Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Move Over, Old Taboos!

I will allow Lady Gaga to set the scene...


We're supposed to obsessed with reality shows and the spectacle of real life that they celebrate, however a picture like this shows me just how little we actually reveal about how we spend our free, unstructured time. 
Pop stars are falling over themselves to do the next risque thing, however if I get out of the loop of being shocked over and over again, I realise that I'm only shocked because so much about what gives our bodies pleasure and pain, how our bodies react to the most intimate moments, is obscured/obfuscated/ignored/covered up in the public domain. 
Here, Gaga suggests a relationship between bodily functions such as urination and masturbation. The arm over her head (and the armpit hair that it goes with) shows a relaxed approach to the bathroom, where the vagina is capable of more than one function at once. Although wearing shorts, Gaga is re-empowering the vagina by drawing attention to it, which is unnervingly necessary in an age when misogyny runs rife. Fear and hatred of the vagina is challenged by the spectacle of a woman blurring the boundaries between the neutral and the pleasurable, the unavoidable and the desirable. 
I'm sure some of my readers will think this is gross, but, in an age where we've only come to realise how neurotic we are over what's going on under our shorts, Gaga's deliberate recontextualisation of a private moment as a public spectacle encourages me to feel more comfortable with my own body. 

Next, we have a special performance by Lykke Li...




This performance casts the bathroom in a different light: It's a humble place where extraordinary things can happen. The smallness of the space and the echo off the walls make for great acoustics. How many singers have we heard interviewed who claimed to adore singing in the shower? The bathroom has long been a natural space for musical creation, so perhaps it's surprising that it hasn't been used for an impromptu performance before. However, instead of representing the bathroom as a sterile, innocuous place, Lykke Li makes use of everything it has to offer in telling the story of 'I'm Good, I'm Gone'. She turns on the tap, beats on the hand-dryer with a spoon, and flushes the toilet needlessly. In the end, even greater attention is drawn to the specifics of the space by the mechanics of her closing the door on the camera. My favourite tool in her trade is the mirror, which isn't perfectly clean around the edges, but she uses to great effect as she breaks eye contact with the camera and then finds it again through the glass.

So thank you, postmodern female musicians, for drawing my attention to how much secrecy the people around me encourage in and around the bathroom, and thank you for your playful explorations which make me feel more relaxed and awake to possibilities.

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