Jay-Z, live, with Marina Abramovic at the Pace Gallery in New York
Last night, I want to sleep pissed off. Umm, was I the only person in the entire world that didn’t know that Jay-Z was going to pull a Marina Abramovic at the Pace Gallery in New York? The king of hip hop performed for six straight hours yesterday, and if the images I saw (which were mainly on Instagram, and on nearly every single one of my friends’ feeds) were to be believed, not only did he interact with Marina in a Pop music salute to her The Artist is Present performance piece, he threw down with the audience too. No really, from artists to fashion editors to assistants to socialites to whoever: Everyone knew Jay Z was going to pop up at Pace, apart from me. (Not that I mind. I’m in Paris! So, na na ni na na.) The kids over at Dis magazine compiled some Vine videos of Jay and Marina rocking out, which you can find here.
I was obsessed with this performance that I didn’t see. Although, the reviews have been a mixed bag. While mostthought it was a clever performance, some thought that Marina was diluting the purity of her own work by collaborating with a Pop star and, likewise, some people thought that Jay-Z had no part trying to conform his art into someone else’s. But to those people I say: Shut up! To be honest, I’m not particularly invested in what other people have to say on the internet. (The only blog you should listen to is this one, dammit!) What I thought was so marvelous about this performance was how it collided these two worlds: hip hop and performance art. Not that they hadn’t met before: Marina isn’t unfamiliar with the worlds of hip hop, after all. I blame Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci for that; I have a picture of him with Ciara and Marina on my desktop because it makes me smile. Not to mention we’ve seen Jay-Z and that wife of his at art fairs and galleries around the world. I remember two years ago at Art Basel Miami there was nearly a riot when word spread that they were at the Gagosian stall.
Jay is following in Kanye’s tracks into the world’s of avante garde art. And I must concede that it’s not like Jay completely left his comfort box here. The best comment I read on the internet? “If Jay-Z is an artist because he lip synced a song for six hours, then Milli Vanilli deserves an entire retrospective at the MOMA.” But I must celebrate Jay for sparking this discussion at all. That he entered a hall of performance art with Marina, the Queen, to me is feat enough.
It reminded me of another cultural collision, which I was also not physically present at. (Though, for that one I had a much better excuse: In 1979, I wasn’t born yet.) David Bowie performed on Saturday Night Live with the performance artist Klaus Nomi, which may be an uncommon name to some of my readers. If so, Google it! I didn’t know about this particular SNL performance until I went to the Bowie exhibit at the V&A earlier this year with my friends Jack and Lazaro from Proenza Schouler. They featured clips, which I thought were fantastic: There is Bowie, dressed in a purple military jacket and tight pencil skirt, with Nomi and Joey Arias; in another more fantastic clip, there is Bowie dressed up like, well, it’s hard to explain – maybe a pie-shaped tuxedo wedding cupcake? It took some digging, but I found the clips and will imbed them below.
What I find inspiring in any artist, from Jay to Bowie and Marina to Nomi, is the willingness to try something new. I don’t want to say push the envelope, because that expression irritates me. To push the envelope is to try and get by with something that someone shouldn’t, like when kids play the Penis Game on the school bus. (Please tell me you know the Penis Game. If not, back to Google!) I don’t think Jay and Marina were doing that. They’re trying new experiences with new people who want to see new things. I can’t say Marina’s biggest fans are card carrying members of Jay Z’s fan club. I can’t say Jay Z’s fans know Marina’s last name, much less how to spell it. But for six hours one afternoon in New York, they got together, shared ideas, and created an international buzz that is still reverberating. And that, my friends, is the power of art.