This video is simply amazing.
When Jay Z performed his song Picasso Baby for this HBO special, he broke walls. Not necessarily lyrically or musically (although this song is a highlight of his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail), but in the larger sense of the art world.
You see, when music is so directly connected to the artist who crafted the music, such as Jay Z and Picasso Baby, it has the opportunity to break through the barriers of its own art discipline. Live music is not, and should not be, a replication of the artist’s CD. It’s a live performance with subtle differences, added character and personality, and is interpreted differently by each person.
Visual art is the same way – when it is put on display for the public, each person interprets it differently. The difference between the two though lies in the audience size. In a gallery, it can easily be one on one – art to audience. In a concert, that ratio can be as high as one to 100,000. In a gallery, each brush stroke of a painting, or each shadow of a photograph is exposed and is noticeable to the attentive eye. In a large concert, many qualities of performance disappear with each row you move back – especially when the artist (the person – the face) is so attached to the music (which is why we have big screens at concerts nowadays).
What Jay Z has done for this performance art piece is essentially “frame” his song Picasso Baby on a small stage and he’s invited people, one by one to sit in front of the frame and really experience his piece of art. [Despite what’s shown on the video, he performed the entire song to each person — he did this for 6 hours] Each brush stroke, or lyric in this case, is projected at just this one person – noticeable by its words alone, and not by strobe lights or spot lights like in a coliseum. And exactly like an audience’s reaction and interpretation of a visual piece of art in a gallery – every person who was able to witness Jay Z perform for them reacted differently than the last and interpreted the song in a different way.
He’s not just performing a song – he’s hanging it up in a gallery.