Recently, The Carters (Beyoncé and Jay-Z) released a symbol-filled viral music video that we are still talking about. It's spawned a similar reception to Gambino's "This Is America" - kilometers of online articles decoding and explaining the significance of every angle of the cultural creation. While Gambino's piece is an obvious comment on gun violence and identity in modern America, The Carter's work is a more subtle, yet similarly powerful remark on the politics of art, identity, race and representation.
RECLAIMING ICONS: CRAFTING A STATEMENT
"Bey and Jay are placing themselves in the Louvre and putting contemporary culture in the same space as these masterpieces. I think it’s particularly cool because they’re validating themselves and all of the new art that’s being made now. They’re asserting themselves as artists on another level." Eleanor, 26, The Love Network
Eleanor, a Love Network member who works full-time in the art industry in the UK, argues that The Carters are asserting the value of their art through this new music video. They're commenting on cultural output of their contemporaries, challenging stuffy ideas of hi/lo art, which is so often informed by bias. By shooting in the Louvre, alongside priceless paintings like Mona Lisa, Venus di Milo, Nike of Samothrace – the power couple use a historic and iconic backdrop to hammer home the value and significance of modern creative outputs.
In recreating or responding to the classical imagery in the globally revered museum, they are practicing an emerging visual trend dubbed as the 'Second Rennaissance'. Lauren Catten, Senior Art Director for Getty Images suggests that referencing historical artworks helps modern creatives to find gravity and credibility:
"They limit the impact of stereotypes and reclaim ownership of stories. It's through this work, and the brands that recognise its value, that young photographers drive positive change."
THE POWERFUL ART OF DISRUPTION
Disrupting what is historically a white European culture, confidently holding up a "middle finger to convention", the piece is seen by many as a great power move, the context giving additional meaning to the lyrics "I can't believe we made it/This is why we're thankful". It comes across initially as a badass statement of confidence but Eleanor adds that its criticism of diversity is a subtle move that gives a nod to a deeper conversation that is happening:
"I also think 'Apeshit' is cool because it’s not directly criticising the lack of diversity in museums and historical oppression of BAME artists and makers but it’s highlighting black musicians and dancers in the museum context. I think there’s a deeper conversation happening between the music and artists and what’s on the walls. And it’s worth questioning." Eleanor, 26, The Love Network
With youth today actively welcoming the democratisation of politics and culture to inspire positive change, it's no wonder why the film has over 48.2 million views on YouTube.
INSPIRING DISCOVERY: APESHIT FOR GALLERY VISITS
"Apeshit" is not only igniting discussion around art, it is inspiring young people to get crafting themselves. While the shots are immediately gif and meme-able, the '#apeshitchallenge' has taken Twitter by storm with people attempting to recreate a scene from the video.
Similarly, other fans are raving simply about the fact that this kind of art is being used in a music video. The use of this iconic space as a third protagonist is also just one way in which galleries and museums are being made accessible to the masses, and importantly, 'cool' again.
"It’s just so great to see contemporary cultural icons making the museum COOL again. If this makes more young people who’ve never been to a gallery before go to a gallery, I’ll be SO HAPPY and I’m actually emotional thinking about it." Eleanor, 26, The Love Network
Some have even dubbed the video "The Making of a Museum Marketing Coup". There's no doubt that culture makers like The Carter's showing their respect or attachment to something can be a very powerful thing. However, what's truly inspiring for youth is that it's a catalyst to giving individuals confidence to explore things that in the past may not have seemed like something 'for them.'
“I love acting. It’s so much more real than life.” - Oscar Wilde