H+ Magazine
Covering technological, scientific, and cultural trends that are changing–and will change–human beings in fundamental ways.

Editor's Blog

Jason Louv
March 16, 2010


Lady Gaga. Photo credit: ladygaga.comOver the last year Lady Gaga has come to embody —for me and, I imagine, for her fans — a kind of posthuman life strategy. She presents a response to the horrors of the 21st century that reeks, strangely, of absolute sanity — the sanity of very archly embracing the most grotesque excesses of the materialist culture that is destroying the planet.

At once very human and also indistinguishable from the inhuman culture machine that promotes her, she is the perfect evolutionary advance, designed to outlive the cockroaches themselves. She is a successful gray alien hybrid, stripped of all human emotion or compassion, a thing made to flourish in this grim, mechanical age. She is the newest model android from the MTV fembot assembly line. She is the latest and greatest Terminator. She is Skynet. She is self-aware.

Horror Vacui
Artists hold a mirror to society — but in this bizarre new century, the mirror has been splintered into a million little pieces, scattered to the floor for us to sort out and build some kind of identity from. Artists make meaning out of meaninglessness.  Lady Gaga has her work cut out for her.

(Beyoncé to Gaga in the “Telephone” video: “You know, Gaga? Trust is like a mirror. You can fix it if it's broke...”

Gaga: “But you can still see the crack in that motherf**ker's reflection.”)

Lady Gaga. Photo credit: ladygaga.comIf David Bowie's chameleonic posturing prefigured the hypertext web, Gaga may be the first version of a human being we have seen capable of thriving in the era of the social web. She is shiny, clickable, and malleable in the face of endless attention fragmentation. She is an adaptive strategy. Without any solid or “real” self, her identity becomes whatever it needs to be, immune to the toxic shock of the incoming century, fully geared up to party in the ruins. Is it any wonder that she's provoked the response she has, both adulation and hatred? She's the first non-boring thing to happen in pop music for almost fifteen years.

Consider Lady Gaga in prison in the beginning of her new video. That's all of us, “held captive” in the modern condition — but Gaga is the Magician, able to transform any situation to her will. Five minutes in and she's reassembled her outfit from chains and cigarettes and is wrapping herself around the girls in the prison yard. The other people in prison are already listening to her songs on her branded Lady Gaga headphone… she set the context before she even arrived. Though she may be in prison, she already rules the world. This is what adaptation to the 21st century looks like. The brand “Gaga” can be reassembled from anything, even in a vacuum, even from trash, just as we must learn to do with our own masks of self.

The experience of coming to grips with the inherent lack of meaning in our lives or in the universe —and learning not only to survive in such a universe, but to thrive in it — is a crucial stage in many religious traditions. The moment when you finally, deeply understand that there really is no point… this is Buddhism's stock in trade. The medieval mystic St. John of the Cross called this experience the “Dark Night of the Soul.” In the Hermetic and Qabalistic traditions, this experience is described as the invisible sephira Da'ath aka “Knowledge.”

While undergoing this experience—which usually comes when the mind has been pushed as far as it can go through meditation or other high-octane spiritual practice — consciousness is torn apart by its remaining attachment to ego, as if by a pack of wild dogs, as the false individuality shakes apart, unveiling the true self —primal, unconditioned awareness — that lies beneath. Here, meaning goes in drag as meaninglessness. Gender inverts as well, as consciousness loses its sexual conditioning.

Lady Gaga. Photo credit: ladygaga.com“In the earliest spiritual traditions known to humankind,” Randy P. Connor writes in Blossom of Bone, his study of transgendered shamanism throughout history, “gender-variant, homoeroticly, or bisexualy inclined persons served as shamans and priests of goddesses, gods, spirits, and ancestors.”

Da'ath is traditionally symbolized as a prison cell—the place where Gaga finds herself in the “Telephone” video, as her shamanic gender inversion reaches its pinnacle, straight woman in drag as a  gay man in drag as a gay woman, emerging as a weaponized new self. “I told you she didn't have a dick,” one of her butch prison guards remarks as she is thrown into her cell. “Too bad,” the other replies. And so we embark on Gaga and Beyoncé's version of a lesbianized world, as they murder everything in sight.



When both meaning and meaninglessness have been destroyed — when Gaga and Beyoncé have passed through the pillars of initiation, as symbolized by their black and white dresses at the end of the video — a new Star is born.

The Fame Monster
The 21st century is pure chaos. Reactionaries of every stripe tell us to turn around and go back. “We have lost all meaningful interaction,” they yammer on and on as they have for decades. They said it about MTV, they said it about the Web, and now they're saying it about texting and Twitter and Lady Gaga. But just as our individual intelligence grows based on the number of connections our neurons make with each other, so does the intelligence of the mass mind grow based on the number of connections made between its individual neurons — us. We are the neurons. The more connections we make, the smarter we get as a whole.

This, then, is perhaps a better metaphor for the age of social media than the message that we are being “driven to distraction,” coming from concern groups and well-meaning psychologists.” Look at it this way. We're learning to think as a group mind, instead of as individual minds. This, again, is the message of Da'ath — that ultimately our individual egos are illusions. That may seem chilly, but it also might be exactly the type of cognitive approach we're going to need in order to successfully navigate the challenges of this century. Pop stars are charged with pointing a way forward through an increasingly chaotic, confusing, and fragmented world for us — perhaps here, then, is what Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and the rest are pointing to when they make Illuminati hand signs in their videos. Become illuminated. Evolve or die.

Lady Gaga. Photo credit: ladygaga.comLady Gaga is a success story, a victorious Magellan of sleaze. She is the anti-Tiger Woods, able to surf our culture's sexual psychoses instead of drowning in them. Did they build her in an underground laboratory, like the one featured in the “Bad Romance” video? They must have, for what other perverse, mutated perfection of the human form could be better equipped to succeed in this most horrible of world climates?

While the rest of the world spirals into economic degradation, environmental pestilence and complete systems failure of all of the old world models, Lady Gaga reigns above the flames. Pay attention to the lesson. Lady Gaga is the only person prospering in this cultural climate. Therefore she has done something right. She is the necessary evolutionary adaptation to our times and this is why she disturbs people: This is what we must all become.

Indestructibly vacant.

Jason Louv is the editor and author of the books Generation Hex, Ultraculture and Thee Psychick Bible, and a blogger at the popular culture journal Dangerous Minds.

Links

Lady Gaga Official Site, featuring Telephone video

The Guardian: Internet agog for Lady Gaga's provocative video to Telephone

Vigilant Citizen: Lady Gaga, the Illuminati Puppet

The Inspiration Room: Lady Gaga as High Priestess

Jason Louv

34 Comments

    excellent article!

    This is the greatest article i've read so far this year, perhaps ever. I've never laughed so hard. This is fantastic. Absolutely . Well done for rising above the total shit that is the rest of this website. The singularity, ha, what a load of pesudoscientific bullshit; Karl Popper must be spinning in his grave - sideways! Ray Kurtzveil, ha, perhaps the only man to have commited every scientific fallacy in one book: from selection-bias to post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc.

    Well done on rising above this carnival of fools to become the Ring Master. You have seen the truth of it all, despensed with the illusion of progress, and become pure entertainment. Keep on channeling the spirit of Salivdore Dali, i will come back to read more of your articles.

    Even the comment section of this article is exciting moments of pure surrealist genius:

    "I have lost valuable intelligence by choosing to read them. I'm taking this site of my bookmarks. cya"

    Including the power to spell 'off' apparently. Ha, ha, ha; wonderful!

    to be gagaesk one would need to refine the article down to a paragraph, but you have captured the vacuousness.

    What a load of shit.
    Lady Gaga's a faggot and your appreciation of her 'inner ways' makes you one too. Wake up to your stupid fantasies that aren't even going to come true...not in this millennium anyways, believe me, I've been to the future and back (Y)

    If you're stupid enough to believe this guy well then I HAVE been to t he future and back, it isn't full of steampunks, atompunks, transhumanist and post humanist garbage. It's full of NORMAL SANE people and all the transhumanist weirdos like you have been killed :)

    Okay that's a bit violent...but so is the idea of worshiping Lady Hermaphrodite and altering human genetics and traits through technology, it's violent AND unnatural...eugh The thought of people like you makes me ill.

      You're hilarious. You're jingoistic commentary wreaks of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of your inner possibly homo erotic feelings. Fear that everyone in the world might actually matter. You throw the insult "Lady Hermaphrodite" so easily that you don't even know that having both sets of genitalia is physically impossible for humans. Moreover, so what if she challenges gender norms? Does just being a "hermaphrodite" make someone invalid? Has she no humanity? Disagree with the article if you must, but please don't just sling meaningless insults.

      Altering genetics isn't necessarily violent or bad. All technology can be used for positive or negative outcomes. The people using the technology are the ones who matter the most. Genetic engineering has helped women have babies and people with immunodeficiency disorders, and it has the potential to do a lot more good for humanity. Your problem is the people in power, not the technology. Also, it's not even "unnatural". Everything in nature is natural, sorry to burst your bubble but the universe includes nature itself, therefore everything that occurs within it's realm is natural.

      Introduce a little reason to the situation,
      Sanguine

      You may live in Australia, but you'd have felt right at home in Germany circa 1933.

    She is just another step above Madonna, trying to make a buck by being a contraversey thats all!

    Go dig up your old Mondo Issue R.U.. Am I right?

    Dear author, thank you for this. I'm impressed with your willingness to write such things, when most people will not appreciate the beauty of your writings.

    To everyone who did not like this article, and felt that is was a celebration of the vapidity of modern culture, and certainly not something that you'd want to read at hplus: please go to wikipedia, and look up the word deadpan.

      Thanks for getting it too, a mere glance at the commentary below is rather disappointing, and scary.

      I'm with you! This article rocked. Yay ideas.

    "She's the first non-boring thing to happen in pop music for almost fifteen years."?
    Did David Bowie really say that?
    He must have had his head buried in the dirt for 15 yrs.

    Lady Gaga is a product/brand of a dieing industry trying to hold on to whatever they can to make money on and mold whomever they feel will be a willing little puppet.

    In the case of America, there seems to be no choice but to give in to the demands of what the people want to be force-fed.
    or is there?
    A good start would be..... Not to buy into what they are feeding.
    or
    entertainment will continue to reflect the fetishes of our culture and perpetuate the vicious cycle of disposable & recycled ideas.

    How creative us humans are. Phtttfffff......

    This is one of the better articles I've read on this site. I definitely agree with the author. I think a lot of readers are refusing to admit that no matter how well they think they understand their microcosmic world there are cultural trends, tendencies, and fears which are shared by the collective consciousness. Whether Lady Gaga is a corporate workhorse for the sole reason of profit or if Gaga is genuinely trying to express her art (I think it's both) she still a representing example of this particular time and place. Especially for the digital natives in their teens now. If one looks carefully, they can see the foreshadowing of the world of tomorrow in todays music, really. Look at Black Eyed Pea's song like Generation Now, a mainstream pop song that's propagating pretty much the same ideas as this site.

    History ends with Gaga. When future alien archaeologists dig through centuries of detritus to unearth the last gleaming vestiges of human culture, they will classify everything they find as B.G. or A.G. -- before or after Gaga. They will quickly determine that everything original and useful happened B.G., while everything A.G. is a giant pile of meaningless, glitzy garbage.

    Sure, let us all become malleable ciphers, "post-human" cybertronic nonentities, twitterable molecules, "indestructibly vacant," without thought or affect. Anyone who is horrified by this all-englobing depersonalization is deemed "reactionary."

    If you believe what you write, you are a Frankensteinian monster.

    Dr. Joseph Suglia

    Lady Gaga is an inspiration to high-trolls, once known as Situationists, everywhere. This article was brilliant and inspired.

    ~*fame*~

    Her music was so damn awful I can't help but like her for being pathetic enough to think she's onto something new.
    It helps her to have a wealthy sugar daddy to buy impression packets and desperate art slags yearning for anything against the Gap blanding of culture, drawing up a sketchy plan to get them cornered homo's out off their tired rainblo flag bar stools and away from La Bouche remixes which have brainwashed em along with Amber. Sure she's a fun loving romp through visual foray's- she's also 10 years late on the electro trend- there are 40 bands/acts that hold more interesting appeal which never lowered themselves to a New Kidz On The Block tour, and she's just cheesie enough to appeal to the wanna-be-funky types, not in the know people, that would like to be a bit more interesting. I like "her" enough- although "Native Love" by Divine is freakier and authentic, without trying to prove a point, Rita Mitsuoko had more interesting video's and she was done 20 years ago. In my opinion she's an insult to many many artists, and the lack of music and art in the mainstream was done by the wealthy and politicians, don't blame consumers- they have been stupid for years, which is what Jesus understood "they know not what they do"...forgive me God, could you repeat the question?
    So like why didn't Tiga, Peaches, MikeAlike, Miss Kitten, and list of other interesting musical ventures get that wow-your-so cool treatment?
    Dj Hell=electro
    Tiga=electro
    MikeAlike=electro
    Fischerspooner=electro
    even Trash Yourself ranks- in many opinions most pop music sounds like smoothe jazz.....MTV sucks- that a reality, not a show.

    everyone's got an angle. . . lady gg and this article . . . so why am i paying attention to something else until the buzz is at such a pitch that i feel like i'm missing something?

    . . . finally to youtube . . . . and i find myself amused but with all the non-boringness . . i find the music boring, boring .

    What a bunch of Wackos you lot
    get a life
    this is rubbish
    Naturalism is the way to go
    not implanting and distortion
    thats disgusting

    bunch of creeps.

    Yes, she has a special style. But I don't like it. She attracts attention but people do not like it. Of course, I cannot say it about her music. I like it a lot. I often download her songs from http://www.mp3hounddog.com . The music is light and dancy. Just what I like.

    Jason, that's the thing, even though I agree with a lot of what you say - I do find her boring. I find the whole thing tedious and daft beyond words, no matter how literal or ironic she is supposedly being. I've seen her in interviews and I get the impression she doesn't have the intelligence to be wryly ironic. But even if she was, so what? Being wryly ironic about the vapidness of the industry you are in amounts to, well, pretty much nothing.

    I had to laugh at the following quote, “She is the anti-Tiger Woods, able to surf our culture's sexual psychoses instead of drowning in them.”. The difference here is that Tiger Woods was 'doing', where as Gaga is imitating for effect and doubtfully ever tried. Looking at a meal and thinking about it is not the same as trying it out and going back for second helpings. The other main difference that is giving the impression of her doing this successfully, is that she is superficially embracing what she imitates; this does not amount to being successful at it.

    You only need to be “indestructibly vacant” if what you are wishing to 'survive' amongst is this kind of world – a world that is unquantifiable, and rarefied to the point of being non-existent. In the 'real world' most people live in, being indestructibly vacant is a SEVERE disadvantage.

    I'm not one of the 'haters' – I could take her or leave her to be honest. She has had some catchy, albeit, mediocre tunes. But it never ceases to amaze me that she strikes up huge amounts of lofty, wordy cultural debate of this ilk, but which is ultimately discussing the perceived minutiae of a non existent world ad-nauseum; it's tantamount to a fart in a pretend storm.

    Dee
    at car insurance comparision

    Lady GaGa is only as influential or prophetic as the McRib Sandwich or Shamrock Shakes. Unlimited marketing resources can convince masses of people to consume any manner of garbage.

    I just want to note that the video for Alejandro opens with the Golden Dawn banners of the east and west and parallels Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. Whoever is plotting her videos knows their shit.

    This article is grossly ill-informed. It describes the concept of devolution (Q: Are We Not Men?) and calls it an "evolutionary advance". "Lady Gaga" is a good example of the devolution that humanity is experiencing. Don't believe me? Disagree? Let me explain my reasoning.

    "But just as our individual intelligence grows based on the number of connections our neurons make with each other, so does the intelligence of the mass mind grow based on the number of connections made between its individual neurons — us. We are the neurons. The more connections we make, the smarter we get as a whole.

    This, then, is perhaps a better metaphor for the age of social media than the message that we are being “driven to distraction,” coming from concern groups and well-meaning psychologists.” Look at it this way. We’re learning to think as a group mind, instead of as individual minds. This, again, is the message of Da’ath — that ultimately our individual egos are illusions. That may seem chilly, but it also might be exactly the type of cognitive approach we’re going to need in order to successfully navigate the challenges of this century. Pop stars are charged with pointing a way forward through an increasingly chaotic, confusing, and fragmented world for us — perhaps here, then, is what Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and the rest are pointing to when they make Illuminati hand signs in their videos. Become illuminated. Evolve or die."

    The idea of a group mind is not a new concept. It's herd mentality. We see it in cows, we see it in apes, we see it in ourselves. Our minds evolved out of this state tens of thousands of years ago. Whales are reportedly somewhere in the process of evolving out of the herd mentality now, developing the concept of individual self.

    This writing suggests that we are transcending ego by becoming more dependent on others' thoughts and opinions and letting go of the painful, taxing process of individual decision making. The truth, however, is the opposite of that; just as one can get drunk or high and deaden fear and self-consciousness for a short time at the price of dulling other mental faculties (falling below thought, as Eckhart Tolle puts it), one can anesthetize ego and shift into a level of primitive functioning akin to our primate ancestors through social networking, video games, text messaging, and other practices that promote rapid growth of the brain's reward center (one of those primitive mental facets one must work past in order to achieve emotional maturity and lasting happiness) without leaving room for lengthy discussion, complex conceptual arguments, attention to detail, or individuality (true, uncomfortable, beautiful, boundless individuality; not the myth of individuality that capitalist advertisers have exploited during the past decade -- "Express your individuality by buying these identical shoes and cell phones!".) That is devolution, and it is happening now through various products of consumerism that foster mental lethargy.

    Evolution of the opposite sort of what this writer describes has been happening for centuries now. Buddhism has promoted practices that allow one to rise transcend ego for hundreds of years. The ability to be indestructible, as this author puts it, does not go hand-in-hand with mental vacancy. That is a dangerous misconception. In fact, being fully aware of the moment propels one into psychological indestructibility while keeping intact such mental facets as free will, logic, creativity, and compassion. Being fully awake is true indestructibility, it is the way to truly transcend ego consciousness. What this article describes is total dependence on outside stimulation, and regression to a state of being controlled by ego on a herd level instead of an individual one, thereby making it much harder to become, as it's called in Buddhist tradition, a Great Being, an enlightened human. A truly evolved person. Going backwards toward the herd mentality leaves one vulnerable to manipulation (just as the human being whose stage name is "Lady Gaga" has allowed herself to be deeply manipulated by the thoughts and opinions of millions of people) of the worst sort. Ever seen a bunch of cows run after each other right into a slaughterhouse? What this article describes is giving ego more control over us than it already has.

    So, this all leads me to some important questions: if everyone is completely mentally passive and dedicated to a perpetual state of reaction to popular opinion and pop idols, what happens next? What happens when one of these pop idols decides to act irresponsibly, like the writer of this article, and encourage us to do harmful things? Do you really want to be controlled by novelty and whim and sadists who have figured out how to manipulate the masses? That's what is happening now, and it must be fought personally, if it's to be fought at all.

    This article is worse than just sensationalistic and stupid; it's hazardous to the mental health of any person who doesn't know better; the author included. It is an example of someone not adhering to what's known in the Eightfold Path as "right speech", and instead opting for attention and personal gain, even at the cost of harm to others. I implore you all to take heed and not to take my word for it. Be in this moment, explore it for yourself, and make your own decision.

    Ok this is pure rubbish. I understand that singularity and transhumanist news is not easy to come by but stories like 'lady gaga is posthuman' or 'nerds learn to get girls' or just irritating. I actually feel like I have lost valuable intelligence by choosing to read them.

    I'm taking this site of my bookmarks. cya

    Absolutely brilliant article. I am adding this site to my bookmarks now.

    Wait. . .so Lady Gaga changing costumes a lot heralds the global realization that consciousness is a vacuum?

    Like, people who pray a lot and turn a little crazy (because they've been enlightened) sometimes adopt gender-neutral/confused roles, and Lady Gaga likes to wear gender-neutral/confused costumes, so the only reason she would be popular is that the entire human population is currently forming a massive global consciousness that will automatically be enlightened?

    Okay, admit it, you wrote this article after losing a bet, right?

    Study of rhetoric tells us that any statement can be attacked. Whether the attack has any substance is immaterial; in the ruthless cultural competition for the one true resource - the attention of the masses - the slightest doubt can destroy any statement.

    Gaga knows that, just as the deconstructionists and postmodernists know it - in order to make sure no one can attack you (as a public persona you = your statements), you must be one of two things - either a moving target or a statement that no one can understand.

    Gaga isn't vacuous - she makes a statement in every video, every song - but that statement isn't stationary. She's fully prepared to say something oppositional to what came from her lips before, and this hypocrisy is all part of the farce, the secret statement that materializes from the ashes every time she explodes what she was before: that she does it all for "the fame".

    I believe she's said as much in interviews on TV, and its this transparency, this honesty, which we appreciate about her. We know what she's about, she knows what she's about, and so the hypocrisy becomes an asset rather than a blemish. Though she's no ingenue, she's innocent because there's no deceit at all. In a culture fraught with the other kind of cultural adaptation - obfuscation to the point of meaninglessness, we appreciate her utter lack of slipperiness: her statement/self stands out as perfectly clear and pointedly poking fun at the game we all know, at one level or another, we are participating in.

    But then, it really isn't anything worth writing about, is it?

    Lady Gaga is the only person "prospering in this social climate" because the record industry is a dinosaur that's dying. Whenever there's less money to go around, it relies on one person to pump the riches back into the dead machine. Just as it had in the days of Jacko and Madonna and Britney and every other zombified pop star, converting millions into worshippers of monolithic culture.

    True art is meant to inspire others to find their own path and create their own art. Notice that Gaga fans only seem to talk about Gaga?

    "She's the first non-boring thing to happen in pop music for almost fifteen years."? No. If your definition of "pop music" really is that narrow, then I feel bad for you. You're confusing "mainstream music" with "pop", which as a form of music, does not necessarily have to be mainstream.

    "what Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and the rest are pointing to when they make Illuminati hand signs in their videos. Become illuminated. Evolve or die."? Nope. They're just slaves to the dollar bill. Fame addicts. Too embedded within the system to offer any way out. Not like they'd want to, anyway, being at the top of the pyramid.

    tl;dr: Louv, I am disappoint.

    Great article overall. I think this does a great job of capturing the vaccuus aspects of consciousness with respect to Lady Gaga's art direction. Lady Gaga's randomness comes together in some very interesting ways. I have to give her more credit than I initially thought as I watch some of her videos on youtube. Very interesting article that puts some things together for good conversation, too.

    This is the stupidest article I have ever read on this site.

    Only true Art enlightens you. There is still such a thing, you know. Apparently you don't.

    I fail to see how any of her outfits are gender-neutral. ... Unless you consider bikinis, nipple tapes, statement bras and dresses as gender-neutral outfits...?

    She is the one who is and is not. She is a product of our collective imagination in distress.

    I can't stand her music, but I'm sure that deep within she is hiding some powerful material and she even records it for her own listening pleasure. She later listens back to her unfinished mixes - alone - from the comfort of her 5.1 Pro-Tools HD System, powered by top of the line SSL board... I'm pretty sure that this "secret" music is quite epic and beyond our expectations, but she puts the grotesque/ugly/annoying out there to teach us something. She is a tease in every sense of the word.

    I'm very curious to see what goes on in her mind. It must be a party in there 24/7

    Great article.

    ~Miss Randall

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