For newer joint “Prince Johnny,” in which she and the eponymous prince literally snort the Berlin Wall, that eternal symbol of failed division, before praying to an oscillating sound to be made into Real Boys and Real Girls?What about for “Chloe in the Afternoon,” which refracts an appointment with a dominatrix into a litany of surfaces, materials, and clothing?Vincent project, her ability to keep her art “separate from her personal life” and to, as NPR’s Ann Powers put it, “avoid the confessional in her music,” something that is “not easy for a female artist — women in the arts are almost always assumed to be more naturally emotive than men, and less in control over what they produce. Vincent has succeeded as a construct.” This, too, has always struck me as reductive, bordering on false. But I think it’s more accurate and interesting to view that control, including and especially the gendered aspects of it, as part of the project.This tension between performance and reality, between surface and depth, between what’s seen and what is, is present in her music, her videos, her performances — everything that has made her worthy of this much scrutiny in the first place.You don’t really have to be genderqueer to relate to this, either — you just have to pay a little bit of attention.Take her earlier videos, which lend themselves very well to the Feminist Commentary Drinking Game.This is probably the best time to mention that Clark named her first album, Marry Me, after that half-joking offer Arrested Development‘s Maeby Funke has to make to her movie studio bosses in order to mask her youth and inexperience, and project an image concurrent with her aspirations.Her other videos, though less immediately obvious, still fill out a certain picture.
To call it anything else is to buy into the strictures she clearly strains against.I’ve written elsewhere about how the album, despite this new focus, builds on themes Clark has explored from the beginning — alienation, anxiety, and the connecting power of art. Vincent, and the trappings around it (the tour, the costumes, the press blitz), deal most of all with questions of identity and performativity — about how, as she put it in a recent Guardian column about Twitter, “we perform our identities in the analog and digital realm.” I can’t help it — whenever I see the phrase “perform our identities,” I think about gender.This dovetails quite nicely with the fact that whenever I think about St.You can practically see it; you can definitely hear it.It’s impossible to overstate how closely all this stuff clutches at my heart.I’m a smallish person, with a quiet voice and quiet behaviors that don’t always prove the best conduit for my (often) loud ideas and emotions.When I was a teenager, I’d spend entire Saturdays practicing White Stripes songs in my bedroom, which I pretended was a garage, on my plastic acoustic guitar, which I pretended was an electric, artificially screeching up into the high notes when I sang so that I’d sound more like Jack White, who has to reach farther for them than I do. Vincent being Steve Albini, growling Big Black songs into a processed microphone, I think: so that’s what that game looks like, turned into a professional sport.“Laughing With A Mouth of Blood” takes place in Portlandia‘s feminist bookstore — a hilarious place, but still one that keeps the strictures of the world at bay by setting up even tighter ones (“Excuse me, sir!? Next we’ll go to the video for “Marrow,” a trippy meditation on being followed in which Clark walks a shifting line between vulnerable and Messianic.The song was inspired by the Wizard of Oz, specifically the part where Dorothy meets the Wizard. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” the man who fumbles with levers and smoke and green screens in order to project an image concurrent with his aspirations?Next let’s go to “Cheerleader,” in which an enormous Clark, her face even dewier than usual, is on display at an art museum.When she tries to escape, she crumbles into pieces.