"I'M A BAD CELEBRITY BUT A GREAT ARTIST"
Kanye West x Steve McQueen, All Day / I Feel Like That, 2015, single-channel video
Last night I was one of the chosen few (one out of 120 select people) invited to a special preview screening of Kanye West and Steve McQueen's collaborative video "All Day / I Feel Like That". This is a 9-minute video, shot in one take at a historical dockyard outside of London, that fuses Kanye's two most recent songs into a conceptual art installation. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the lucky outlet where the video will be screened for the next four days as the video's US premiere.
A conversation (or rather a stream of consciousness) took place after the viewing between the two artists and Michael Govan, the museum's esteemed director, about genre-bending, truth, beauty, art and the parallels found across the board in all aspects of visual and conceptual art. Kanye was quite articulate at times, surprisingly endearing and vulnerable, speaking about going to art school and having an appreciation for the great artists like Picasso and Fortuny. He also talked about how he is expressing himself through all his work, not just his music, but with his fashion line, his videos, his lyrics (a way to work out his anger issues). He ALMOST "spit a rap" but wife Kim was giving him looks from the front row, hinting there was too much press present and he would have to edit way too much of it. He admitted that "I am a bad celebrity but a pretty good artist" and is proud of the diverse work he keeps producing.
Both McQueen and West spoke about their children; McQueen stating that he regretted taking his kids to school for the first time since they have to rein in their creativity, as school is an environment where certain expectations and standards have to be met. West referred to his daughter North trying to form full sentences with no words and that he "feels her."
Govan kept trying to bring the conversation back to truth and beauty and the inspiration for Kanye's music video. He compared it to McQueen's previous work, Static, from 2009, an exploration into Freedom and Liberty. Static is a seven-minute digital work in which the camera ceaselessly circles around the Statue of Liberty in New York, alternating between distance shots that show the monument looming over docks and buildings, and compelling close-ups that seem to capture every detail of the sculpture. The film was shot from a helicopter, with contrasting speeds so that foreground and background move in front of the viewer. This same camera perspective is felt in the Kanye video.
After numerous rants and off-topic tangents, one of which included West stating that there were "very few true [musical] artists...and please quote me," the evening concluded to great applause and a standing ovation.
Artists Steve McQueen and Kanye West both create work that straddles the mainstream and the avant-garde, challenging preconceptions on both fronts. Since the early 1990s McQueen's practice has located itself at the intersection of art and film. His work is in the collections of LACMA and other major institutions around the world, while his feature-length films Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), and 12 Years a Slave (2013) have earned critical acclaim, including an Academy Award for Best Film. West is hailed worldwide as a Grammy-winning pop artist who pushes the boundaries of his art form, and has collaborated with contemporary artists Vanessa Beecroft, George Condo, and Takashi Murakami, among others.