I've sat down a few times this week to compose something coherent to react to the Kanye West fiasco unfolding across every register of social media in response to a recent string of interviews, Twitter rants, and release of new music. I've decided to wait and see until I commit more than a few thoughts in this week's round up, but suffice to say I am watching closely along with the rest of his fan base. Last night on SNL, a fantastic skit "A Kanye Place" summarized the polarized response, capturing the contradiction, fascination, spectacle, and complete frustration that so many of us who have defended Kanye are feeling.
On the one hand, I cannot help making the comparison between Kanye's apparent nod towards authoritarian politics (read Trump) with Salvador Dali's attraction to Hitler in the latter phases of his career. For Dali, the increasing obsession with fascism lead not only to his excommunication from the Surrealist movement, but also to accusations that Dali had abandoned his earlier principles and idealism for fame, money, and popular attention (sound familiar?). On the other hand, Kanye has continued his earlier practice of speaking through comparison, leaving a trail of breadcrumb clues via his Twitter. For example, he raises, very intriguingly, the performative art practice of Joseph Bueys in several instances-- a conceptual artist who bridged performance with social critique through landmark performance works like I Like America, and America Likes Me (1974). To be sure, it is impossible to know right now if what Kanye is doing will ever be coherent as art or constitute a broader plan of political attack (recall he said he would run for president in 2020), but it is very clear that his recent controversial statements (especially around slavery and American history) have landed in a very different way than ever before. He may indeed have jumped the shark this time around, and if so, he may end up like Dali with no road back to his earlier successes.
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