Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lady Gaga's Boy Toy Morphs Into Mickey Mouse

Lady Gaga has made her dancer Mike Silas a sex symbol for Little Monsters all over the world. Like Gaga, Mike’s layered persona adds to her performance art, and his love for reflecting the world through his mind and body makes him a Warhol in motion.

26-year-old professional dancer Michael Silas, also known as Mike, is a human camera who photographs the world with his mind and body. He and the woman he tours with, Lady Gaga share a concept of reflecting the world by using their bodies as mirrors, which was the basis for the work of American pop artist Andy Warhol.

Both Mike and Warhol reflect the world through their internal mirrors and cameras. Each man reflects an image that he sees in the world into his mind’s mirror, and then his mind’s mirror reflects the image into the mirror of a camera that people take pictures with. Next, the mirror of the camera reflects the image back out into the outside world that we all live in, so now the image can be reflected again through clothing and dance. With the mirror inside a person’s mind (the person’s mental camera and camera the person buys from the store), the person creates reflections of the world, just like the many mirrors in a dressing room that reflect one other’s images ending up in one twisted image, like from a funhouse mirror.

Mike has a love for photography, and based on the self-photographed and self-styled photos of him on Facebook, it’s clear that he knows how to capture the world on film, while making himself a part of the art. While on the Monster Ball Tour with Lady Gaga, Mike was apparently shopping at a Disney store in Japan where a bunch of Mickey Mouse key chains hang around him, and tin canisters printed with Mickey’s image surround Mike. Then Mike wears a Mickey Mouse mask where only the eyes are visible. The combination of Mike’s mysterious human eyes and the image of Mickey’s cartoon smile have a frightening effect because it’s that same creepy feeling you get when you see a dog’s head on an ant’s body. Also, the contrast of Mickey’s head (excluding Mike’s eyes) and Mike’s outfit of a black T-shirt revealing some of his arm tattoos and backpack straps is shocking because you can’t imagine Mickey Mouse wearing this, yet it’s very artistic because it shows Mike as combination of the wholesome and the edgy. The funny thing about Mike’s black T-shirt is that it has a white silhouette of Mickey Mouse on it.

Also, there’s a multicolored tile design on the wall that serves as Mike’s backdrop, splitting the shelves full of Mickey merchandise. In the end, Mike becomes Mickey Mouse, a parody of the world’s most famous cartoon mouse, and a symbol of America’s fascination with reproducing products for making money. It’s an example of Mike taking the mirror inside his mind and reflecting back one of America’s symbols of innocence, and corrupting it with his tattooed skin and edgy clothes.

The edgy pop star becomes a piece of art in Andy Warhol’s 1963 silkscreen print Triple Elvis. The print shows three identical images of Elvis Priestly pointing a gun towards the camera. This same image is printed on top of one another, making the three images of Elvis look like a trio of gunslingers. By repeating Elvis’ image, Warhol shows how symbols of pop culture like pop star Elvis can express the values of a culture, which is making copies of the same product, so that they can be sold in stores. Then lots of money is made from the products. Elvis’ image is like a product that anyone can manipulate into different versions and different shapes to make money.

Shape-shifting is the common thread between Mike Silas and Lady Gaga. Mike is an important part of Gaga’s performance art because of his tattooed body. The presence of Mike’s tattoos defies stereotypes because his many tattoos make him seem rough and tough. The choreography for Lady Gaga’s songs pushes the boundaries of gender and when Mike performs it, it shows that he can be masculine and feminine. Mike is the product of a black father and a Hispanic mother, so that’s why his skin is light. His tattoos are a combination of Japanese fish (inked onto his body in Japan) and a lion for his zodiac sign Leo, as well as other symbols that he uses as a diary of his experiences. Mike’s light skin is the perfect canvas to make his diary stand out with color.
During a performance of “Love Game” on Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour, Mike’s wardrobe looks like something out of the sci-fi A Clockwork Orange. He wears a white corset, white leggings, and a codpiece by his crotch area, and white boots that look like those Doc Marten boots that were popular in the ‘90s. A bone mask rests on his head with the point hanging down to the bridge of his nose, shading his eyes and looking like a bird’s beak. Mike’s face is made up with eye shadow and eyeliner. Also, his tattoos are exposed covering Mike’s lean, muscular body that makes him look feminine and masculine. So it’s a filled subway train car, a glowing disco stick and gender-bending costumes that pull the performance together. This is a reminder of how far Mike’s come since he first started dancing for Lady Gaga in 2008, when he had almost no facial hair and an ordinary haircut. Now he has facial hair, his hair shaved into different shapes, and Mohawks dyed fudge browns and cherry reds making him look like a punk rocker going against what people think is normal. The way Mike can always look so different is fits perfectly with Gaga’s performance art, including what he looks like and how he dances.

When Mike was teaching a Masters of Dance class, he gave his students a piece of advice about image that Andy Warhol would approve of. Mike said, “Just know that here [the dance class] is where you get your foundation and your confidence as a dancer, really look into this [touches mirror in the dance studio with hand].”When you look at your reflection in a mirror, the reflection depends on the mirror inside your mind. You could really look beautiful on the outside, but if you ugly on the inside then you’re going to look ugly on the outside. The idea of changing yourself into something different through makeup, clothes and movement of your body, is a way of destroying your ugly feelings, or just temporarily hiding it., Warhol thought himself ugly and tried to find beauty by making other people look beautiful in his artwork. Also, he photographed himself in drag, again transforming his image. As society often says, beauty is all in the eye of the beholder.

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