"[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

Friday, October 22, 2010

mad props: lady gaga invitation number six

Artist Bio: Caspian Carter (b. 1982) is an artist, writer and educator living in Los Angeles.  He recently received an MFA in Writing and Integrated Media from California Institute of the Arts. His work engages with notions of ethical subjectivity within a world of collapsed metaphor, linguistic slippage, and self-exploitation.  His blog is www.hystericallyreal.com.


  1. I wish I was this unaware and uninspired to produce such crap. Really, this counts as an aesthetically viable/demanding response to Gaga's body of work?? It is stuff like this that produces so much contempt for contemporary art - as in 'more fuel for the fire' because I guess 'anything goes', oh, especially if he has such 'serious' and 'prestigous' creditentials. Am I the only one embarrassed for the work and the artist, not to mention the schools that have and continue to award degrees for this kind of 'critical' work? If I say this is shocking it is not because of the piss stuff ('boring') but shocking in the sense that someone can be so delusional as to think the world needs to see this work. I am 'shocked' that someone has the courage to self-promote this as art. Lady Gaga, if you are reading, pee on him and get it over with. I can't take it anymore.

  2. I agree that there is a level of awkwardness here that is hard to stomach. Embarrassing beyond words. An abject transmission, returned from the toilet of the blogosphere. He must eat Reference-O's three meals a day to produce "crap" like this utterly unpalatable, over-unto-de-eroticized American Apparel ad. Appalling what can happen when folks these days take art too seriously, too literally, or follow art's advice to the extreme. That look in his eyes, after all: does the artist really know what the artist wants?

    Incidentally, I hear that some European toilets have a small shelf in the bowl where, before flushing, one can examine one's daily excrement for clues about one's health. I wonder what rare diet could make your shit smell sweet?

  3. Makes me think of apples

  4. so bored of this. will you please get over yourself and move on?

  5. Travis poses the question: "does the artist really know what the artist wants?"

    To which I counter: "who is the artist in this exchange between Lady Gaga and Jon?" In contrast to previous commenters who have spoken about the sexual perversity of this series, I find Jon's plea for Gaga to piss on him not really sexual at all, and more aesthetic. Isn't he asking Gaga to turn him into a work of art, not unlike Duchamp's urinal? It seems to be a plea for aesthetic transcendence, and Gaga has the power to bestow that higher transcendence through through the lower bodily-ness/bawdiness of piss. "Ms. Gaga, will you please piss on me, and thereby turn me into a work of art."

    Which of course, returns us to the age-old question: what is art? who gets to decide? What should art do or mean or signify? How to make aesthetic judgments? Kantian disinterestedness? Symbolists transcendence? Dada non-sense?

    Also, y'all getting the feeling that he wants to play a trick on us? I thought that those trix in the last mad props figured as a type of bait: he's baiting us, tricking us somehow, but HOW? And why?

    I should also disclose the fact that while I'm co-editor of this site, I've had no contact with Jon, and I don't have any "inside" information regarding the goals/meaning/point of this project, whatever they may be. My lovely co-editor, Kate Durbin, has been handling this series.

    Meghan Vicks

  6. I don't know about aesthetics but I don't have an academic background in the arts. I'm just an old rock n roller who wore out two pairs of Frye boots over 20 years of playing in bar bands. When this series started out, I thought, "Well...let's see where he goes with it." The answer at this point is, "Nowhere."

    Now maybe there's some point to this art that I'm just not getting, but I just don't see how standing around in different lame poses asking a star to piss on you makes any point at all.

    What I do know is it ain't got no backbeat and you can't dance to it, so #Fail.

  7. I support his right to create his artwork, but find it distasteful.

  8. i would be pretty into pissing on him, can i dress up as lady gaga and do that?

    i like this though.

  9. It just occurred to me: we in the peanut gallery are starting to sound a lot like Gaga's critics.

  10. Meghan,

    Most excellent point! Gaga has frequently been criticized as being a poseur, unoriginal, and worse.

    It's also interesting to note that while we've published many excellent artworks on this site, none has enticed such intense responses as Jons. Clearly he's doing *something* that gets under the skin, even if that something is not acceptable to many.

    Gaga also gets under the skin.

    I am refraining from chiming in further as curator, but please note that I will do so very soon. I can't say more than that.

    Let the mayhem ensue!

  11. I find the personal attacks on Jon "the person" or "the artist", and the corresponding lack of discursive critique about what the work might be doing/saying, to be so telling. Has it occurred to anyone that "he" and/or the question posed might be a container for something? A la Gaga?

  12. I might just be turning an analysis of my own response to some art into an aesthetic here, but this is my two cents.

    One of the main ways that these pieces get to people is by frustrating them. Their inability to "get it" is strange and off-putting in a world were lots of stuff makes sense. Some people get bored, some people get made, some people respond in the same gibberish in which they're being addressed. Some people philosophize and philosophize hard.

    This picture is a lot like someone walking up to you and just looking you in the eye blankly. You wait, you say something, you wonder what's going on. You get frustrated because this behavior implies or requires explanation, and you don't know how to provide or acquire it. You're clearly being addressed but you don't know the code.

    I find it interesting because it reveals the "audience's" role in perception, in art. It indicates something about communication: communication isn't a simple, neutral tool. It's something we're deeply attached to. When we get the feeling it should be working and it isn't - when we are clearly the intended recipient of some message - we get pissy. Beyond being annoying, broken codes (or just alien ones) are scary, unnatural, or affronts to the codes we DO understand.

    The point isn't what's being said to us, but our response to a saying that doesn't work just right.

  13. amanda, can you elaborate your claims, Meghan's comments have opened up a portal to this...can you too?

    General Question: Isn't it just too easy to always say 'well its not meant to be understood' or not getting it is what its all about?

  14. Gaga is a performance artist and art in herself right? Jon has Duchamp's Urinal in all "invitations" right? The Urinal represents the birth of conceptual art correct? Jon, by requesting the piss represents the urinal both conceptually and physically :)? So Jon is the artwork and Gaga is the performer? Of course nothing is black/white and discussion and interest seems to be the motive here. I think the problem with this work is that it requires some knowledge of art history and without that knowledge the interpretations of this work are that it's juvinile, tasteless, annoying, wasteful, ect.

    Seems to be accomplishing the objective, with or without the piss :). Generating thought and discussion along with all kinds of feelings.

    Another interesting variable is the continued invitations... more than one piece. Does this dillute the work? What's the point of more than one invitation? To tease the audience? To discipline the student? To get the point across?

    Anyways - mission accomplished. Excellent work and hardly distasteful, hydrating in fact :).

    This could end sadly however if Pierre Pinoncelli considers another art performance after seeing this work :). Not sure Jon would appreciate that performance. Ouch.

  15. Why are we assuming so much? Where is the urinal in this invitation? How do we know the person in the invitation is the author of the work? Couldn't you equally have alluded to piss christ and the defiling of iconography rather than Duchamp?

  16. Mrs Big - You ask a great question: "Isn't it just too easy to always say 'well its not meant to be understood' or not getting it is what its all about?"

    I've thought about this a lot, and I think that sometimes it's incredibly important for reading literature or viewing art to be frustrating, displeasurable, or non-sensical experiences. This is because such art and literature that frustrates us directly attacks our own assumptions that we carry with us when we go to engage with a piece of art or lit.

    Our responses to Jon's piece say just as much about ourselves, and the expectations we carry with us into the act of viewing art, as they say about Jon's piece. Many of these responses indicate that viewing art *should* be a pleasurable experience, that art should be purposeful and productive (or “reproductive”), and that art should be meaningful.

    This is not to say, however, that these responses are not welcome: in fact, they may be the very goal of Jon's art. By creating purposely "dissatisfying" or "trashy" art, Jon does not allow his art to become a prison for his viewers (if we just look at the art and none of our basic assumptions are rattled, then our worldview stays the same, and we go nowhere), and encourages, I believe, his viewers to begin to think about why their reactions are so violent towards Jon's art itself.

    Also, the urinal tattooed on Jon's arm? I immediately think of Duchamp, but even if you're not familiar with Duchamp's work, you can still read the urinal: does it signify that Jon himself is a vessel for piss? Also, Jon's plea to be pissed on by Ms. Gaga has remained the same in each of the pieces, but his poses have altered significantly. In my mind, this implies something a bit frightening: it is the image on Jon's arm that is dictating Jon's being, no matter what pose he strikes. A sort of frightening example of the way in which images give us identity - which is a lot of what Gaga's project is about, but here it becomes somewhat horrific.

    Does this make any sense? (Haha!)

  17. Meghan makes an excellent point about the tattoo. While it's on the underside of the artist's arm--a place which is very easy to hide--it's visible in every single invitation (all 6) and prominent in most of them. Not an accident, I'd assume. Also not an accident that this is likely a response in some effect to Gaga's urinal and its subsequent inscription: "I'm not fucking Duchamp, but I love pissing with you."

    Alright, I promised I wouldn't say anything more as curator until the appropriate moment. Silencing myself now.

  18. Meghan's first comment is right on point.

    what seems boring to me is defending contemporary art against its potential degeneration. isn't this precisely how Duchamp was received by his more reactionary critics? the fact that this piece so powerfully raises the question of what art is - raises it again today, almost 100 years after Duchamp's lethal blow (from which art seems to have recovered) and raises it in this world where it can seem that anything goes - is what makes it important and clearly not just 'bad art.' anything does not go and one would better dedicate attention - as this artist has - to interrogating the specific configurations of power that allows what appears at first glance to be an overly wide and banal set of objects and gestures to be consecrated as art today. if the question for Duchamp was about the power of naming and of the namer, the question here is at least in part about art's relation to celebrity and to art history - perhaps the power of networking?

    in any case, there are any number of interesting things going on in this work: from the way subjectivity is imaged across the series (partially faded, erotic, pornographic, present only as the metonymic part-object of the marked arm, etc. - and always citational); to the paradoxically insistent submission (both sexual and childlike) it manifests - an uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassing need (and as regards the question of what the artist wants, perhaps it is more a matter of drive than desire) that clearly repels some viewers, if not the addressee herself.

    in closing, if the explicit stakes of project lie in a request for a bestowal of recognition as artist, perhaps the final question is (and here I cite Joseph Beuys): is the silence of Gaga overrated? or not?

  19. I know I'm not sure how I feel about these photos. But I was wondering, what does any painting "mean"? Go look at da Vinci's "Last Supper." It's just a picture of a Bible story. What does it mean? Do you get it? I don't know that I do.

  20. this is the best seminar I have ever had, apologies for not recognizing the tattoo on his arm as a urinal, it never occurred to me.

  21. I kept wondering what that tattoo was (won't tell you what *I* thought it was) because the arm/tattoo was the one consistent element through all six invitations. With the Duchamp urinal tie-in, the project and its relationship to Gaga's work makes more sense to me. But it still doesn't have a backbeat *lol*

  22. I wasn't going to comment on this piece because I don't feel it deserves much attention, but now that I've started...

    To me the piece reminds me that fan worship, and the elevation of celebrity above 'the common human being' is part of everyday life. I would argue that Jon is already a work of art - he doesn't need the recognition/validation of Gaga in order to conceptualise of himself as such.

    At any rate, a desire for humiliation isn't something I want to learn from.

    I've been thinking of writing something about the misogyny that follows Gaga and many of the people who engage with her...

  23. EpiphanieBloom -

    Can you talk more about how you find this piece misogynistic? I can understand the humiliation, although I don't necessarily think that every form of self-exploitation is accompanied by a humiliating element, nor do I think self-exploitation is always negative. I'm really interested to know more of your thoughts on this subject, as it seems that it's something you've been thinking about for awhile.

    :) M

  24. I second M's request! I don't see the piece as chauvenist at all, quite the opposite in fact.

  25. Hi M,

    My misogyny comment didn't have to do with this piece, sorry for not making that clearer. :o)

  26. I will preface by saying that I know the artist and his work but that my readings are not informed by him at all.

    “amanda, can you elaborate your claims, Meghan's comments have opened up a portal to this...can you too?”

    I think this project contains, or perhaps begs, many different questions and I won’t try to address all of them (nor do I think I have all the “answers”). I’m having fun watching them slowly find their way in/out of the conversation. But, in terms of being a container for sexual/gender discourse: How funny that this image is considered “dirty” or “distasteful” by some, and yet Gaga’s sexualization is taken as normative. The sexualization of “Jon” here seems to point directly at the way in which we engage with it. We expect or applaud Gaga for utilizing sexuality as a means for bringing a critical artistic practice into mainstream pop. Whereas for a male to sexualize himself “for art,” the reaction is disgust: Why isn’t he using his mind? Etc.

    Or, is it the piss that some are moralizing?

    Jon’s “goal” here: to be pissed on, defiled by a female artist, flipping the notion of male “pissing contests” (another homage to Gaga’s urinal) on its head. The invitations are in fact all homage, aren’t they? Let me ride your coattails, he says. A kind of transmission that rarely occurs from male to female artists. The self-promotion or self-valorization some commmenters have addressed seem to me to be flat, irresponsible, uncritical reads of the photos. Is there not a high level of play being indicating by objects, colors, poses, font, etc. here? What does it mean, after all, that Jon is giving himself bunny ears? Is this not a gesture of self-parody? And what of toy guns (masculine symbols we’ve seen Gaga play with) and American apparel (objectification, queering of maleness)? There’s a high level of gender interrogation going on here that’s hardly misogynistic. To write off “the artist” as a poseur: lazy and reactionary. This stuff feels loaded with reference and interrogation. The question for me is: do we allow/want it to have one telos, or is this counterproductive?

    “General Question: Isn't it just too easy to always say 'well its not meant to be understood' or not getting it is what its all about?”
    Yes. Yes yes yes.

  27. I just thought of something else that may or may not be interesting to think about: Jon's urinal tattoo is located in the same place on his arm (left upper arm, underside) as Lady Gaga's Rilke tattoo.

  28. And as Rilke's philosophy about art seems to influence Gaga, so does Duchamp's conceptualism seem to inform Jon's work.

  29. What I find especially exciting about this piece is the ways in which the male artist is transforming himself into a ready-made art object in which a female performance artist is needed to complete the art. This is an invitation, a calling, that heavily features the urinal tattoo on the artist/photo's object and necessitates the female performance artist involvement either by evocation or rsvp. This collapses the artist's subjectivity into an image, aka an object: a clever feat in the line of performance artists, especially the male ones that Lady Gaga responds to regularly.

    In light of the male performance artists who maintain control and dominance in their performances, namely those in the '70s who incorporated women into the action of the performance, Rutzmoser's piece reverses the age old tradition of the woman as the object and the male as the subject/artist. The male artist has become the object of the art and the female performer the artist needed to complete the performance piece.

    While Duchamp's original urinal was not used in the show to which it was submitted and hasn't been found, Rutzmoser has used a signifier of it in the form of his tattoo. Rutzmoser calls us into the realms of signification (gendered vs. gender neutral as indicated by color, title, clothing, etc, male v. female v. the false binary of m v f, ready-made art, Fountain, etc.) The body in the photo has become the canvas evoking the lost Fountain. Duchamp's original fountain demarcates a large and loud step in art history. (And even with out the knowledge of art history, the image of the urinal on the arm in the image of the photo invitation is a collapsing of a receptacle of waste onto a body, which reduces the subjectivity.) Duchamp's fountain called the context of the gallery and art shows submission calls into the forefront with his ready-made. In this case, the context necessary is Lady (explicitly gendered by title) GaGa (a nod, among other references, to DaDa) to pee on the artist (featured in the socially constructed demarcator of male underwear-- male briefs).

    Lady GaGa will continue to be the brilliant, cutting edge performance artist that I see her to be if she responds, yes, and calls this performance into being by peeing on the signifier of the urinal on the canvas of the male artist's body.

    Jon's piece follows in line with the evolution of contemporary art history and inventively offers the next phase. After figure and capturing light (impressionism), cubism began deconstructing the the figure and surrealism worked to express the ego's balance of internal and external influences. Art in the 20th century has focused on paint primarily, then canvas primarily, then the white wall in a gallery, then no canvas or paint, then performance and questions of subjectivity. As we moved to performance art, such as Lady Gaga's and before, the artist as performer came into center stage. Rutzmoser has offered what no other male performance artist has before which is to question the long held tradition of the feminine art subject for the male artist. He's making Carolee Scheeman, Lady GaGa and the like proud. I hope GaGa lives up to her title and realizes this.

  30. I'd like to say that I don't see Gaga's sexualisation as normative, in fact I find the excess of it problematic to the extent that it plays into heterosexual male fantasies (even as it also defies them - she is simultaneously hypersexual and asexual). I also have no problems with males sexualising themselves. I have an issue with the desire for defilement represented.
    I agree that the flipping of gender expectations is subversive, but I am far from reactionary (I'm a very liberal postmodernist). I don't even have a moral argument against it to offer - people always do what they think is best...

  31. i have to wonder, after epiphanie, who stated so clearly at the top that she "wasn't going to comment on this piece because [she doesn't] feel it deserves much attention," what the role of attention really plays in this piece, of paying attention, and what kind of attention this project demands or needs? and from whom? as this is a public invitation on an gagablog (a blaga?), what we are most likely to be witness to is the artist's failure. failure to have his invitation accepted, failure to be "understood," failure to submit his (normative) body to the gauntlet of revolutionary monstrousness that gaga throws down. failure to be noticed, to be paid attention.

    all of which i find deeply tender, actually. It is by virtue of a sort of childish, puerile, "look at me" aesthetic that we may cringe in the face of this inevitable failure, cringe for Rutzmoser and for his exposure of this particular performative inadequacy, and also we may hope.

    speaking of tender, humiliation and defilement can be a consensual intimacy, can they not? jon is begging for it, the lady will choose to play along, or decline, or ignore him. don't we know (via the many signifiers mentioned above) that we are in the realm of a certain type of play, even if that play has sincerely real and abject stakes? doesn't this start to play the strings of dominant/submissive discourse, articulating the joint of assumption of power roles, noodling with them so that we may hear again the strains of some post-transgressive refrain?


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