Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back That Aura Up With Actual Work

The back of the box for Lady Gaga's Fame perfume reads "Black like the soul of fame." Writer and blogger Virginia Heffernan wrote a really great article about Lady Gaga's The Fame Fragrance. In the article, Heffernan detailed how the scent was supposed to be "based on molecules" of Lady Gaga's own blood so you could have her on your skin, except that it really just smells like flowers. What is this saying about fame? And the merchandising of fame? (Or should I say, Fame? Heffernan pointed out that Lady Gaga went to Sacred Heart, the Fame school.) Celebrity fragrance is a tangible merchandising item with something material you can hold instead of streaming the music for free on the internet, and this is perhaps the closest people can get to possessing a piece of the celebrity (and by "a piece" I mean either the physicalness of the celebrity or in a more general sense, some sort of material manifestation of what Andy Warhol would call "the aura" of fame.) Is it that artists make less money from music now more than ever, and celebrity fragrance is perhaps a way to supplement sales of the celebrity brand?

I heard someone say that they thought people have ideas in the shower is because it's the last place where we don't have our cell phones on us to interrupt our thoughts and make us realize we need to return phone calls and check e-mails, etc. -- so you're unencumbered by other stuff, and your mind is free to wander. So I had this idea in the shower: What if we could bottle celebrity? (Like isn't that what, on some level, celebrity fragrance is all about?) And people would always be trying to steal the bottle? And like, once you put it on you, it's like a Love Potion #9 scenario. People can't help but go crazy about you when they're around. I've been thinking a lot about celebrity fragrance stuff since the last episode of one of the podcasts I do was about celebrity fragrances.

It makes me think of this essay by Andy Warhol reprinted in the issue of Lapham's Quarterly where the theme was "Celebrity," about how he was approached by some big company that asked him if he would be interested in getting involved in their advertising campagn for whatever they were selling. They told him that they wanted some of his "aura" but they didn't say exactly what they meant by that -- and you have to have some kind of actual body of work, not just like, be famous for being famous. He meant, if you're a painter, do paintings. If you're a photographer, have photos. Sidenote: those things will outlive you (and in turn have an immortality) anyway. One's "celebrityness" should be predicated on the work that for lack of a better phrase, supports your aura; your "celebrityness" can't exist on just your name alone. That's why, he explains (I'm doing this by memory, so, you know, deal with it, and by "it" I mean my inexactitude) that whatever your preferred art form is, you should, you know, do it. Then you should count up how many of your pieces you made. That is to say, if you're an photographer, count up your photos. If you're a writer, count up your words and so on. It makes me think about how if you stop doing your art form, you go become some type of expert (write a book, be a celebrity judge on a contest reality show, retire and become a mentor etc.) instead of continuing your art form. Perhaps if you've maxed out your ability to continue some sort of mainstreamy success in your chosen art form in the entertainment or art form, you go do things like teach your art form to the next generation (as in the lead singer from EMF went to go on to teach music -- I found this hilarious Where Are The Now article trending on yahoo, with a decidedly British Brit Pop angle entertaining). What I am NOT saying is "Those who can't do teach." I'm not saying anything about teachers. What I AM saying is that if you're an artist (print, music, etc.) but you've maxed out the success you're going to reach in terms of what we think to be traditional mainstream success, you go do things like mentor on a reality show like Britney on X-Factor or Christina on The Voice.

Ummm...Or the guy in Jesus Jones who became a fitness trainer. Right here, right now, doing crunches, at a gym, somewhere in England.

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