Friday, June 8, 2012

How Not to Collaborate or How I Got Over My Crush On Wayne Coyne by Alex Snider

One of the many, many tweets about the beef between Erykah Badu and Wayne Coyne states that it's really hard to pick a side between two amazing artists. I agree with half that sentence. Both Erykah Badu and The Flaming Lips are massively talented, visionary musicians. Both are among my favourites of all time. But I disagree strongly that it's hard to pick a side. 

This is what went down in Badu's own words (and leave any Western-centric, colonialist bullshit criticism of her spelling and grammar at the door):
 then... perhaps, next time u get an occasion to work with an artist who respects your mind/art, you should send at least a ROUGh version of the video u PLAN to release b4 u manipulate or compromise the artist's brand by desperately releasing a poor excuse for shock and nudity that sends a convoluted message that passes as art( to some).
Even with Window Seat there was a method and thought process involved. I have not one need for publicity . I just love artistic dialogue . And just because an image is shocking does not make it art.
You obviously have a misconception of who I am artistically. I don't mind that but...
By the way you are an ass.
Yu did everything wrong from the on set .
You showed me a concept of beautiful tasteful imagery( by way of vid text messages) .
I trusted that. I was mistaken.
Then u release an unedited, unapproved version within the next few days.
That all spells 1 thing ,
Self Serving .
When asked what the concept
meant after u explained it , u replied ,"it doesn't mean anything , I just want to make a great video that everyone is going to watch. "
I understood , because as an artist we all desire that. But we don't all do it at another artist's expense .
I attempted to resolve this respectfully by having conversations with u after the release but that too proved to be a poor excuse for art.
From jump,
You begged me to sit in a tub of that other shit and I said naw. I refused to sit in any liquid that was not water. But Out of RESPECT for you and the artist you 'appear' to be, I Didn't wanna kill your concept , wanted u to at least get it out of your head . After all, u spent your dough on studio , trip to Dallas etc.. Sooo, I invited Nayrok , my lil sis and artist, who is much more liberal ,to be subject of those other disturbing (to me ) scenes . I told u from jump that I believed your concept to be disturbing. But would give your edit a chance.
You then said u would take my shots ( in clear water/ fully covered parts -seemed harmless enough) and Nayrok's part ( which I was not present for but saw the photos and a sample scene of cornstarch dripping ) and edit them together along with cosmic, green screen images ( which no one saw) then would show me the edit. .
Instead, U disrespected me by releasing pics and rough vid on the internet without my approval. (Contract breech )
That is equivalent to putting out a security camera's images of me changing in the fitting room.
I never would have approved that tasteless, meaningless, shock motivated video .
Our art is a reflection of who we are . I have no connection to those images shot in their raw version. I was interested in seeing an amazing edit that would perhaps change or alter my thoughts . Never happened .
You also did the same thing with the song itself which displays crappy "rough "vocals by me . I let it go , perhaps iiiii was missing something, I thought.
I Should have followed my first mind back in studio when recording the vocals "your way".
( Red flag.) It was uncomfortable.
For that I am at fault .
Consequently, brother, As a human I am disgusted with your what appears to be desperation and poor execution. And disregard for others . As a director I am unimpressed . As a sociologist I understand your type. As your fellow artist I am uninspired. As a woman I feel violated and underestimated.
Hope it works out for ya ,Wayne.
Really i could give a shit less.
Still love your live show tho.
And , you're welcomed.
Lesson learned .
By the way I have guested in very few videos. But I have always been given the opportunity to see the edit and contribute to it when my roll is substantial. Not this time .
I guess u feel it better to apologize than ask for permission and be refused . Hey, Love u man, but your ways are not very nice .
O, And on behalf of all the artists u have manipulated or plan to manipulate, find another way .
These things have been said out of necessity.
And if you don't like it
you can KiSS MY Glittery ASS .
O and Nayrok told me to tell u to kiss her ass too .
Almost forgot.

Ms. Badu

This isn't Sophie's Choice, it's two musicians (well, one group and one solo artist) who collaborated together, filmed a video but in the end the solo artist was not shown the video before it was released. Compounding that disrespect and breach of good collaboration manners, is that the video ended up being completely different from the concept that was pitched at the filming and compounding that issue is that the solo artist, Badu, and her sister were filmed for the original concept completely naked. 

Where the so-called grey area lies in that I really don't know because where I sit, Badu agreed to be filmed, in good faith, for one concept that she pre-approved (her sister as well), and then Wayne Coyne, a person she trusts and considers a friend, turned it into a soft-porn video after the fact and put it out into the world... I dunno, seems pretty cut and dry, Coyne fucked up, Badu didn't. 

The aftermath of this so far, in just over 24 hours has been for everyone and their dog to come to Coyne's defence. In a move that is reminiscent of the 2004 Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake nipple-that-shocke-the-world, all the blame lies with Badu: She shouldn't have been naked! It's art! She's just trying to be relevant again (!)! Wayne Coyne has the ass of a 26 year old (eye roll)! Erykah Badu is so angry! Y so serious?! Agency, schmagency, I liked it! She was naked and therefore consented to everything and anything! Most of which were retweeted by Coyne himself. Cool, dude.

Then, in an amazing act of douchery, Coyne retweeted a link to the video. The video that Badu DID NOT CONSENT TO. 

This came after several tweets in which he joked about getting Badu's consent and mocked her anger (also RTing someone else who accused her of acting badly):

Since Coyne's fans (and Coyne himself) are missing the point so admirably, let me draw a goddamn picture. If someone consents to one thing i.e. being naked that does not mean they are consenting to everything. Take Facebook for example: people are outraged, and rightly so, that certain lax privacy settings can allow advertisers access to our personal photos and information. That shit is fucked up regardless of whether or not we consented to put our photos and information on the site. Because we did not consent to those advertisers having access to our private information. Like a woman wearing a skirt doesn't means she is consenting to sex with anyone, Erykah Badu consenting to nudity in a music video doesn't mean she is consenting to those images being used in whatever context Wayne Coyne thinks would be 'cool'. Her bodily autonomy trumps art. It trumps whatever anyone else thinks is 'tasteful' or 'beautiful'. End of story. 

And because every outlet writing about this can't help mentioning it, yes, Badu produced her own video in which she was fully naked in a couple years ago. As she points out on twitter, nudity isn't the problem, it's the breach of collaborative and personal trust:

My favourite tweet of Badu's?

There is a terrible, sickening history of exploiting and appropriating Black women's bodies for the sake of entertainment and art. Sara Baartman was a Khoi Khoi woman who was taken from her home in Cape Town to London in 1810, to be part of a travelling exhibition. Derogatorily known as the Hottentot Venus, she was displayed, hypersexualized and degraded and even after her death, exploited. Baartman was not the first example of the supreme disregard and disrespect that the dominant White society has for Black autonomy, Black personhood and Black women in particular, but she is a very famous symbol of that degradation. Badu and Coyne are centuries, an ocean and worlds away from Baartman and the society that enslaved, exploited and killed her but that history exists. 

That history exists and it enables men like Coyne (and his fans) to get away with treating women like Badu with so little respect. That history enabled Justin Timberlake to get off completely scot-free while, Janet Jackson suffered in public opinion and reduced air-time. That history enables the complete White-washing of television and movies. That history enables the treatment of Black women as disposable and less valuable to society as we see by rape, domestic violence, harassment, arrest, incarceration, child-removal by CPS and murder rates. That history enables every article about this issue to mention Badu's previous forays into nude videos but not Coyne's gummy skull creation that "has an actual vaginal fucking thing stuck to the back of it-- you have to reach into it to get the USB"

Even if Coyne didn't enter into the collaboration with the premeditation to take advantage of Badu's status as a WOC, even if he just simply fucked up and the "genius of his artistry" distracted him from not being a dickbag, he has the responsibility of history on his shoulders now. A history from which he has benefited from. He gets a fuck load of awesome shit: power, respect, "artistic merit" (did I mention that Badu was fined for indecency for her nude Window Seat video?)... because of his status as a White, straight, cis man. Apologize (a real apology, not just 'I'm sorry Erykah Badu's conservative fans don't like this' or a glorified disclaimer), dude, and fucking do better. Fellow White people, we all need to fucking do better. 

As I said in my earlier addendum to my original post about the Badu/Lips video, I am deeply, deeply sorry for reposting it. Despite not knowing of the twisted power dynamic that lead to the video's making and Badu's lack of consent, I shared the video leading to more people seeing these two women exposed in a way in which they did not consent to be exposed. I am so sorry for that.

For more reading, check out these amazing blogs/writers who are way more educated, knowledgable and better writers than I am and have been writing about the disempowerment of Black women (and intersectionality) by White supremacy for a long time:

What Tami Said
Womanist Musings
Black Amazon
The Angry Black Woman 
Angry Black Bitch
The Crunk Feminist Collective

1 comment: