Lucky Star

Madonna Gets the Steven Klein Makeover

A siren, a cipher, a phantom: The "X-STaTIC PRo=CeSS" installation at Deitch Projects
photo: Robin Holland
A siren, a cipher, a phantom: The "X-STaTIC PRo=CeSS" installation at Deitch Projects


Steven Klein
Deitch Projects
18 Wooster Street
Through May 3

In the most contained and unsettling piece, the camera hovers just above Madonna, still in black tights and a body suit, as she flails at the headboard of a wrought-iron bed. Again, her movements are abrupt and restricted; she squats, stretches, throws out an arm, grasps at the headboard, and thrusts her head through its bars over and over again, while indecipherable bits of her voice and music waft through the space. Because we never see more than a sliver of her bent and shadowed face, this is a much more anonymous performance. We can imagine that we're peering into an institutional cell at a madwoman unaware of our presence. Though there's no way to avoid the star power that generates this disturbing little drama, it's effectively dimmed and something simply human emerges. Like the best of Klein's still shots, the video offers a glimpse behind the cloak of celebrity at a solitary figure in constant flux, a woman in the never ending process of becoming and remaining a star. The accompanying catalog—243 pebble-textured, tissue-thin pages of still shots and video grabs that seem to evanesce right before your eyes—suggests that it's all an illusion within an illusion anyway. Jerking mechanically through the videos, Madonna looks like one of those Blade Runner androids mid-meltdown, or a disjointed marionette. The effect may not be as startling as Timberlake's bloody face or Pitt's naked ass, but for Madonna the imagined loss of control is shock enough. In the end, of course, this fantasy of debasement, isolation, and yoga exercises becomes yet another milestone of Madonna's relentless reinvention, but since that sort of start-again-from-scratch transformation has become Steven Klein's specialty, too, their collaboration is as spectacular as it was inevitable.

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