"[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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

THE NEW FLESH

By Devin O’Neill

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.”
–Trent Reznor


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.

Author Bio:
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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Monday, February 20, 2012

Haus of Stigmata: Laurence Ross

Gaga Stigmata is thrilled to welcome Laurence Ross as one of our official Haus of Stigmata writers. Laurence holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama, and he lives, writes, and teaches in Tuscaloosa, AL. His essays have appeared in Brevity, Mason’s Road, The Offending Adam, Bluestem, and elsewhere. He has recently completed a tragicomic novel, Also, I’m Dying, rendered in three one-act “plays” in which characters deliver performances of crisis, apathy, education, vanity, alcoholism, sexuality, husband, wife, child, and anarchy, among other things.


We’re very much looking forward to featuring additional pieces by Laurence in the upcoming year. For now, check out what he’s already written for Gaga Stigmata.

On “Marry the Night,” and its creative/destructive möbius strip
Gaga must alter herself, and the creation of a new self necessitates the destruction of the old. And so Gaga destroys, takes up the box of Cheerios and dismantles it, washes herself in the milk (whiteness) and O’s (zeros/nothingness). She pours an innumerable amount of zeros over herself because there is nothing left. She opens her mouth, full of zeros, not to sing, but to show us she has nothing(ness) to say. That the Cheerios/zeros/nothingness is all that there is to see here. Gaga has lost it – it being the everything of the self, all that there was. Gaga is now nothing. As she sings in the song, “I’m a loser.” Gaga must be stripped to a naked nothingness so that Gaga may dress herself up again.

How “Yoü and I” continues the narrative of “Paparazzi” and “Telephone”
Despite the fact that Jonas Åkerlund did not direct “Yoü and I,” the video seems like the third chapter in a continuing narrative that the Åkerlund-produced videos “Paparazzi” and “Telephone” began. There is Lady Gaga’s glamour-infused romance (the result of which is death), Lady Gaga’s release from jail (the result of which is death), and then Lady Gaga’s escape to/return to Nebraska (the result of which is death). Yes, there is a repeated (rebirthed) theme, but there is also a (funereal) procession, a narrative extension on the discourse. Gaga leaves one man for another, moves from one prison to another, transitions from one state to the next. Gaga is continually killing one version of herself so that the next may be born, which implies two paradoxical sides of Gaga: one that wishes to live and one that wishes to die. “Yoü and I” simultaneously exhibits the separation (Lady Gaga and Jo Calderone) and the synthesis (Yüyi) of these two (seemingly) opposing sides of Gaga’s self. There is the Gaga who wants to be with the lover, submissive and secluded in the Nebraska barn, and the Gaga who wants to be the spectacle, the pop star, the one with agency.

Analyzing closely “88 Pearls”
At the close of the film, as Gaga and Koh place the final pearl in the teacup, Gaga says, “Let’s do the last one together.” Gaga and Koh, together, each take hold of the pearl, each one’s thumb and finger carefully joining to pinch a side, their pair of hands forming two rings, two circles, which, when joined (jointed) at the point (joint) of the pearl, form the figure eight, form yet another figure of infinity.

On the two videos for “The Edge of Glory”
There are two music videos for Lady Gaga’s newest single, “The Edge of Glory”: the one that exists and the one that does not. This is not exactly a lamentation for a reality that could have been. More so, this is a Borgesian analysis, a deconstruction of the imagined work, an essay at assaying the untaken path in the garden of forking paths.

Britney Spears : Lady Gaga
Sometimes a telephone is a means of escape (Gaga’s text to Beyoncé) and sometimes a telephone is a jail cell (“Callin’ like a collector”). Sometimes a pussy is a cat (Gaga’s cabdriver cat suit) and sometimes a pussy is a vagina (Venus’s symbol zeroing in on the Pussy Wagon in the final shot of “Telephone”). Sometimes a sandwich is lunch and sometimes a sandwich is a bit of dance choreography and sometimes a sandwich is poison – that’s the Wonder (Bread), the Miracle (Whip) of it all. And Lady Gaga exerts this freedom, this agency, over and over again. “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” (187), Stein tells us in her poem Sacred Emily (1922), a poem that creates a world where words and phrases are repeated to diminish meaning’s stability and to emphasize meaning’s permeability. And this world is the one Lady Gaga inhabits, a world where the meaning and identity of a person/place/thing are never stagnant, always changing. If Britney’s “Hold It Against Me” possesses Yeatsian echoes of a modernist looking backward in time, Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” possesses Steinian echoes of a Modernist looking forward to the Post-Modern, the dissolving of boundaries, binaries, and steel bars.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

GAGA: A PORTRAIT

By Steve Giasson



Author Bio:
Steve Giasson is a multidisciplinary artist (conceptual poetry, video, performance, theater, photography, translation), who intends to transgress genres and undermine romantic notions of authenticity, authority and originality.  He has sixteen books to his credit and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Étude et pratique des arts at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

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