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Bridging the Gap between Science and Art

An Active Mind's picture

....Gaga asks us to take our own depravations and turn them into over abundances—relishing our “lipstick” and “rolled…hair” and opting not to be a “drag”, but instead striving to be a “queen."       

In a way, Gaga is proposing that we have a fixed identity, after all, she says, “you were born this way”, but she also seems to suggest that identity is leaky and uncontained.  In an interview I recently watched online, she says, “I am ever reinventing, I am every changing, I am every metamorphosing.…I reinvent from day to day and week to week, video to video and song to song.”  Atop her piano lie clones of Gaga encased in plastic (which are perhaps meant to resemble eggs?), which again suggest the idea that she embodies multiple selves.

Lady Gaga's 2011 Grammy Performance of "Born This Way"
Lady Gaga's 2011 Grammy Performance of "Born This Way"


She also comes to merge science and art, two fields that we often assume polarize each other.  She tells us that science is not stagnant like the facts in texts books, but constantly transforming.  In a recent entry on the blog "Gaga Stigmata" Roland Betancourt suggests that the glass tubes emerging out of Gaga’s piano can be seen as test tubes.  Science seems to flow out of the very artistry of Gaga’s music, allowing for her reinvention and self-creation.  Her name itself suggests multiple personas:  “gaga” comes off as childish, a sound that babies might make, whereas "lady" suggests a sense of maturity ("Gaga Stigmata").  She positions herself within this in-between status.   Does she reach backward and forwards to the Steffani Germanotta of childhood and the Lady Gaga of the future?   Does she suggest that we can come to occupy multiple temporalities at once, that we can live in both the past, present, and future?  What does this mean for evolution?  

Is she proposing that these constant rebirths and transformations become a mechanism for survival? I just finished reading Susanne Antonetta’s A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World and she frequently talks about mental illness in relation to evolution. Why is it, she asks, that the mentally ill survive with more and more people getting diagnosed with mental disorders each year? She writes, “Some say our society is practicing unnatural selection. Unlike Darwinian selection, where the strong and the adept survive, now the weak thrive and do better, according to this theory” (6). In “Born This Way”, Gaga says, “I’m on the right track, baby / I was born to survive.” Maybe Gaga is trying to say that the weakest may in fact be the strongest, the most adept to survive. Perhaps this slipping between multiple states and identities allows for an appreciation of life that is denied to those with “normal” brains? 

One of my favorite quotes is by Michel Foucault who says, “I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning."  Again reverting to personal narrative, my OCD has taught me that life is about process.  Everyday I work on changing, on fighting the faulty messages in my brain that tell me that certain things should be feared.  I’ve come to realize that it’s okay not to consider my journey with OCD finished or my disorder cured.  (After all, there is no cure for mental illness; it’s always about managing).  Like Gaga, all I know is that I’m not the same person today that I was yesterday or the day before; my “active mind” allows me to engage in constant transformation and to think about what it really means to evolve and to become someone else.  Rather than striving for any sense of completion, it’s this act of becoming, this perpetual refashioning of ourselves, that seems to be both my own and Lady Gaga’s focus.        

Gaga seems to refute Woolf’s assertion in her essay “On Being Ill” that we walk through illness (or perhaps merely abjection in the case of race and sexuality) alone...