Because of the Internet, or because we’ve acquired some kind of maturity vis-à-vis the mass media, celebrities’ social role has changed in recent years. It’s not that they’re less interesting but now we demand greater transparency.
Consequently, many have rediscovered art’s ancient function as a public conscience and they use their media leverage for social purposes. An example? Madonna; who is not only still the greatest pop icon of our time, but also the one most committed to the fight for human rights, as demonstrated by her frequent public statements, her humanitarian work in Malawi and her recent project Secretprojectrevolution and Art For Freedom.
Secretprojectrevolution is a short film co-directed with Steven Klein. It calls for a “Love revolution […] a revolution of independent thought, of having your own opinion and not giving a damn about what people say”.
The movie has an autobiographical slant and reflects the many battles against stereotyping that Madonna has fought in her life. “How can you create art without becoming involved?”, says Miss Ciccone. “I like to compare myself to Frida Kahlo: everything she did was a self-portrait”.
The movie was intended as the advertising campaign for her lingerie range, but Secretprojectrevolution turned into a manifesto against oppression. It is founded on a sensuous, noir choreography featuring scenes of masochism shot in the labyrinth of rooms of a former prison in Buenos Aires.
Madonna alternately plays the roles of prisoner and torturer, accompanied by political messages about control and punishment. “Sometimes we are the victims of oppression, other times we imprison ourselves”, she says. “The movie is an example of the paradoxical world we live in”.
Art For Freedom is the next stage on from the movie. It is a digital platform in association with Vice Media that hosts videos, photos, illustrations and documentation of performances addressing intolerance and persecution. “There was a time when art reflected what was happening in society”, she proceeds, pensively. “Artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Richard Pryor or Jean-Luc Godard made political statements through their art”. The object of Art For Freedom is “to encourage people to believe that we can bring about change in the world through art” and a cry of protest against the commoditization of creativity.
Her greatest source of inspiration is the writer and activist James Baldwin, who has spoken at length of an artist’s responsibility in society. “By allowing ourselves to be consumed by corporate branding, worrying about having the approval of others and promoting only what is acceptable and popular, we destroy our art and everything about it that’s unique”, Madonna states.