Lupe Fiasco has been hard at work touring and preparing for his next full length release, Tetsuo & Youth. Wasalu Jaco, on the other hand, hasn't been rapping at all. The multifaceted artist more commonly referred by his multi-platinum selling stage name, recently displayed some of his visual offerings at a pop-up instillation in NYC, entitled "Bound." What resulted was an arresting display of multimedia. Photos attached to battery packs, a Pagliuca crime family mafia service agreement contract, and broken glass coming together. The artist himself questioning art itself.
We briefly sat down with the Chicago emcee to discuss his thoughts on his third (!) art exhibit, the purpose of duality within the pieces, and his creative place.
EBONY: What were you trying to convey with the BOUND pop-up art installation?
Lupe Fiasco: Well, at once its an exercise in duality, recognizing duality, that's how I work. Working in irony and in ironic situations. This one particularly had to do with museums so all the photos are taken at museums around the world. And specifically, photos that are taken of me "breaking the rules" of that particular museum. So I might touch something in a "do not touch" zone—you're kinda breaking the rule on the surface, but you're not really [breaking it]. You're not because the sign is meant to say 'don't touch the art, don't touch this… don't touch the picture, don't touch the sculpture.' For me, I took it as more like, I'm going to just touch this..and it started off as personal joke for myself and then as I started going out to different museums, seeing different signs, different versions of different signs, different fonts of signs and logos and etc and then just completely off the wall instructions for you like yo, keep 18 inches away from all the paintings et cetera, et cetera. Its like, c'mon! Ok, now I came up with different ways to kinda break those rules, so if it was a 'do not cross' [sign], for instance, I would create a little cross, then put the cross down then take a picture of that. If it was a 'do not photo' sign, 'no photography allowed' sign… I would take a photo of the 'do not photo' sign. That would break the rule in a sense. Then it became to provide a service where it was like, hmmm…maybe if the museum had done this, then this wouldn't have happened. I wouldn't have touched this, ya know. I wouldn't have even touched this sign, I wouldn't have even broke the rules in a light-hearted way, I wouldn't have been able to do it all if that 'do not cross' line was a mouse trap or if it was barb-wire or if it was broken glass or if it went to the point to be a little more absurd, if this picture had AIDS. Just imagine walking up to a painting [that said] if you touched it that you'll have AIDS. And then kinda take those methods of how to protect the paintings and them create them. So that's why you have the "do not photo" section protected by a "voodoo, alter situation." You have the crucifixes 1 and 2 protected by the power of Christ. You got the "please keep off" protected by mouse traps..rat traps or what have you. So its all of these pairings of these kind of photos and you see me personally breaking the rules. You actually see the hands of the artist breaking the rules, touching the 'do not touch' sign, but then coming back and trying to reinforce for you not to touch it, but in a very real way. By saying 'hey, this photo is actually connected to this car battery and if you touch it it'll electrocute you.' Maybe if the museum did that in the first place then I wouldn't have touched it. So that's the crux of it, but within that there's a deeper meaning about institutions and the institutions of the art world. Why do these things have value? Are they valuable because they are protected? Or are they protected because they are intrinsically valuable.
EBONY: Explain the greater meaning of these pieces.
LF: Every piece, whether it be the title of the piece, what I use to execute the piece with, what I paired the installation piece with it, has a deeper meaning beyond that. It all has layers to every piece if you choose to investigate and sit there with it like you would sit there with a piece of art. But what you're looking at as opposed to looking at a painting, you're looking at a rule that was used to protect the painting. Now that floor got put on the wall. Now take this floor as art. Are you willing to do that? Can you do that? Is it accomplished because its in a gallery now? And its framed, and its behind a mat, and it has lights on it and their is a critique off it and there is art critics and collectors, is this now art?
EBONY: Where is your creative place?
LF: My creative place has always been duality, metaphor, simile, entendre. Whether I did that with words or did that with a story or did that now with pictures and then paintings and sculpture. For me, it doesn't matter what the medium is. It still comes back to that honest, creative force within me– which is being able to manipulate and give things a certain context..to look at things from a certain point of view, which gives them something based as this. I admit some of the subject matter is very based, in some aspects its very boring until you give it the context. And the context of it is what makes this…i'll say what makes this penny worth a million dollars. Because you gave that penny the context. You gave that penny a million dollar context. In the same way you can take a million dollars and make it worthless if you put it in a particular context. If you got a million dollars on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, its worthless. But if you put a penny in a frame in a museum and say "I rubbed this penny on the shoulder of whomever." now that penny is worth a million. So it's that idea of value, what creates value, and why we appreciate things.