reluctant to give her real name, and insists that her family and friends address her by her stage name. She says: “I don’t ever want to be grounded in reality. In my show I announce, ‘People say Lady Gaga is a lie, and they are right. I am I lie. And every day I kill to make it true.’” And: “The outlet for my work is not just the music and the videos, it’s every breathing moment of my life. I’m always saying something about art and music and fame. That’s why you don’t every catch me in sweatpants.” And lastly: “I eat, sleep, breath, and bleed every inch of my work. I’d absolutely die if I couldn’t be an artist.”

Her spectacle, and by proxy her life, is largely a performance of celebrity, fame, and the construction and maintenance of iconic identity. Her first album, The Fame, is about fame even though she wasn’t technically famous when she wrote it. What matters for Lady Gaga is not so much the reality of fame, but the spectacle of fame itself, the illusion of fame that takes on a life of its own and ultimately becomes real. She adopted the paraphernalia, slogans, benefits, and complaints of fame before they were rightfully hers, and in doing so became our current definition of “fame.” Throughout her rise to literal fame, she has continuously performed, torn asunder, and at the same time taken advantage of whatever it means to be famous. She simultaneously parodies and celebrates what she has become. Her second album, The Fame Monster, and world tour, The Monster Ball, are cases in point: meditations and confrontations with the fame monster she has become in the same breath that she worships her monstrosity, making that monstrosity into her very art and performance. Her pretentiousness is fully embraced as if nothing exists outside of that pretentiousness.

What is most controversial about Lady Gaga is her appropriation of Christian iconography laced throughout her performances; this connection to the sacred is also a general characteristic of the trickster. By transgressing and transcending what is defined as human, or by violating the human condition, the trickster arrives at something sacred, at something other-than human. Lady Gaga transgresses what is normally defined as human by incorporating into her grotesque and hyperbolized sexual costumes strategically-placed crosses that cover her most “sacred” lady bits: her nipples and her crotch. She has also been known to style her hair into a halo, and when she met and performed for Queen Elizabeth, she wore a costume that integrated the accoutrements of royalty. By appropriating symbols that are typically reserved for the sacred figures of divine and earthly realms, Lady Gaga, on the one hand, problematizes the distinction between the sacred and the profane, and, on the other hand, insinuates that there is something sacred and ultimately true about her spectacle. There is meaning beyond the catchy surface of her songs, just as there is both pop and sacred iconography beneath her shocking and outlandish costuming.

The spectacle of Lady Gaga ultimately performs a double role: she is the product and performance of modern pop culture, and she is the subversion and defying of those selfsame conceptions of pop culture. She is the icon and the monster created by the same cultural pulse.


Author Bio:
Meghan Vicks is a doctoral student of Comparative Literature, currently working on her dissertation, "Narratives of Zero: Aesthetics of Absence in Modern and Postmodern Literature." She teaches Humanities courses at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This piece originally appeared on her blog Only Words to Play With.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bright-Eyed Pallas Gaga: Goddess of Wisdom, Warfare and Crafts

by Brian Oliu


Lady Gaga! Love of my life, fire of my loins. You exist on a plane that I never learned in geometry class, and trust me, I learned a lot in geometry class. There are times I think that you are going to battle Godzilla in a war-stricken city (is it Tokyo? It might be Tokyo! It might be Laser Paris!) or at the very least claw someone’s eyes out. You drink tea. Sometimes you resemble the final boss of the ice-level in the videogame that is my life; other times you resemble a simple foot soldier who may or may not be holding a weapon. Despite the cliché statements of “I define myself; I am indefinable,” that we have come to expect from yearbook quotes and celebrities, to define Lady Gaga is to know Lady Gaga, and to know Lady Gaga is to love Lady Gaga.

Of course, there is a good chance that Lady Gaga is a robot and therefore my crush is even weirder. In fact, there’s a good chance that she’s the most dangerous type of robot—the one that is self-aware; the robot that we as humans have learned to fear. The Vigilant Citizen, best described as “Conspiracy Porn”, wrote an article in late summer of 2009 theorizing that Lady Gaga is a puppet for the illuminati. Yes, our fair heroine is a victim of Project MK-Ultra (awesome!) or Project Monarch (less awesome!), which was a CIA mind-control and chemical interrogation research program that manipulated mental states. Oh no! Gaga! The author of the article doesn’t go into detail about what Lady Gaga’s mission is but I guess we are to presume that it involves some sort of manipulation, (if this sounds like the plot to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, it’s because it is) or at the very least showing us the back of a dollar bill and pointing out the pyramid with the eye in it before putting a “B” and an “R” before and after the “ONE” on the back (tee hee). This makes some sense: watch an interview with her—if the host is familiar with the puzzle that is Gaga, she is warm and friendly—if not, she is cold and bizarre. Anyone who has operated a computer or a piece of technology knows this feeling well—while not “user friendly” the learning curve isn’t overly steep if we are willing to put the time into reading the manual: talk about pianos, touring, New York, her aspirations. In other words, treat her like a human and she will respond in kind—treat her like a cyborg burlesque member and receive a command-based interface where a misplaced word will emit a “do not compute”. Gaga’s dance moves are not overly impressive, but they are delightful and quirky—she used to rely on classic moves such as the Charleston (downloaded, totally) and has evolved into more staccato movements. And, if we learned anything in college, the best way to impress fellow humans is to dance like a robot.

Of course, Gaga is not a robot. We have seen youtube clips of her before her Gaga stage playing mediocre gigs at mediocre clubs in Manhattan. We have seen her on MTV’s Boiling Point becoming perturbed at a continually botched salad. We have seen her vagina. We only pray that humans are that technologically advanced. Gaga, (nee Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) is both transcendence and immanence personified: if this were early Rome, blood would be shed over the homoousios vs. homoiousios argument—is Stefani infused with Gaga or is Gaga a being beyond self? Certainly, Gaga, the creature! the woman! is incredibly self-aware: she is not what we call her—she is what she calls herself. Her debut single and first track off of The Fame, “Just Dance,” starts off with a declaration of her name for the uneducated. The onomatopoeian chant at the beginning of “Bad Romance,” has entered our lexicon—if there was a password for the zeitgeist then this is it. Yes, Lady Gaga knows exactly what she is doing: there will be no moment on the Eero Koivisto designed LED cross where she will feel forsaken by the God that created her. Besides, she has already mimed the crucifixion while being strung up and hoisted to the rafters during her performance of “Paparazzi” at the MTV Video Music Awards. Despite the obvious Catholic allusions (Germonatta attended Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan, though we could debate that it was more because of the selectiveness, not to mention famous alumnus such as various Hiltons, Kennedys, and Vanderbilts) if in a book report your thesis was “Lady Gaga is a Christ-like figure,” you would probably get a C. I mean, she’s not Madonna, people.

Perhaps my upbringing is making my assessment a little too Catholic: though it is undeniable that homegirl contains some deity-esque tendencies. It is not difficult to imagine a fully-formed Gaga emerging from Zeus’ cracked skull in a gimp suit and a scarf made of Muppet. Is Gaga a modern-day Athena—shrouded in mystery yet still instantly recognizable and kind-hearted? Signs point to yes: the Bowie-like androgyny is very Athenian, as Athena was often described as both patriarch and maternal, though the first google suggestion that pops up when typing “Athena” is not “Athena hermaphrodite” and there was no need for Athena to parade around in form fitting battle girdles to display a lack of bulge. It is amazing how someone so sexy can seem so sexless and so disinterested in sex; we are all Herphaestuses, sorry honey, you’re not my type. Even in the video for “Bad Romance,” we see this: Gaga, in some bizarro Russian-bathhouse sex trade depot is being bid on by potential suitors. The end scene is Gaga in bed lying next to a pile of ashes, visibly unimpressed. Vengeance achieved. While we have not seen a Gaga-lash out papa-paparazzi camera kick, we know she is capable of it—her videos portray her as a femme fatale, (her most recent video Telephone, a Tarantino-inspired revenge party, has her and squeaky-clean-yet-getting-weirder Beyonce poisoning an entire diner) ready to seize control when the moment asks for it.

The main difference in all of this is in the costuming: certainly, Athena was a woman of many costumes and disguises which is undeniably Gaga, who heads the aptly titled Haus of Gaga; a group of designers in charge of her various outfits that have made award shows relevant again (or at least worth watching…okay, fine, worth browsing the photos on Yahoo! the following day). Athena used these disguises to fit in with the common people and to appear less god-like, whereas catching Gaga in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt is like seeing a spotted owl. Of course these outfits are what make Gaga resonate with the common people: if you own a Twitter account, something Gaga-related is always a trending topic. Her quirks and eccentricities speak to the masses. She is one of us but is not us. And, like Athena, she is good to her worshippers (she refers to them as her “little monsters,” which sounds pejorative but is really sweet—she recently got a tattoo of the phrase on her arm, next to a quote by Rilke, of course) and they respond in kind with tithes in the form of tribute videos, fan art, and adoring mimicry (Gaga parties will replace toga parties by 2016). While there is not a city named after her as of yet, it could very well be on the horizon. And if that city just so happens to become the cradle of civilization for a couple hundred years and then crumbles into a den of inequity and awkward beauty, so be it.


Author Bio:
Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His work has been featured in Ninth Letter, New Ohio Review, Bat City Review, Web Conjunctions, The Collagist, Best Creative Nonfiction Vol. 2, and others. This is an automated message.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga

“Lady Gaga is, quite literally, a spectacle of American pop music and fame culture. Since August 2008, which witnessed the release of her debut album The Fame, her presence has flooded both American and world culture-scapes. While her music has certainly garnered great chunks of pop culture’s fleeting and finicky attention, it is her persona that has secured the most lasting fascination and discussion. Lady Gaga is much more than the singer of catchy pop songs such as “Just Dance” and “Poker Face”: she is a performance artist that never sets aside her performance. And her project? – To deconstruct the very pop culture that creates and worships her, and to explore and make problematic the hackneyed image of the pop icon while flourishing in the clichéd role itself.” –Meghan Vicks, Only Words to Play With


Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga is a new technological breed of journal that intends to take seriously the brazenly unserious shock pop phenomenon and fame monster known as Lady Gaga.



Submit:

Critical Work (any format; any length) and Art (Creative Writings, Visual Art, Music, etc.), or any combination thereof, that intelligently interacts with the pop cultural manifestation that is Lady Gaga.

We are also interested in critical writings on the web that already exist, so please call these to our attention if you come across them.

Those who follow Gaga know that she moves as the speed of pop, which is far faster than the speed of critique; therefore, we have chosen the blogger format for now to allow us to keep pace with Gaga. We encourage pieces that are immediate (for example, critical responses to her newest performances, interviews, and music videos), though we are also eager for your more thought-over works as well. If your work is accepted, expect it to be published quickly--likely within a day or two of acceptance. You should also expect to interact with others in the comment boxes of the blog; permitting the peanut-crunching crowd of monsters to further the conversation's evolution.

Our goal is to eventually create a book of the best works on this site, both in technological and physical form, possibly in collaboration with the Haus of Gaga.

Send all submissions to gagajournal@gmail.com