Kanye West and Salvador Dali: Two Fucking Fascists

“Something about Mary, she gone off that Molly 
Now the whole party is melted like Dali…”

During my years as a teacher I loved teaching the Spanish Civil War. As a historical event, it’s like the world’s Bacon’s Rebellion. Thousands of men and women from around the world defied their countries isolationism and illegally went to Spain to fight a war against fascism. Black American men and women (including Paul Robeson and Langston Hughes) were among them. As members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, they saw the writing on the wall- if Spain falls, then goes the rest of Europe, and then the world. Lynchings in the U.S. were a common occurrence in the mid-30s. A fascist world order would end any progress towards the liberation of Black people in the U.S. and the world.

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Now, what the hell does all of this have to do with Kanye West?

Let me tell a quick story.

The year is 1934. While his native Spain is in the throes of the Spanish Civil War, artist Salvador Dali paints “The Enigma of Hitler”, claims that fascist dictator Francisco Franco is “the Greatest Hero of Spain” and that “Hitler turned me on in the highest.”

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Dali is a member of a group of revolutionary, anti-establishment artists, poets and philosophers known as the Surrealists, led by a poet and fierce anti-fascist named Andre Breton.

Dali’s antics don’t go unnoticed. The Surrealist circles go nuts. Surrealism is an anti-fascist, Marxist movement, born in the spirit of rebellion during WWI. Breton puts Dali on “trial”. His excommunication from the tribe of surrealists becomes official.

Dali’s response?

“I myself AM surrealism.”

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So, let’s recap:

A gifted, eccentric artist in a genre of art that was created as a form of resistance and revolution abandons everything his movement stood for in both artistic and personal acts of delusional self-grandeur and pro-fascist ideology.

Sound familiar?

That’s because Salvador Dali was the Kanye West of his day; an artist whose undeniable talent couldn’t be reconciled with his dangerous public antics, and whose actions sparked heated and complex conversations about the relationship between art and the artist, the power of celebrity and the gray lines between eccentricity and anti-social behavior in public life.

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Anyone who is at all familiar with Kanye West’s music knows that his gift as a producer and rapper lies in his ability to juxtapose seemingly contradictory samples and lyrics in an unpredictable and thrilling collage of sound. Consider this excerpt from Pitchfork’s review of Yeezus; “Album pinnacle “Blood on the Leaves” tells a nightmarish story of divorce and betrayal, all while samples of Nina Simone‘s pitched-up “Strange Fruit” and TNGHT‘s demonic “R U Ready” horns play yin and yang to the protagonist’s alternately sorrowful and furious headspace.

Kanye creates a new, multi-dimensional reality in his music, both entirely born of his consciousness and entirely bigger than it.

Now consider the definition of Surrealism: “A 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind by the irrational juxtaposition of images.”

Kanye’s music, especially his last 4 albums, could easily fit this definition. So much of what he says and does as an artist is an “irrational juxtaposition”. He curates sounds that don’t belong together and raps in unpredictable bursts that dance around issues of sexuality, race, loyalty and… croissants?

Kanye is rap’s ultimate surrealist. He’s also recreating the trajectory of surrealism’s ultimate surrealist. The famous melting clock guy- Salvador Dali.

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Dali’s support of Franco was such an outrage to the surrealist community not only because it betrayed the origins and ideals that inspired the movement in the first place, but also because it was personal. Surrealist writer and poet Federico Garcia Lorca was murdered by Spain’s fascist militia in 1936 for being a socialist and a homosexual. Not only were Lorca and Dali friends, it is known that they had a deeply intimate friendship and were most likely lovers.

So, the fascists were responsible for killing people with impunity- members of Dali’s own community.

People he loved.

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 6.10.47 AM.pngDali married a socialite named Gala who was his muse and he further distanced himself from the artists who helped to make him. He was obsessed with Gala’s beauty. He painted her and talked openly about their sexual relationship and exploits.

You know,

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Any research into Dali’s fascist antics uncovers a debate that feels so familiar to our conversations about Kanye. No one really knew if Dali was an egomaniacal narcissist who was just so attracted to power and wealth that he could romanticize a dictator, if he hated himself so much as a gay person that he had to completely embody the political ideology that would murder him for it as a form of safety and distance, or if he just wanted to piss off his friends (Namely Breton- who I’m going to say is the Jay-Z in our analogy) to get their attention.

The Surrealists didn’t care about Dali’s motives, because he was dangerous af. The same is true of Kanye today.

Spain lost the war, thanks to Franco’s friendship with Hitler and a quick phone call that led to bombings that finally brought the rebellion to its knees.

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Black and White Americans fought together alongside international brigades for the world’s freedom during the Spanish Civil War.   It was an incredible expression of solidarity against an enemy that would destroy the world as they knew it. Today, we recognize how dangerous 45 is and with state-sanctioned murder, attacks on the free press and assaults against basic civil rights being a daily occurrence, I can no longer separate the art from the artist.

Sorry, Kanye. It’s over.

 

 

 

Posted in 21st Century Tools, Arts in Education, Culture is Capital, education and politics, Stay Woke.

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