New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art has just paid tribute to everyone’s favorite Canadian ne’er-do-well, Justin Bieber. It’s a show called Bieber Bathos Elegy and it’s the brainchild of performance artist and poet Felix Bernstein.
In the play Bieber appears on stage as an angel “to critique Felix’s perverse rapture and queer museum hysteria.” Incorporating elements of drag, cabaret and opera, the show also features a chorus of gay youth singing “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie.
Bernstein started making Youtube videos as a teenager, but he’s ambivalent about his pop culture-skewering past now. Bernstein’s Youtube channel was pretty active four or five years ago, with performances ranging from Amy Winehouse drag to a spot on medley of kooky songstresses that included Kate Bush, Björk and Joanna Newsom. He adds videos to the site less frequently now.
“It’s an image of myself that I can’t control, that I feel split off from,” Bernstein told the Huffington Post. “And yet I can’t cut off, like Bieber’s pressure to mature and to divorce himself from prior images, but also his addiction to the “hotness” of his self-image.”
Bernstein is 23, and Bieber will be 22 in March. Bernstein says he was never particularly fond of Justin’s music. “I wrote a libretto that mixed lots of personal stuff about my life, with fantasies of Justin Bieber, and musical spectacle, which became part of my book of poems, Burn Book.” The book was released earlier this month.
While Justin’s new album has largely been read as a public apology for years of bad boy behavior, he’s still kind of a jerk, most recently getting ejected from Mayan ruins for attempting to climb them.
The artist doesn’t expect the show to make everyone happy, as he feels that the contemporary art world is too centered around social cliques. When asked to describe recurrent themes in his work, he mentions ugliness and annoying people. In his most recent Youtube video (NSFW), friends roast him, both in the sense of a comedy special and also in the sense that he’s bound with an apple in his mouth and doused in corn oil. “In my new show, I try to ‘annoy’ those coming in with an expectation of fashionable, ironic pop art that will reference hot museum topics and make the in-crowd feel safe.”
(featured image: Felix Bernstein in Bieber and the Elder, via the Whitney Museum)