As I initially read McMillian’s piece, Performing Objects, I found myself questioning the relationship between theory and practice. Were black performance artists reading black feminist theory? Or were black feminist theorists writing about black performance artists? DId these two every really come into conversation with one another, or were they existing in separate spheres? One artist who McMillian highlights in her piece, and who makes her participation clear in performing objecthood is Nikki Minaj. Nikki Minaj is a perfect example of the type of black performance artwork that McMillian describes because of the way in which Minaj has so clearly highlighted her Avatars to the public, such as Roman, Nikki’s alter ego. In the Roman’s Revenge music video, the distinction is thus clear between Minaj and Roman. In the opening scene, Roman appears in a series of different colored wigs flashing across the screen as she sings the first lyrics “I am not Jasmine, I am Aladdin.” Not only does Minaj address her distinction from her present self by dressing in costume, but she also compares herself to such well known, fictional characters. This helps the viewer understand right from the start that they are watching an avatar. These hints continue later in the first verse when Minaj states “I am a movie, camera block.” By claiming one’s identity as a movie, a piece of art, Minaj is further aligning her identity as a performance artist. The music video perfects what it means to blur “the lines between action, performance, and a work of art.” As McMillan describes, this is an act of empowerment on behalf of black women; “Becoming objects, in what follows, proves to be a powerful tool for performing one’s body, a ‘stylized repetition of acts’ that rescripts how black female bodies move and are perceived by others.” Ultimately, by performing objecthood, Minaj breaks from the prescribed limitations historically placed on black women in the public sphere. The artistic choices that she makes seem so blatantly to align with the characteristics that McMillan describes; while these two pieces do not directly respond to one another, it is clear that there is an overlap between theory and practice in this example. As McMillan describes, “Black women’s performance work has deftly and unapologetically embraced the feminist axiom ‘the personal is political.’” Thus, whether or not Minaj is purposefully creating art that intends to perform objected, it is clear that her personal experience as a black woman and the way in which she chooses to empower herself in her art is not simply just personal, but political and representative of larger norms in our society.
Natalie BrennanIntersectionality, Music