By Sarah Cook
“In that opening shot Gaga seems to literally become the screen – and, as the camera pulls back, what was once the screen is revealed to be the performer on the stage. This blurring between the screen itself and the performer on the stage suggests a kind of transgression of the screen.” ~Meghan Vicks, from her and Eddie McCaffray’s initial discussion of Gaga’s VMA performance
I want to start by agreeing with Meghan’s observation – in fact, the longer the camera stayed right up against Gaga’s face, the more uncomfortable I felt. Was it just me? I became incredibly anxious for the camera to back away, and to see her body, the stage, the surroundings…
It didn’t help that MTV online was a bit tenuous throughout the VMA airtime, taking forever to post each performance (which was supposed to happen immediately after it occurred), and only offering a live-stream of alternative cameras: a couple backstage views, a view of the audience, a few different rooms, etc. For me, this became the most interesting part of the whole experience: I found myself anxiously searching various online sites for a chance to live-stream Gaga’s performance, and I clicked repeatedly through all the different live cameras that MTV offered, trying to see which one was the most promising at any given moment. It became a race to see Gaga live, or to at least figure out which source would allow me to see her performance the soonest.
But here’s where it got especially weird: once Gaga started performing and I had yet to find a live stream, I realized I could hear her faintly in the background from these random MTV cameras. Each camera had a slightly different volume of sound, but none of them were loud: so while the visual cues were completely absent, the echo of “Applause” in the background told me she was onstage at that moment. I clicked ever more rapidly to try and see what I was only slightly able to hear. I clicked over to something called the “Talent Lounge.” There, I saw a bar with the phrase “Good Vibrations” written along the front. There were three small TV screens hung up in various corners of the room – they looked about a half-inch big on my computer screen – setting a kind of sports bar vibe. I was about to click onto a different camera when I realized those three small TVs were all broadcasting Gaga’s performance: multiple Gagas, and yet they were all so tiny! And so, my first taste of Gaga as Gaga as Gaga was through computer through video through TV, all these layers of technology that gave me what I desired only by lining up just so.