Tameka Norris’ installation, consisting of a wallpaper of enlarged American currency cascading onto the floor, acts as a backdrop for interested viewers to pose in front of. The scene is framed on both sides by monitors playing the artist’s music video where Norris, rapping to her own lyrics, enacts recognizable vignettes from hip hop videos while bumping and grinding, like a dancer in a Lil’ Wayne video, on multi-million dollar artworks in UCLA’s sculpture garden. The lyrics put an art-world twist on rap braggaddocio: “I’m that black Cindy Sherman and that little Kara Walker. Basquiat resurrected from the dead motherfucka.” Given the influence of art schools like UCLA’s in churning out art stars, like the music industry produces one hit wonders, Norris’ critique, while somewhat one-dimensional, is actually cutting and appropriate. The installation, including the video, was first used as part of UCLA’s 2008 Undergraduate Scholarship Exhibition, where rich benefactors took pictures with their scholarship recipients in front of the gaudy backdrop. Knowing this makes me wonder if the installation would be even more effective now if Norris included these photos as a sort of documentation of the intersection of art, fame, money and academia.
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