I watched the “Bad Romance” video the other day, the video that got me into Gaga. I wanted to see how it aged. So much seems to have happened in pop since 2009, the first time I jacked off to that video and cried because my artistic career was over and I now belonged to an Italian woman I’d never met.
When I first saw it, it felt razor sharp, fetishistic, and impossible to replicate. It had an unassailable countercultural credibility despite being blasted on the most mainstream content channels the mediaspace has to offer.
It still feels that way. Why? How does something this ubiquitous feel this edgy?
In answering this question, I’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide to producing your own art of the same shining, disruptive caliber. Be warned: if you follow my advice, there’s no escaping fame.
“There has to be danger, we have to instill a sense of fear in the audience, and ourselves. Rock’n’roll deserves that.”
In order to properly engage constituent human fight-or-flight mechanisms, and thus compete for adrenaline-space in the hurricane gale of the new media, you must disrupt the environment of the viewer with cultural signifiers that do not have place in his ordinary threat-environment, and the best signifiers are linked to sex and violence, the beating and raping and subjugation of the identity; power and humility. All the old buttons in the monkey-brains of your viewers must be pushed relating to desire, social dominance, fear and territoriality. This is why the visual is so important – sounds can be driving, evocative, and terrifying, but our newest dangers and desires are so technologically complex that representing and then perverting them properly requires product-placement level symbolic dialog. Razor glasses, fetish gear, body auctions and golden prosthetics – if we can press the fear of wealth, fear of sex, fear of humiliation, fear of aggression, and fear-of-the-alien buttons all at once, our work is being done properly.
This cold, material danger should be balanced with vulnerability, which is just as terrifying. Appear unstable, and allow your audience to see the human weaknesses in you that terrify them in themselves, but surround those things with a matrix of blades. Place your fleshy, teary-eyed frailties in the mechanistic jaws of the modern landscape of value exchange, like a fairytale maiden guarded by a giant firebreathing dog with the heads of Donald Trump and Karl Marx. Cry very close to the camera, and twitch a lot before being taken and bound – you are out of control. You are human.
Push these two buttons in alternating rhythm for that is the rhythm of power.
Understand the visual language that soothes your viewer’s needs. They are soft, warm creatures with leaping rabbits of desire in their chests, and it is up to you to coax those rabbits out with sweet carrots before baring your aforementioned knives. Study pornography as scripture and understand advertising as prophecy – tear the creatures from your television screen to pieces with you teeth and cybernetically reintegrate them into a lover the viewer longs for with perverse prepubescent disney-movie recognition. Swathe the gloss of those forms, reeking of desire, in the haute couture of status, the unreproducible stink of exclusivity. This occult swings on the central secret of art and entrepreneurship – the fact that the reins of creativity and collage are in everyone’s hands. You will make idols of fabric sequin and mirror from your closet, and your followers will worship these idols – because they haven’t known the central mysticism, that they can program reality, that they can make their own idols. And then later in your career, in your biggest magick-trick of all, you’ll tell them.
No explanations are necessary. You must be a self-evident non-creature, a representative of mysteries the populace already suspects exist. You do not need purpose; your style is purpose in its subversion. Dick Hebdige said the purpose of the safety pin, in terms of punk rock, is to negate its own purpose. You will wallow in the decadent drug-technologies of civilization’s nonbeing, capitalistic desire fellating itself until its cum drains, withers, dies. By reconfiguring each object in your surrounding energy field to be repurposed, and so to be purposeless in relation to the religion of purpose’s consensus is-ness, you metastasize a new paradigm of purpose that does not require memory or regret. This is impossible solipsism but each milestone of headway you make will contribute to your Fame. Since the homeostatic mode of your capitalistic prison is production, consumption, exchange, value, you will fart in a glass bottle and refuse to sell your bottled fart. But people will want to buy it anyway. You will not regret this. You will regret nothing. Regret is a function of response to systems other than your own, systems with demands. Besides, people will not buy your fart. They will buy you, and then you will kill them. Eventually, they will love you for it. Eventually, they will realize that each semiotic boundary and stylistic taboo that you sacrifice on the altar of yourself is not representative of the funeral of a discreet object – they are only flakes of skin, skin that you are shedding, as you transform into something else entirely. You are an instruction manual to become yourself.
Those are your commandments. Read carefully, live courageously, and be a monster. But not a little one. Not anymore.
Devin O’Neill is a writer, performance artist, and branding practitioner. He enjoys things he shouldn’t, on purpose, and tries to get other people to enjoy them too. Some of his projects can be found at http://www.popocalypse.com and http://devinoneill.blogspot.com.
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