Kanye West recently dropped controversial visuals for his latest single from the ever-changing album, The Life of Pablo, “Famous.” The video is a statement of sorts about fame, privacy invasion and celebrity but mostly, it just left a lot of people scratching their heads.
Kanye features fully naked wax figures of several celebs including Bill Cosby, his wife Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and his occasional pop nemesis, Taylor Swift lying with him in bed. The video is based on a 2008 work by American realist painter Vincent Desiderio, who said the video, “demonstrated was the power of the artistic imagination to transcend categorical expectations.” ‘Ye also has said the video was inspired by off-beat filmmaker Matthew Barney.
Kanye took Vincent Desiderio's "Sleep" & brought it to life with a modern twist.. if that isn't genius idk what is. pic.twitter.com/bSDddfQFNo
— RAY MUÑOZ (@raymunoz94) June 25, 2016
However, Girls creator, Lena Dunham wasn’t impressed by the work, and instead says it’s actually dangerous. In a Facebook post on June 28, the actress particularly took issue with the idea that the naked likeness of the featured women were used without their consent, suggesting that the video, despite it’s artistic intent, plays a role in rape culture.
“While Bill Cosby’s crimes are still being uncovered and understood as traumas for the women he assaulted but also massive bruises to our national consciousness… Now I have to see the prone, unconscious, waxy bodies of famous women, twisted like they’ve been drugged and chucked aside at a rager?” she questioned in the post. “It gives me such a sickening sense of dis-ease.”
Read Dunham’s full post below.
“Like many pop culture addicted Americans, I wait with bated breath for what Kanye West will do next. Aside from his Twitter mayhem, he has created some really “next level shit” as the kids would say. I could also happily watch Kim Kardashian West chip the paint off a window ledge for hours and be fascinated. I admire that whole family, love the way they depict women as better in numbers and masters of their own destiny. I’d spend all summer at Kamp Kardashian. But it’s possible to hold two competing thoughts in your mind and the Famous video is one of the more disturbing “artistic” efforts in recent memory.
Let’s break it down: at the same time Brock Turner is getting off with a light tap for raping an unconscious woman and photographing her breasts for a group chat… As assaults are Periscoped across the web and girls commit suicide after being exposed in ways they never imagined… While Bill Cosby’s crimes are still being uncovered and understood as traumas for the women he assaulted but also massive bruises to our national consciousness… Now I have to see the prone, unconscious, waxy bodies of famous women, twisted like they’ve been drugged and chucked aside at a rager? It gives me such a sickening sense of dis-ease.
I was raised in the art world by a dad who painted aggro scenes of sexuality and war and a mom who, ironically enough, has photographed some butt naked life-sized dolls of her own. I live for the nude rabble rousing of Carolee Schneemann and Hannah Wilke, for Kathy Acker’s arty porn, for Paul McCarthy’s gnomes with butt plugs and Vito Acconci masturbating under the gallery floor and Carrie Mae Weems shedding a blinding light on the pleasures and terrors of black womanhood. If it’s been banned, I’ll probably love it. Because I know that art’s job is to make us think in ways that aren’t always tidy or comfortable. But this feels different.
I’m sure that Bill Cosby doll being in the bed alongside Donald Trump is some kind of statement, that I’m probably being trolled on a super high level. I know that there’s a hipper or cooler reaction to have than the one I’m currently having. But guess what? I don’t have a hip cool reaction, because seeing a woman I love like Taylor Swift (f—
that one hurt to look at, I couldn’t look), a woman I admire like Rihanna or Anna, reduced to a pair of waxy breasts made by some special effects guy in the Valley, it makes me feel sad and unsafe and worried for the teenage girls who watch this and may not understand that grainy roving camera as the stuff of snuff films. I hesitated a lot about saying anything cuz I figured the thinkpieces would come pouring in. But I didn’t see this angle being explored as much as I had hoped. It’s weird to feel like you’re watching alone. I bet I’m not.
Here’s the thing, Kanye: you’re cool. Make a statement on fame and privacy and the Illuminati or whatever is on your mind! But I can’t watch it, don’t want to watch it, if it feels informed and inspired by the aspects of our culture that make women feel unsafe even in their own beds, in their own bodies.
Y’all, I’m so sick of showing up to the party angry. But at least I brought cake.”