In an essay with W Magazine, Vincent Desiderio described the unusual call from West’s camp last week that followed with a flight to Los Angeles the next day for the video’s live premiere. He explains that when he arrived, he was told to go directly to the Forum, where he met with West and seemingly got a good sense of him from the start before even seeing the piece.
“I sat down in front of the computer screen as the play button was pushed,” Desiderio writes. “Within seconds, the disturbingly familiar faces of a range of celebrities became clear. What was not clear was what in fact they were doing sleeping in the same bed. Had there been some agreement to pose together naked? That aside, why was every impulse to ridicule these people, some of whom (I won’t name names) made my skin crawl, being tempered by a rising sense of empathy? Slumbering gods, they were, but also like babies or small children at the height of vulnerability.”
Soon, Desiderio realized that the naked Taylor Swift, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump and other celebrity figures featured in the video were positioned identically to his painting “Sleep.” He writes, “It had been sampled, or ‘spliced,’ into a new format and taken to a brilliant and daring extreme!”
“What was demonstrated was the power of the artistic imagination to transcend categorical expectations, and the fluidity of the transfer of codes deeply embedded within the apparatus of our preferred mediums,” Desiderio continues. “Kanye West’s video demonstrates how art speaks the language of art, how visual codes people the artistic imagination, enlivening the matrix of possibilities that are always and everywhere about us, but barely perceptible to those who focus only on the surface.”
Read the full piece here.