Thursday, July 14, 2011

Go Ninja GO

There are obviously two types of people in the world: those who love Die Antwoordt and readers of this blog. In the comments to my last post, there was some skepticism about my affection for Enter the Ninja, though the video is obviously the best thing to happen to popular music since, I don't know, Nirvana Live and Unplugged. One comment mentioned my earlier "fascination" with Tatu as if it is something I should be ashamed of. I have no regrets that I adored a melodramatic disco pop anthem sung by a pair of teenage Russian lesbians. Do you know what Heaven is? It's not a place where nothing ever happens. It's a place where the angels are teenage Russian lesbians serenading each other with melodramatic disco pop anthems.

Now, you might respond by saying that Tatu were "contrived", or that they weren't even lesbians. Darling, I don't go to pop music for the authenticity. I go for the magic. And Die Antwoordt is magical in a way that we barely recognise any more, so blind are we to the non-positivistic, cracked, empiricism-flaying world around us: it is the magic of myth, the modern myth of the word-hopping, body-crumping minstrel of fury, and the ancient myths of warriors and maidens; the mythical dimensions are explored, as I have been shown, far more prominently in Evil Boy; and I can't help but love the punk bitch-slap of Rich Bich, a faux-gilded gauntlet thrown down to ersatz modern myth-makers Lady G, Pink, and Beyonce, performed with the knowing smirk that they will look at the gauntlet and, like prim sorority sisters in a college comedy, turn on their heels and storm away with their noses in the air, superior and humiliated at once.

Another comment asked if this was some kind of joke? I don't know if the commentator meant my seat-bouncing, seat-wetting enthusiasm for Enter the Ninja or the song itself. What is so striking about
Enter the Ninja and Die Antwoordt is that it does not matter. How peculiar is that? Under most circumstances, whether something is or is not a joke, whether something is or is not ironic, is of the utmost importance; it's usually crucial. But in this case, it does not matter at all. After all, one has every right to approach Die Antwoordt with a tremendous amount of suspicion. The Ninja, Die Antwoordt, also happens to be a satirist, a comic artist, indeed, something of a comic graphic artist; his work, which melds graffiti and Haring and Basquiat graces the backdrop to Enter the Ninja and YoLandi Vi$$er's clothing; and some of his more obvious comic-performance work here is deeply reminiscent of, ahem, this. So is it possible that Die Antwoord is another """performance"""? A sort of South African Larry the Cable Guy or a subsaharan Ben Elton mashed up with Eminem? Baron Cohen meets Kid Rock? The amazing thing is, it does not matter.

The friend who first forwarded me the link to this video did so without providing any context: I had no idea what I was supposed to be seeing. But as we discussed it afterwards, it became apparent how similarly it affected us. Die Antwoord is unapologetic; there is no caveat, no asterisk; and still it courses through convention with all the commitment of myth (for myths are often full of the familiar, the rote, the obvious; it is only recently that we have become shamed and flushed and
embarrassed by myths for being so unironic); it is no wonder they seem "primeval" or, as my friend put it, engaged in "paleolithic dionysian celebration" (you can see why I have so few friends; with friends who say shit like that you don't have time for other people). Die Antwoord is shameless, unapologetic. Comedy is always tussling with apology; one of the reasons why apology is such a problem for comedians is that their art, however brazen and bold, is already asterisked with a tiny apology (it might be called the fool's license; it might come in the form of the "just kidding" excuse where joking and kidding are already exculpatory, shedding responsibility, keyed to apology); in this case, any apology is like a magician explaining his tricks.

If it turns out that Die Antwoordt is a """performance"" - of course it's a performance - it's a next level performance; if the Ninja is a persona - of course it's a persona - I have no problems with that; and remember: an apology is a revocation. If it turns out that this was intended comically - there would still be no revocation. The paper-thin, papier-mache mask of authenticity has been stripped away, leaving us with much more impressive, intrusive, unsettling, and exhilarating masks, faces, grimaces, expressions.

A small addendum, of two points, related to faces. The video has spawned one new work of video art. And, one of the memorable performers in the video for Enter the Ninja is the South African painter and DJ, Leon Botha, who frequently opened for Die Antwoordt; he died just over a month ago of complications related to the condition progeria.


butterfly said...

Once again sw's instincts for the comic show that his opponents have the taste of a skeleton!

Die Antwoord is an Answer for questions whose number exceeds the seconds of our lifetimes and whose depth exceeds our cerebral capacities.

A single frame of Enter the Ninja concentrates more sensuous power and semantic variety than the totality of media that has been produced in two thousand eleven.

Yo-Landi Vi$$er is the anamnesis of the worship of the Venus of Willendorf, and lactates the naughtiness of Betty Boop.

Die Antwoord is not a musical group but Total Art. They are Artaud's dream + humor. They are unprecedented but a culmination. They will return

Jeff Strabone said...

SW's heaven may be populated by faux teenaged lesbians, but in my version the band in heaven plays my favourite song. In fact, they play it all night long.

After SW's earnest praise of Die Antwoord, I cannot tell whether Butterfly's comment was genuine or a genuine '"""performance""'. Then again, to borrow a phrase, what is so striking about it is that it does not matter.

Søren said...

What's so striking about everything is that it doesn't matter.

sw said...


And yet somehow it does.