Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film (TV Short 2013) Poster

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It's "performance art"; how that makes you feel will probably be how you feel about this film. I mostly cringed.
bob the moo10 August 2013
Although this is a short film acting as a music video for a song from Jay Z's new album, the question to ask yourself before watching this film is not how you feel about the man and his music but rather how you feel about the title of this film. Specifically the second part of the title. I say this because it turns out to be a very important series of words and they should be appreciated for their upfront honesty about what we have here – performance art. Now performance art can exist in all shapes and sizes, but generally it has certain traits and people will end tend to love them or hate them and how you feel generally towards the general idea of performance art will pretty much dictate how you generally feel towards this film.

The idea is simple: Jay Z has an exhibition space which is very nicely done in all white. In the middle are a small raised stage (barely high enough to be called a step, nevermind a stage) and a bench, the type one may find in a modern art gallery to sit upon and look at the art. This bench is part of the "exhibition" or performance though, because around these two things is your traditional "do not cross" rope which keeps an enthusiastic crowd of people around the edges of the hall. What then happens is Jay Z performs his track while interacting with other artists who are present within the space. These artists are listed at the end of the film but we have a range from gallery owners, "performers", artists, street-dancers through to names like Alan Cumming, Taraji J Henderson, Rosie Perez, Judd Apatow and Michael K Williams.

The concept of the film is that there are no lines between types of art and thus the various types will interact with Jay Z's performance of his track. What this means in practice is that for some people they just seem to sit and enjoy the performance but don't "do" anything art-wise (Williams, Apatow and Henderson); others go all in with their own performances such as dancing or whatever and finally others appear to "be" and enjoy being in the centre of the action with all these people watching. The first type seems a little pointless. The second type is OK because it is what the idea was meant to produce, but the third type sees people acting up or doing stuff that probably means something to them, but nothing to the viewer. Specifically I think of the woman who spends her time "being" with her forehead pressed against Jay Z's, but I also found myself a bit narked by those messing around and playing up to the cameras. Ultimately you have a group of creative people in a room, all of whom are "performers" in one way or another, so of course they will be used to and even enjoy the spotlight; perhaps it is the introverted part of me that finds that irritating to watch and indeed this is why I generally would not be open to the idea of what I generally perceive to be "performance art", although I do love galleries.

An interesting idea but it must be said it doesn't work. Not sure what Jay Z or anyone really got out of it themselves but for the viewer it will come down to how you feel watching artists "perform". That title is important and really if the idea of "performance art" appeals then you'll love this film from the concept to the delivery, but for me, it did very little apart from make me cringe a little at some of the actions.
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