Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

On the Edge of Theory: Lady Gaga, Performance and Cultural Theory

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

On the Edge of Theory: Lady Gaga, Performance and Cultural Theory

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT.

This paper provides an analysis of Lady Gaga, the genesis of this name and the evolution of Stefani Germanotta into an avant-garde artist who makes the most of her art school background and combines aspects of performance, art, and fashion into a musical style that represents a distinctive multimedia melange philosophy. This paper explores her use of the work of several contemporary artists and her understanding of art theory and pop psychology to achieve a creative synthesis as one of the greatest performance artists of the twenty-first century.

Keywords: Lady Gaga, performance, art, fashion, avant-garde

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was reborn Lady Gaga in a New Jersey Parsippany studio in 2006. Lisa Rose (2010) in the Star Ledger reports that Germanotta was developing her distinctive sound with Rob Fusari, a producer who had helped pen hits by Destiny's Child and Will Smith. She goes on to explain the origin of the name:

The name Lady Gaga may sound like some avant garde in-joke but it's actually a reference to the Queen hit, 'Radio Ga Ga,' one of Fusari's favorites from the band. 'Every day, when Stef came to the studio, instead of saying hello, I would start singing "Radio Ga Ga,'" Fusari explains. 'That was her entrance song.' Germanotta was in the midst of brainstorming a stage moniker, when she received a text from Fusari that read 'Lady Gaga.' 'It was actually a glitch,' says Fusari. ? typed "Radio Ga Ga" in a text and it did an autocorrect so somehow "Radio" got changed to "Lady." She texted me back, "That's it." After that day, she was Lady Gaga. She's like. "Don't ever call me Stefani again.'"

"Radio Ga Ga" is a 1984 song performed by Queen and written by Roger Taylor (Queen's drummer). The song is a commentary of how television was overtaking radio's popularity especially with the development of the music video as an emerging genre and the advent of MTV in 1981. MTV was inspired by New Zealand's Radio with Pictures, which premiered in 1976 and was based on the airing by NZBC (Broadcasting Corporation) of promotion clips provided free by record companies. "Radio Ga Ga" became a staple on MTV in 1984 and was nominated for an MTV music video award that year. Taylor apparently conceived of the song as "Radio Ca Ca" after something his toddler said. The song makes reference to H. G. Wells' The War of Worlds and Winston Churchill's 1940 speech 'This was their finest hour." Germanotta says: "I adored Freddie Mercury and Queen had a hit called 'Radio Gaga.' That's why I love the name."1

Gaga, ca-ca (toddler talk) by an obvious association reminds me of Dada and Dadaism, the cultural movement that began in Switzerland in the period 1916-22 with Hugo Ball and others involving experiments across the visual arts, literature, especially poetry, art manifestoes, art theory, theatre and graphic design. It included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals and influenced later styles like the avant-garde and downtown music movements, and groups including surrealism, Nouveau réalisme, pop art, Fluxus and punk rock. It was decidedly anti-bourgeois and anarchist in nature. Hugo Ball wrote in his Dada manifesto of 1916:

Dada is a new tendency in art. .. An International word Just a word, and the word a movement.... Dada world war without end, dada revolution without beginning, dada, you friends and also-poets, esteemed sirs, manufacturers, and evangelists.... How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada. With a noble gesture and delicate propriety. Till one goes crazy. Till one loses consciousness. How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, europeanized, enervated? By saying dada. Dada is the world soul, dada is the pawnshop.2

Tristan Tzara two years later in his manifesto wrote "DADA DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING."3 Dadaism included the artists Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picarbia, and Man Ray. …

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