"[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

Monday, June 6, 2011

GAGAGRAPHY: Gaga, “Judas,” and Saint Theodosia

Background: On 28 March, 2011, Gaga Stigmata published a piece by Roland Betancourt that explicated “fragments” of “Judas,” which was still unreleased at the time, save for a few lyrics. Roland analyzed the fragmented lyrics, as well as Gaga’s costumes, interviews, tweets, and performances leading up to the production of the video for “Judas.” Included with his piece was an image of an icon of St. Theodosia. As Roland has since pointed out, this very image of St. Theodosia appears to be a prototype for Gaga’s costume that she wore for the scene of the “Judas kiss” in her video.    

Definition: Gagagraphy is the branch of Gaga studies that seeks to identify, describe, and interpret the content of images depicting Lady Gaga. A Gagagraphy studies all the various components of an image of Gaga, mining for meaning the image’s positioning of its figure, her gesture, her costume, her props (animate and inanimate), her facial expression, her makeup, etc. A Gagagraphy also studies potential visual precursors to images of Gaga, seeking to understand from where Gaga’s iconography draws its inspiration, its influences, its visual quotations. Gagagraphy often necessitates comparative analysis, drawing meaning from the exercise of comparing and contrasting Gaga’s images with her visual influences.

Directions: Meditate upon the following images of Gaga, taking into account their various components. Then compare and contrast Gaga’s images with the icon of St. Theodosia. Leave your analysis in the comments.

Fashion Credits: Catsuit and headpiece by Perry Meek and Haus of Gaga; Red Faux Fur by Adrienne Landau; Cross ring by The Dragon Lady; Lipstick Gun by Haus of Gaga; Fashion Director, Nicola Formichetti

Below: Icon of St. Theodosia (13th century, Byzantine); located at St. Catherine’s monastery at Sinai.

St. Theodosia, the Defender of Icons – so called because she was executed for protecting the image of Christ, which stood over the Chalkè Gate in Constantinople (19 January, 729).

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  1. Well, if Gaga is visually quoting Theodosia, it seems interesting that she's shown being forced to execute or betray Judas by Jesus. Protecting the image of Jesus requires turning your back on something else, or destroying it? The best defense is a good offense?

  2. According to wikipedia (which I so eagerly checked…Biblical history isn't my strong suite, so I apologize if the following is all old knowledge to everyone else), Saint Theodosia is said to have prevented the removal of a statue of Christ from the imperial palace grounds of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian. She reportedly shook the ladder of the soldier ordered to remove the statue, sening him falling to his death. She was then arrested and executed. Gaga thus evokes the violence of Saint Theodosia's actions, and reconstitutes them in the form of the lipstick gun within the context of Jesus's betrayal. There is a kind of physically violent martyrdom underlying Theodosia's actions as well as those of the Judas/Jesus betrayal. Just as Gaga-as-Mary "has" to die to become holy at the end of the video, Theodosia isn't revered as a martyr until after she is executed.

  3. Exactly, Chris - there's a violence inherent in the martyrdom, just as evil is necessary to protect "something so beautiful."

    What I find particularly compelling about the idea of St. Theodosia is her status as a defender of the ICON. Gaga herself has been quite a defender of the icon since day one - a devotee to the image/spectacle. Theodosia defended the image of Christ, and thereby defended Christ himself. Likewise, Gaga defends the image, and thereby becomes it. Theodosia is really a perfect figure for Gaga.

  4. Yes! I was trying to reconcile the icon (the fabrication?) of Theodosia's Jesus, with Gaga's "real" Jesus. But you're completely right: Gaga remedies this discrepancy, bridging this gap between image and reality. And in effect, like you say, the music video is completely image/spectacle, so Gaga is very much acting as Theodosia, defending the IMAGE of Christ, Jesus as a symbolism, etc., not the literal figure of Christ, himself.

    I also think it's worth noting how one of Gaga's eyes is concealed by her hair. I can't think of one music video (except for maybe "Eh Eh") in which she doesn't call attention to one eye, either by covering one with her hand, or encircling it with her fingers. I think this concealment is a subtle way of calling attention to the spectacle of her performance, the very act of viewing itself. And no more is it as poignant, then, as here, in the role of Theodosia, the protector of a SYMBOL of the thing, not the thing itself.


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