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‘Art’s in pop culture in me’: Posthuman performance and authorship in Lady Gaga’s Artpop (2013)

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Ten years after her eccentric entrance into the pop scene with ‘Just Dance’, Gaga’s image is now markedly less edgy, in part due to her current focus on her film and TV acting career which requires a different image. In her musical work, Gaga is known for referencing artists that came before her in her music and music videos, and she has previously pushed the assumed boundaries between pop and art. This bricolage of influences often gives rise to claims of inauthenticity where rapidly changing and subversive image has left critics questioning who the ‘real’ Lady Gaga is. Moving beyond limited and value-laden discourses of authenticity, we instead suggest that her performances exemplify a posthuman approach to art and/as subjectivity. In the posthuman view, one’s ‘self’ is not a singular, static, autonomous individual, but a subjectivity that is emergent; an entanglement between entities, both human and non-human. Posthuman theory consequently troubles dualistic binaries, such as those between male/female, self/other, subject/object and human/machine/animal. This allows for a critique of anthropocentric hierarchies, instead arguing for a rhizomatic acknowledgement of the different entities in the subjectivities that emerge. We suggest that Lady Gaga’s work on her 2013 album Artpop exemplifies this approach, as Gaga fashions her body to resemble artworks and wears visual references to (female) artists that came before her. She incorporates different objects, machines, animals and others into her performances, thereby embodying a posthuman subjectivity. This work therefore signifies a reconsideration of what it means to be an audio-visual-artist and challenges not only the sanctity of self, but also the Romantic model of the male artist and singer-songwriter which persists in much popular music media criticism. However, problematically anthropocentric approaches remain throughout via Gaga’s foregrounding of self, and her current return to more muted performance styles might be seen as indicative of the difficulties of living a posthuman life in a humanistic society and marketplace.
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Keywords: Lady Gaga; Romantic artist; assemblage; gender; popular music; posthumanism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 0000000404074824University of Surrey 2: 0000000121802449Birmingham City University

Publication date: September 1, 2020

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  • Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture (QSMPC) is a refereed academic journal devoted to the study of representations and expressions of queerness in its various forms. International in scope and representing a wide variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, it publishes scholarship on topics at the intersection of media/popular culture and queerness in gender/sexuality. QSMPC invites articles and artwork pertaining to queerness in media and popular culture, as well as reviews pertaining to recently released queer media artifacts.
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