Opinion

Jay-Z Raps at Marina Abramović, or the Day Performance Art Died

Photo courtesy Adam Taye
Photo courtesy Adam Taye

Last night, rumors started circulating about Jay-Z doing some kind of Rajnar-Kjartansson-meets-Marina Abramović performance art mashup, in which he would rap his new art-inspired song “Picasso Baby” at a rotating cast of hand-picked art-world individuals continuously for a few hours.

It couldn’t really be true, could it? And yet, it was so ridiculous, it had to be true. And then it turned out that DJ Spooky had tweeted about it, and so it really was true.

Scarily true, it turns out. Because this afternoon, at Pace Gallery, this happened:

Just when Kanye West thought he had monopolized the title of art-world rapper, Jay-Z goes and throws down. With Marina Abramović, no less! Yesterday gallerist Stephanie Theodore jokingly suggested on Twitter that Ai Weiwei divorce his wife and marry Marina in the interest of forming a mega-cult (although, let’s be real, having a wife has not stopped Ai from seeing other women). But now it looks like maybe the optimal mega-cult would be something entirely different. Could Marina, Jay-Z, and James Franco form a celebrity performance art trinity? Visitors to the planned Marina Abramović Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art could be indoctrinated in the new religion’s ways.

And speaking of the institute, I can’t help but think back to Hyperallergic Weekend editor Tom Micchelli’s take on it. His words seem particularly apt right now, even if he was talking about the museum to come and not about Marinay-Z (not great, I know; I’m working on it):

Once upon a time, Performance Art was synonymous with shock and danger. In contrast, the control, pedagogy and research embedded in those contracts and white lab coats come off as, to say the least, the tools of predictability.

By creating a safe environment for a notoriously unsafe art (whose perilous reputation is due in no small part to Abramović herself), these measures seem designed to clamp down on the raging id of Performance Art like an equally monstrous superego.

Safe environment and monstrous superegos, indeed. That’s probably why most of the reactions I’ve seen range from unenthusiastic to apocalyptic.

In case you remain unconvinced, here’s a picture of RoseLee Goldberg, founder of Performa, dancing with Jay-Z, too:

(via LiaChavez on Instagram)
(via liachavez on Instagram)

You know what, though? Maybe we shouldn’t be so hopeless. Maybe performance art hasn’t died — it’s just moved to Brooklyn.

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