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It's becoming increasingly clear to those in the know that WorldStarHipHop.com is one of the most important cultural barometers in the world today. Haters might have you believe that it's just a series of shaky subway punch-ups, 17-year-old Floridian girls posing in front of their webcams, and an endless succession of dreadful unsigned MCs. But as the saying goes, fuck da h8rs, because WorldStar is one of the best places to see provocative outsider culture before the suits get their hands on it. I'll admit that, until now, the content on the site has erred towards the more lowbrow side of things—a little bit more Sunday Sport than Vanity Fair. But now that they've done the groundwork, WorldStar are dipping their toes into the world of fine art. And judging by the hits on this video, their audience is starting to appreciate it, too.
The video in question is snappily titled "WTF Clip Of The Week: Woman In Tight Dress Slips On Butter For Twenty Minutes.. Talking About This Is Art!" and it's gone viral. (You might think they're undermining the art with that title, but remember, people were saying "WTF" about the Impressionists at one point, too.)
It's a strange piece for sure and, as always, people are asking what it means. The WSHH commenters have their own opinions but I thought I would cast my G in GCSE art expertise over the video and offer a few helpful interpretations.
Theory #1: It's a post-feminist statement on the struggles of the modern woman in a patriarchal society.
She's just a downtrodden sister, trying to stand on her own two feet in a man's world, but the floor keeps falling from beneath her. Societal pressure and gender conventions have forced her into wearing a tight dress and heels, but this conflicts with the domestic ideal (which the butter obviously represents). It's a new take on the "whore in the bedroom, goddess in the kitchen" rhetoric, shown skilfully through the medium of dance. She's a Yoko Ono for the Iggy Azalea generation. Theory #2: It's about how making yourself desirable can become degrading.
The tight dress and the stilettos tell us that she is portraying a woman who is looking for a partner, but degrading herself in the process. It's a theme previously explored through Lars Von Trier's Breaking the Waves and the work of Nicki Minaj. The performance is a comment on the lengths we will go to make ourselves become desirable, even if we look ridiculous in the process. The uncompromising nature of it is designed to embarrass the male audience members into considering the way they objectify women, whereas the heavy falls are symbolic of the physical and psychological damage that trying to be attractive to men can do to women. She's a sex martyr. Theory #3: It's about the female fear of impending motherhood.
OK, I don't want to jump to conclusions here and have my own bad sitcom moment by assuming that she's pregnant when she might not be. I've seen too many repeats of Just Shoot Me to think that's a good idea. But I'm willing to go out on a limb for the sake of art criticism and say she's either got a bun in the oven or a lifetime CAMRA membership with a belly like that. Thus, it could well be a female take on the Eraserhead theme, only this time it's a woman who is afraid to express her innate fear of parenthood. As for the butter, well, I'm not sure where that fits into this one. It's just a theory; I'll work on it. Theory #4: It's about the inner conflict between our bourgeois pretensions and our animalistic urges.
She is playing a stereotype of the modern Westerner, dolled up to the nines in expensive clothing, trying to fool herself that we're not all just shaved beasts. We've been hiding away from our animalistic nature for too long, and like any forbidden fruit, the fascination with the other way grows. She's playing the role of a modern city dweller, who one day suddenly hears the drums of the beatniks on the subway, and becomes entranced by them. The spirit of the beat generation shoots right through her. She's transported back to the cradle of civilization and a time before materialism took precedence. She slips into a jungle trance, seeing visions of the old world as a new Eden opens up before her. The butter represents her trampling on her previous existence and heading back to the primitive. It's What Dreams May Come meets Fern Gully. Theory #5: It's about voyeurism.
Can't you see that she's doing this on purpose? She's recreating some of the darker happenings of the World Wide Web in a live environment and turning the audience's voyeurism against them. Much like GG Allin or Michael Barrymore, she is a performer who revels in making her audience feel uncomfortable. She's letting us know that voyeurism should be as bad for the voyeur as it is for the voyee. She uses the tools of flagrant exhibitionism and borderline self-harm to shock and awe an audience who think they've seen it all before. She's asking the men in the audience to consider if the things they look at when they're alone seem disgusting when viewed with others. Theory #6: It's a scathing critique of the barbaric practices of the dairy industry.
Anyone who's read Fast Food Nation or seen of one Dom Littlewood's poignant exposés on the subject will know that the world of dairy is a murky one, only rivaled by the tobacco and weapons industries in terms of elite obfuscation. But our favorite butter-skater is an artist, not a reporter, so she utilizes the medium of performance for her cultural whistleblowing. The butter represents the natural world, and the stilettos are the inhumanity we enforce upon it. The greasy residue left behind is what we are left with. It's not the subtlest way of making the point, but truly great art has the bravery to bypass subtlety and go straight for your viscera. …Or maybe she's just somebody who severely misjudged what the commenters are looking for in a "WSHH Honey." Who knows? It's art.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive