Studio Von Birkin’s neon tribute to Lil’ Wayne. — Photos by Mimi Luse.
Last Friday at the Bushwick Starr, two worlds met in an improbable collision on the New York Venn diagram when curators Audrey Berman and Pete Deevakul mounted a multimedia art show devoted entirely to Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. (a.k.a. Lil’ Wayne). Aiming to "unite the aural, visual, and sizzurp/lean/drank to cultivate a heterogeneous experience" the show/dance party, called the "Best Rapper Alive (W.W.W.D?)" was a set up that could have doubled as an obsessive teenager’s bedroom shrine to the rapper.
All of the art works on display were either tongue-in-cheek homages or riffs on Lil’ Wayne as a popular phenomenon. A hip-hop video parody by Tameka Norris set the timbre of the evening squarely in the low-brow/brilliant quadrant with a piece showing herself gyrating in a bikini and a fur vest all over the city. Though the lady’s moves were good enough to have put her into dancer call-backs for Lollipop Pt. II, her verbal swagger (declaring herself a combination "Cindy Sherman and Kara Walker") imbued a confidence worthy of Wayne himself.
While Simone Frazier’s was a diligent fan-art painting in oils, Studio Von Birken’s affirmed Lil’ Wayne as a luxury commodity brand with his well-crafted fluorescent-lit LW light fixture copying the Luis Vuitton logo. Meanwhile, Andrew Steinmetz recorded the growth rate of two plants exposed to Lil’ Wayne and Jay Z respectively. Embedding speakers into Plexiglas planters and marking the growth rate of each, it was no coincidence that the plant listening to Lil’ Wayne looked, after a period of time, slightly stunted, albeit robust. In another work, a triptych that gallery-goer Shannon Webb called "Southwestern Weezy," the artist Ben Wadler placed Wayne, a native of New Orleans, into the arid South West. His portrait beaming from the cacti in delicate pen lines, the piece was both a holy icon and a kitschy souvenir.
More of Lil’ Wayne’s mysticism was revealed in a stand-up/hip hop routine by Devin Kkenny. Comparing Walter Benjamin’s notes On Hashish ("Apparitions hover (vignette-like) over my right shoulder") with Lil’ Wayne’s notes on hashish: ("Drugs are bad, I’m acknowledging that, but when I’m on the drugs I don’t have a problem wit that") Kkenny found eerie similarities between the two influential philosophers. He also pointed out that Benjamin died on the 27th of September, the day Lil’ Wayne can also claim for his birthday. Not a coincidence. Kkenny’s set continued his set with some erudite rhymes, rapping about giving high fives to Obama, the Llama, Salvador (Dalí), and Dolly Parton.
Like any good host, Berman provided beverages; and Wayne’s favorite beverage, "purple drank," was served. It was displayed as a sculpture of sorts with Styrofoam cups stacked in a fluorescent purple display that illuminated the guests’ faces (including that of MTV V.J. John Norris!). Berman explained "[the juice] was initially supposed to be ‘lean’ or ‘sizzurp’ which is made from promethazine mixed with sprite and jolly ranchers, but I decided against that because if you haven’t drunk it before it could be dangerous. Instead I used super high-proof vodka and purple Kool-Aid. …lots of people who were drinking from it didn’t know what it was."
While it was inevitable that "The Art World" and the "World of Wayne" should collide eventually, like all miraculous occurrences, "W.W.W.D." was but a flash in the pan, lasting only one evening. Re-create the experience at www.wwwd.me.