The Platinum Plated Toilet

The video appears to have been filmed at the Louvre Museum. It features a lot of Renaissance paintings in the background, such as the Mona Lisa. I don’t recognize many of the other paintings by name, but I did notice the well-known Hellenistic sculpture called “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” which makes frequent appearances throughout the video. I’m talking of course, (I don’t blame you if you’re lucky enough to have no idea) about the video for the song APESHIT, from “The Carters” (the name for Beyonce and Jay-Z’s musical twosome.)

It can be difficult to interpret all the meanings and symbolism, because there is a lot going on. However, I can detect political, racial and historical themes intertwining with one another. By placing themselves in the museum among works by the great masters, on some level they’re making a statement as if to say that they (as artists and as blacks) have finally made it and earned their place among the greats. In that sense, “The Carters” almost seems reminiscent of The Jeffersons tv show, which featured a successful black family living in Manhattan’s upper east side. The theme song spoke of “movin on up,” and how they’ve finally “got a piece of the pie” (in spite of all the historical obstacles.) “The Carters” strikes me as a contemporary musical or artistic version of The Jeffersons, minus any the show’s affably authentic charm. Beyonce and Jay-Z see themselves as belonging in this museum, without really appreciating what the works in it represent.

What I like about the video is the cinematography. It’s beautifully shot, and there is a lot of well choreographed dancing. I think what I find abhorrent about the video though is the way Beyonce and Jay-Z seem to equate “making it” or artistic status with riches and superficial materialism (conveyed through the lyrics) as opposed to higher abstract thought, spirituality, humility, craft and the pursuit of understanding something greater than oneself. There’s a lot more to the old masters than simply being rich and famous (many were probably not even particularly wealthy in their lifetimes.) Regardless of money and album sales, there is also something inherently low class and hubristic about self-appointing yourself to this level of prestige. Is autotuned pop music with vapd lyrics really at the same level of Michelangelo or The Head of an Oba? Not in my opinion (which is entirely subjective.) Just because you have enough money to rent out the museum to film a music video doesn’t mean your work belongs there. It reminds me of the wealthy businessmen that paid Andy Warhol to do their portraits. Admittedly, this is a somewhat ethnocentric view on my part, since if I had been in the shoes of those historically denied opportunities, I might certainly value and elevate different attributes. If my view is ethnocentric though, then I would argue that so is theirs.