Vivian L. Huang

Vivian L. Huang is writing a dissertation on inscrutability in Asian American performance in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University.



"Not That Innocent: Britney Spears, Laurel Nakadate and Strangers"

Though Laurel Nakadate is not known as a sound artist, this paper will argue that it is through the pop music icon Britney Spears that two of Nakadate's video art pieces explore the temporal-spatial reach of shared feeling. Nakadate, a biracial Japanese American artist known for putting herself in uncomfortable situations, forgoes dialogue for music in her two homages to Spears. In one of her first video performances, Oops! (2000), Nakadate dances and teaches the choreography of Spears' "Oops!... I Did It Again" in the homes of three white, rural and middle-aged men who live alone. Nakadate's fascination with the pop icon is revived in 2009 in the video Exorcism #3 (Dancing in the Desert for Britney), in which a bikini-clad Nakadate dances alone in a desert in Utah out of empathy for Spears' publicized personal plight.

In these two artworks, we see a constellation of relationships effected through pop music. Away from the populace, away from the metropole, the triangulation of Nakadate with Spears, and Nakadate with each stranger-man through the music and movement of Spears, offers us as way to consider the complicated and somewhat uncomfortable ways in which bodies can be said to move together, to belong together across time and space through the medium of sound. Spears is Nakadate's muse, moving her and the men's bodies through her feminized and bittersweet celebrity. Thinking with Lauren Berlant's "Cruel Optimism," this paper will consider pop music and the celebrity of Britney Spears an object of desire that promises popular belonging. The terms of such belonging effected through pop music, however, are unstable, invoking the risk of dancing alone with a stranger and the loneliness of dancing for a camera alone.

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