So things got extra hot and spicy last night at PS122. Apparently Kanye West dropped in on “Why Won’t You Let Me Be Great!!!”, Neal Medlyn and Brendan Kennedy’s tribute to the pop culture demagogue’s latest album 808s & Heartbreak.
“The evening became tense and uncomfortable when notorious (and buck-naked) performance artist Ann Liv Young confronted Kanye personally, shouting that she didn’t think 808s was his best work, all the while grinding barbeque pork into her naked crotch (and then eating it). We all know Kanye is no stranger to confrontation and controversy, so perhaps Liv Young was paying tribute to that? In any case, the audience reacted with absolute horror during her “interpretation” of “Love Lockdown.” To Kanye’s credit, he barely flinched. (Liv Young rather shrewdly ended her performance by shouting, “I love your work with Common” before gathering her clothes — and pork products — and scurrying offstage.)”
In all seriousness, this is quite a touchdown for downtown performance, which competes daily against an assumption that its work and interests are marginal, unmarketable, and doomed to obscurity forever.
It’s hard not to knock Kanye for being an egotist (which may ultimately be a superficial way of appraising an artist who is clearly–even importantly–influential) since, in a way, you could argue that vanity helped him fall into the trap of the homage. After all, it is the quintessential daydream of the homage-making artist that his offering will be noticed and and heralded by the artist whom he seeks to honor (or lure).
But props to Kanye for being one of the few, if only, mainstream artists who have responded–in person–to the downtown, high-art shout-out of a generation of performance artists who have made it their project to forge meaning out of a relationship with popular culture that is too often dismissed as empty, compulsory, and heartless.
Also props to Ann Liv Young for calling shit out.