Beyonce and The Scream

Th other day, my nephew R was visiting and I asked him if he’d seen or heard about Beyonce‘s wacky Met Gala dress. Since R is one of the most culturally literate people I’ve ever met, it was a reasonable question.

His response was to shake his head in dismay and express contempt for the idea that anyone gave a shit about Beyonce’s dress. Why should anyone care about this, he exclaimed.

I considered his question and asked, Why should anyone care about anything?

This is the type of conversation I live for. And R is always up for it.

I asked him if anyone should care about the recent auction of “The Scream,” which set a world record by selling for $119.9 million. He said, Yes, because it reflects the state of the current art market and blah blah blah.

Why is “The Scream” more important to know about than Beyonce’s dress? This is a real question. I think that everything we “care” about is just a distraction from the horror of existence. Any time you find yourself in a life or death situation, you realize the fatuousness of all your preoccupations, of everything going on around you. Your choice of car, your shoes, your blue-ray TV, your favorite band, it’s all a distraction.

Moving away from existentialism, I wonder why The Scream is worth $119.9 million. It’s obviously one of the few paintings that is instantly recognizable by any imbecile. The Scream, the Mona Lisa, and Sunflowers are probably the big three, in terms of iconic paintings, right? And I love The Scream, but only because I know it’s an expression of unversal anguish. If it was called “The Toothache”, would it still be worth all that money?

We like The Scream because our taste is a consequence of our social class. Beyonce’s dress probably strikes my nephew as too crass and lowbrow to merit his interest. He may not know that you can take a course in Beyonce Studies at Rutgers.

I am comfortable with the idea that it’s all bullshit, but it’s my nature to wonder about human behavior, even my own. As I continue to waste my time with Tumblr, I’ve been wondering how I make the distinction between real art and kitsch. I tend to disdain the latter, but I wonder if Kitsch is in the eye of the beholder. I also wonder when I’ll be able to stop distracting myself with Tumblr and TV and start experiencing my actual self again.

Meanwhile, where do you stand on Beyonce’s dress, The Scream, and whether you should give a shit? Thoughts, arguments, insults?

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27 Responses to “Beyonce and The Scream”

  1. littlebadwolf Says:

    happens that, despite the fact that beyonce wore it, that’s a fairly interesting dress-a social document of a curious sort? and, yeah, i kinda like it. beyonce, not so much. maybe when rutgers gives a ph.d in beyonce we will all get to respect ‘her art.’

    until then, she makes me want to have a good ‘scream.’

  2. Make Do Style Says:

    I really don’t give a shit about any of the dresses worn to the Met Ball. I’ve really gone off looking it all. I think The Scream had more value after it was stolen and found again but is any art really worth so much?

    Now TV is my distraction so I’m guilty on that front. TV & twitter – tumblr I just never got into it at all and I did try.
    xx

  3. annemarie Says:

    Personally, continually reminding myself of the horror of existence brings me peace! I’m thankful to all art that draws me into this state of consciousness and I resent all the other shit that draws me out of it.

    The Scream: it’s just a highbrow version of commodity fetishism, not unlike paying 20k for a handbag.

    Beyonce’s dress: it’s fucking vulgar! But, remove the train, and i see a future for it as an ice-skating or aerial acrobat costume.

  4. JLF Says:

    beyonce and the scream are just examples of what’s driving our economy- hedging bets on people’s homes, student loans, paintings, and her ass. who cares about her, she’s a product; but yes care about this inhumane system that created her for our entertainment, while our drones are off to bomb another hundred thousand civilians into smithereens in Syria or Iran.

  5. Peter L. Winkler Says:

    I never thought much about Beyonce before, but that picture of her gave me an erection. So, thanks.

    “Moving away from existentialism, I wonder why The Scream is worth $119.9.”

    What? They marked it down to $119.9?! I’m buying!

    dennishopperbook.com

  6. Debbie Says:

    OMG I’M STILL LAUGHING!!!! YOU ARE CRAZY LOL! okay, favorite lines:

    I think that everything we “care” about is just a distraction from the horror of existence.

    If it was called “The Toothache”, would it still be worth all that money?

    Thank you for my morning laugh. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. Ok, (1) I cannot believe that thing Beyonce wore … truly ugly. And as for her talent, Beyonce’s singing to me is akin to listening to a car alarm.

    (2) Because I have also spent way too much time on Tumblr and Pinterest, I have made the decision to read instead of getting distracted with T.V. because it really does suck all the energy out of me. I find that I’m happier when I don’t know what the fuck is going on with Kim Kardashian OR the world.

    Keep ‘em coming Sisterwolf … I NEED YOU.

    XOXO
    Deb

  7. Srenna Says:

    At first I thought that you were trying to say that Beyonce looked liked the Scream in that dress. The colors are similiar and the look of anguish is present in both subjects.

    That said, I find Beyonce and her dress slightly vulgar. I actually find the whole Met ball thing vulgar. BTW, did you see Elizabeth Banks’ dress? HAHAHA. It is wretched!

  8. Sister Wolf Says:

    Peter – The Scream:$119.9. An erection: priceless. Thanks for catching my mistake! xo

  9. Cricket9 Says:

    A dress can be art. This one is not it.

  10. Andra Says:

    Fascinating article.
    My tiny brain just can’t deal with it at the moment.
    I’m working on in though.

  11. Jane Says:

    I happen to know that the painting those gloved guys are holding is a forgery so Mr Billionaire will be left holding the baby as they say.

    Your questions go to the meaning of life itself. There is no doubt that many of the things we purport to ‘care’ and ‘worry’ about are pointless and trivial. But it is in our nature as human beings to be involved in life as a spectrum – from life and death decisions all the way to the concern I currently have about the way the right side of my hair frizzes and bends unattractively out.

    Overpriced art is very interesting because really, a good forger could copy these works and they would look lovely hanging on a wall and noone would know the difference. What is real and what is fake?

    I know someone who keeps a life size blow up punching doll of the figure in the Scream in his office. He punches it when the urge takes him.

  12. dust Says:

    distraction : similarity between color schemes of the dress and painting will keep me busy for a while.
    Thanks xxx

  13. Madam Restora Says:

    Oh my God, you are my new favourite blog!
    I believe Beyonce’s success is the result of a modern society where children are given money to spend. They’re bound to spend it on bits of singing tinsel like Beyonce.
    Parents often give children money in leiu of spending actual time with them, but that’s another matter.
    Have you ever read a book called ‘The Triumph of the Airheads’? It’s all about the selling and buying of the culture based on Dumb and Superficial.
    It’s a fascinating read.

  14. Jessie K Says:

    “I think that everything we “care” about is just a distraction from the horror of existence.” Ha ha ha! Oh my god, you are hilarious.

  15. Juli Says:

    I never cared for The Scream. Not my style. I would much rather buy an island some where for that kind of money. So ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as Beyonce’s dress.

  16. Bevitron Says:

    Sister Wolf, you are so funny and insightful and we must make you filthy rich, in some way that I haven’t figured out yet.

    Beyonce’s frock is making me scream – it looks like she’s fixing to do a striptease on the steps. I can see my cats going wild with that thing (the dress), so to me it’s a cat toy. They would turn “The Scream” into a scratch pad, so I guess it’s a cat toy too. Bullshit, kitsch, or cat toy? – discuss. Anyway, about either thing, not one shit was given here.

    How can Tumblr be a waste of time if it’s distracting you? Maybe that part of your brain that’s being distracted is just too catastrophically fried to deal, and no hot poker up its ass can force it to. Maybe you are your actual self, but in unfamiliar territory.

  17. Marmalade Wombat Says:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amandapalmer/amanda-palmer-the-new-record-art-book-and-tour

    I know you like Amanda Palmer.

    You can get her new album for a $1 at kick starter. :)

    (if you didn’t already know about this)

  18. Sister Wolf Says:

    JLF – Of course I care about all instances of inhumanity, that is a given.

    Debbie – Yep, I’m trying to read. In between bouts of tumblr and British crime dramas.

    Srenna and dust – How bizarre that the color schemes are similar! I wouldn’t have noticed that. What can it mean???

  19. Dave C Says:

    Great art is beyond the values of the market place. The Scream is not ‘worth’ $119 million, that’s just the amount of cash somebody can spare to hang it on their wall. As for Beyoncé… I just don’t get her.

  20. Andra Says:

    Well, I’ve been thinking about this all week and I’ve decided …..
    I don’t give a shit!

  21. layersandswathes Says:

    Sister – that was a fantastic read. Thank you! xo

    Oh, and i thought Beyonce looked like a decaying Tim Burton-esque Big Bird after being skinned.

  22. hammiesays Says:

    In our house we call it “Home Alone Face”

  23. Mary Says:

    The reason people elevate something like the art market over the fashion world is because fashion is coded as feminine, and therefore frivolous, even though the art market is incredibly frivolous and shallow, and in the end probably has less of an impact on culture at large. Pop culture and fashion are driving economic and cultural forces, whether bitter dudes want to admit it or not.

    As for Beyonce, sure, she is a product just as The Scream is, but I don’t think she deserves to be called “bits of tinsel”, she is responsible for a lot of (arguably) great pop lyrics/songs and is an excellent performer and cultural icon, and I could certainly make the argument she is more empowering and substantial than many of her peers.

    As for the dress, it’s kind of fugly and amazing at the same time. Ponytail is weak, if you’re gonna go for it, go all the way!

  24. WendyB Says:

    My mother always says, “Everyone has their own priorities.” Some people like fashion, some like sports, some like art. Whatever makes life more enjoyable, I guess!

  25. Erika Says:

    This dress has been driving me nuts. The dress is good but she wore the wrong undergarments. Should have gone with black. The flesh colored bodysuit reduces the look to Vegas showgirl.

    I really dig the Scream but art is overpriced. It’s like a pissing contest with a bunch of dudes with too much money showing off. Reminds me of this http://nymag.com/news/features/rudy-kurniawan-wine-fraud-2012-5/ I like the idea that all of these expensive pieces are mostly just fakes. Why not spend the money feeding people or funding cures for disease ? Not glamorous enough ?

  26. Erika Says:

    Also the color schemes being similar is great. I see the parallels between them. Where are our priorities, what s a commodity, what price or value is of anything. Also Beyonce is a meh talent unless you count being pretty and not wearing pants then she wins.

  27. Emmanuelle Says:

    Thank you for the thought-provoking comparison, with all the comments.

    I find it fascinating that we can extract two happenings and create an endless mental (?!) debate about it. That is true distraction. This debate is like a funnel that fragments down exponentially to tinier and tinier considerations of details. Spiraling to the infinitely small. After a while I find myself confined to a jail of reason.

    The dress and the painting are two elements of culture. I have come to fit all things of human life as either connected to culture or to nature.
    Culture being done by us, and nature being done by … uhh? a higher part of us I guess, the one that is creating at a higher level of mute collective understanding.

    That’s why I like comparing one thing of nature with one thing of culture. For instance a photo of Sunday’s eclipse with a painting by Laurent Grasso http://www.galeriechezvalentin.com/fr/artistes/laurent_grasso/works/
    This debate leads me to expand the discussion into exponentially larger and larger things, going macro.
    Getting out of the war, or tango (wherever the pleasure is the sweetest) of man-made versus man-made.
    It gives me proof that there is more to existence than existentialism.

    That’s the way I have found to deal with my own death, anyway.
    Thanks for midwifing, folks

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