I keep wondering what it is about the recently released Jay Z piece “Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film” that makes me want to watch it again. And again.
My conclusion is simple. It’s the radiance coming off every darned person in it.
Actor Rosie Perez. Radiant.
Performance artist Marina Abramovic. Radiant.
Joe Blow who just stood in line on the sidewalk. Radiant.
Little kid. Radiant.
It’s one thing when art makes you feel. It’s another when it makes you glow.
Honest to God, I couldn’t name you one Jay Z song outside of this. I’m stuck in a classic rock time warp with some Sinatra thrown in.
But here’s what I love about what Jay Z did here. He mixed worlds. Took his hip hop to a pristine white-walled art gallery in Midtown Manhattan. Art and artists all mashed together, “cousins” unified by not just the need to express but the imperative. Not a creative diversion, but a directive from the core. Pureness finding its way out into the world.
“Oh, what a feeling … Picasso baby.”
It’s not about classifying, categorizing, criticizing art. It’s about acknowledging it in all its whirlwind risky glory, being with it energetically, in a room, letting a visceral vibe build. Bring the art. Bring the music. Let in the people.
What happens next?
A feeling. It sweeps them up or it doesn’t. They move or they’re still. They think you’re nuts or they think you’re a genius. They’re in or they’re out. They get you or they don’t. And you take the risk because you must. The sounds, the words, the images, they need to be out of you. Out, out, out.
This is what Jay Z taps into for me in this 10 minutes. All artists are connected. Whether you’re a modern day hip hop artist, a writer, a photographer, an architect or one of the artists he mentions in the song — Picasso, Basquiat, Rothko, Koons, Warhol, DaVinci, among others – you’re laying it bare. Your naked ass is on display. It’s X-ray-machine-on-your-gut exposure.
“I just wanna live life colossal,” Jay Z sings.
We are all so pulled back and hesitant about our own ideas. Censors rule our output. We second guess, let a few naysayers block us. Hold in our expression until we’re so convinced it’s awful that we’ve tainted our own pure thought. How dare we go big? Or bawdy? Or bold?
In his cerebral way, blogger Seth Godin touched on this recently: “Before you tell yourself you have no right to invent this or improve that, remind yourself that the person before you had no right either, but did it anyway.”
Wasn’t it a crazy bunch of brilliance that came together and created what has to be a highlight in the distinguished run of The Colbert Report? Stephen Colbert is stood up by Daft Punk and he and his witty staff wind up putting his incorrigible dancing self in a series of hilarious, feel-good situations with the very song the band was supposed to perform.
The video went viral, I believe, because – you guessed it – everyone is radiant in it.
You can’t bottle radiance. You can’t force it. You can’t even cajole it. You can only create from that unafraid place and take a chance. Let go.
Somebody else would have thought of doing what Jay Z did and dismissed it. He did it. Just said, “I’m an artist” in the coolest way in an interesting forum. I’m an artist. We’re all artists. The ones who risk, we get each other and how scary it is and how good it feels. Claim it. Live it. Or bemoan it.
Jump in or talk about jumping in. Only one of those scenarios has you luxuriating in the feel of the sea.
What’s it gonna be?
I say …
Make like Jay Z.