Modern Art

Lady Gaga, John Lennon & More Celebs Doing Performance Art (VIDEO)

Famous actors and musicians go out of their comort zones for the sake of art. Watch as these celebrities take art to the limit as only they can.

08.09.13 7:45 PM ET

Lady Gaga

From the meat dress to emerging from a womb-like egg at an award show, it seems like all of Lady Gaga's life could be classified as performance art. However, recently she teamed up with performance artist Marina Abramovic to film a bizarre piece of performance art. During the two minute video she hits one continuous note, which is played throughout, stands in a clearing with cones on her eyes, wanders naked in the forest, and hugs crystals against her naked body. It might be connected to her upcoming album, ARTPOP, but it may also be related to nothing at all. Such is art.

Jay Z

Before Gaga did her piece with Marina Abramovic, Jay Z was taking cues from the famed performance artist. Case in point, his epic six hour rap marathon in July at New York's Museum of Modern Art. For hours on end, Hova recited his song "Picasso Baby" to a revolving cast placed in his performance area including random audience members, celebrities and even Diania Widmaier Picasso, the granddaughter of Picasso. Several people were equipped with GoPro cameras to film the performance, to be a part of a music video for Jay Z's song. 

Tilda Swinton

Androgynous Oscar-nominated actress Tilda Swinton took part in a performance art installation, also at the MOMA in New York, called 'The Maybe.' In the installation, the British thespian would sleep in a glass box in the museum with nothing but pillows and a water jug. Museum visitors watched as she slept. The 'maybe' portion of the piece was due to the fact that there would never been any advanced notice on whether or not Swinton would be sleeping in her glass box on any given day. Even the museum wasn't given advanced notice for when she would show up, and visitor queries about whether Swinton would be there were met with "maybe."

James Franco

On the season six premiere of the Sundance Channel show Iconcolasts, which pairs together two artists and films the creative results, James Franco was paired with Marina Abramovic and the result was something unusual, expensive and shiny. James Franco sat patiently and quietly as Abramovic stuck sheets of gold leaf onto his skin in order to transform him into a living sculpture of gold. What does it mean? Not much according to Abramovic. "Sometimes with art it's important just to look," she said of the golden Franco. 

Milla Jovovich

Proving that she has acting chops as well as beauty, Milla Jovovich decided to play the part of a character while being trapped in a Plexiglas cube for six hours with only her electronics for company in this performance piece designed by model and artist Tara Subkoff. The cube was placed outside for passersby to see as part of the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy. Jovavich ordered dozens of pieces of artwork to her clear cube until she could hardly move. In an interview with V magazine, Subkoff said the piece was meant to be a comment on advertising, commercialism and how technology affects our relationships. 

Joaquin Phoenix 
Joaquin Phoenix didn’t just spend a couple of hours on his performance art project—he spent two years and made an entire movie about it. In 2008, the Oscar-nominated Phoenix announced his intentions to quit his successful acting career to become a rapper. Many questioned if he was telling the truth, especially after his bizarre appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, but Phoenix insisted he was serious and filmed a “documentary” with Casey Affleck that followed him in his new career. After the release of I’m Still Here in September 2010, director Affleck revealed the whole thing to be a hoax. “It’s a terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career,” he said.

John Lennon /Yoko Ono 
John Lennon and Yoko Ono frequently used performance art to spread their message of peace in the 1960s. One of their performance concepts, bagism, involved them putting their entire bodies in a bag and sitting in that position for an extended period of time. The idea behind bagism was that people would only be judged for their message and not for their physical appearance. Lennon believed in the idea so much that he mentioned it in three of the songs he wrote—“The Ballad of John and Yoko,” “Come Together,” and “Give Peace a Chance.”

Icelandic singer Bjork is known for her odd behavior, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when she wore her famous swan dress to the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001. She even laid an egg on the red carpet and later said of her dress, “Right now, swans seem to sort of stand for a lot of things.” Bjork also participated in performance artist Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present” project at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in 2010.

Willem Dafoe
Actor Willem Dafoe is yet another celebrity to work with Marina Abramovic. In 2011, he began starring in director Robert Wilson’s The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, a play based on the artist’s life and career. When describing his role in the production, Dafoe said “I’m actually a combination of things. I’m a structural element, I’m the front-of-the-curtain man, I give information, I embody the principal male characters of (Marina’s) life.”

Amanda Bynes?
Amanda Bynes has been involved in one controversy after another in recent months. From calling everyone (mainly Drake) “ugly” to setting a stranger’s driveway on fire, the actress has been the subject of endless debate. Many wonder if her behavior is all just a performance similar to that of Joaquin Phoenix (she also has plans to start a rap career), or if it is the result of something more serious. Bynes was placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold after the fire incident last month and her mother was recently granted legal control over her finances and well-being.