A “one-syllabled”, three letter word that subjectively encompasses anything and everything that expresses human creative skill and imagination. Traditionally, these works were exemplified through a visual form such as painting or sculpture, but more contemporary lenses would argue that music, film, writing and spoken word can all be considered art, for they evoke a natural human response of emotional or aesthetic appreciation whilst creating or imagining a more literal or conceptual visual for the audience. Although this wide-range definition leaves some scratching their heads and wondering where and when the world (particularly America), became so willy-nilly and lax with their criteria for classifying and identifying art, (or anything for that matter), many artists utilize this range as an advantage to create pieces of art that aren’t so typically beautiful or awe-inspiring. In fact, many contemporary artists seem to be pushing the boundary of arts limitations, guiding it closer and closer to a form that is, in fact, limitless and boundless. With newfound confidence in the unknown and a more noticeable desire to satisfy the artists criteria for what is considered art, humans are beginning to see that art truly is what you make it, for we have finally just begun living life to the same standard.
Now, before this seems like a stretch, let me explain. It has become increasingly clear to me that as a people and a society, we are generally becoming more accepting and willing to recognize changes and new things as yet another step forward towards a more open-minded and free-thinking society. For many of us, changes are seen as regular occurrences or are even expected due to the seemingly stagnant state of many affairs and art forms. For others… specifically our older counterparts, changes are not received with such warmth or ease;
but sometimes, both the old and the young can be perplexed or shaken by what our artists decide to put on the dinner table, and despite any sort of confusion, hatred, or unexplainable appreciation, we feast in whichever direction our emotions are pulling us towards.
Kanye West has been pushing art’s boundaries since his emergence in the hip-hop and rap scene, changing our perception of genres, music’s limitations and more recently what really classifies as art. This year, West dropped his heavily anticipated project, “The Life of Pablo” and created a few visuals for the project along the way. His most controversial and interesting project is his choice of subject matter and stylistic direction used in the “Famous” video; in which several obviously famous, well-liked, -hated, or -renowned people were depicted sleeping in a large bed–naked, and unaware that someone is filming the whole event.
For some, outrage quickly ensued. Certain stars in the video were upset that they were portrayed in the video without their consent, which created grounds for claims of defamation of character and portrayal of someone without their consent. The numerous others haven’t publicly voiced their opinions about their doppelgangers. But even those not depicted in the video were voicing concern.
Lena Dunham, a proclaimed feminist comedian and dear friend to Taylor Swift spoke on her honor, and claimed that West’s video is “one of the more disturbing ‘artistic’ efforts in recent memory.” Dunham voices her outrage and lack of comfort watching the video, saying that the way in which it was shot mimicked the likes of snuff films. “I know that art’s job is to make us think in ways that aren’t always tidy or comfortable. But this feels different.“
Although Dunham isn’t completely wrong in any of her observations or claims, she seems to be zoning in on minute details as opposed to the grand theme and idea behind the piece; which isn’t to defame or shame any of those depicted, (I mean come on, his beloved wife is featured in it as one of the only real versions of the stars depicted). Some of the stars had obvious connections, others were simply prominent figures or people who have recently been controversial in the media. With all of these factors in play it became obvious to me, as a viewer, that West was commenting on fame by analyzing the aspects of it that make it so naturally bizarre, exploitative, personal and communal.
Depending on your taste, the feast you enjoyed was either in support of Kanye’s vision, or a confused rage, unsure as to how a form of “exploitation” could ever be classified as art. Whichever opinion you have is viable, but West’s creation of something that wasn’t “tidy” and evoked discomfort in many proves in it’s existence that the video is in fact, art. The ability to create without fear of judgement or approval makes West a truly brilliant artist, and the works he puts out consequently demonstrates a fearless ability to create without limits, for now more than ever, art truly knows no bounds.