On October 11, Madonna.com announced the debut of the controversial Art For Freedom initiative (The Secret Project) in Palestine; the premiere will take place in Jericho at the Spanish Gardens.
After a very incisive CNN interview with Anderson Cooper where he prodded Madonna to reveal the real motivation behind her Art For Freedom project (not to mention the controversial black & white movie that comes along for the ride as the promo for this unprecedented effort), it is still not clear whether Madonna's efforts in this realm are being noticed. Despite the bizarre Harper's Bazaar article that diverted the attention away from this timely effort, the project deserves a huge applause.
For three decades, Madonna's outspoken candor allowed her to get exactly what she strived for: Attention. The monetary success behind her richly rewarded career is analogous to successful advertising campaigns: Attention that leads to product sales. Yet for Madonna, it doesn't end there and she has taken many socially conscious steps to approach her giant fame in a unique way; perhaps an approach that would have saved the lives (and the likes) of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston if they had followed a similar path and focused more on their global influence rather than drowning in their solipsistic worlds fueled by unctuous fans.
What is very different in Madonna's approach is that she has maintained a sober, realistic look at the world around her -- a bit tough when you are arguably the most famous woman on earth. Her access to resources and her unequivocal world tours (the most successful female touring artist to date) grant her the right and the platform to speak on behalf of anybody (and any cause) she chooses to support. She is conscious of who she is and what her achievements really mean. This simple fact puts her in a different category than her younger competitors, along with some of her contemporaries who have bitterly faded away after declaring Madonna's 'inevitable demise' 25 years ago.
With reality shows peaking and bursting out of the rating boxes, with karaoke shows reaching out to the nameless cues to make them 'idols' and with the digital monetization system that prompts YouTube to write a check for 8 Million USD to the creators of Gangnam Style, no one in the age of Facebook can accuse anyone for trying to seek some form of fame or notoriety.
Madonna achieved her 'advocacy rights' without hiding behind an anonymous mask; her performances showed a woman who was in touch with her (decidedly salacious) sexuality, quite often risking artistic failure in front of billions. Some of these efforts were rightfully panned, but after 28 Grammy nominations and 7 wins, the critics are having to find other ways to dismantle her. Her new project must not be one of them.
What is mostly unknown about Madonna is her tireless work ethic as a 'performing athlete'. As we witness this fact especially through her tour documentaries, Madonna's olympian discipline can perhaps be compared with (the now happily retired) Tina Turner's physical stamina. Yes, it's physical. The tours are their Olympics and how they maintain their bodies is a testament to how far the human body can sustain strength and vitality on stage. (As the world witnessed the physical demise of Jackson while he was preparing for one of these tours, it was obvious that one can't remain a physical mess in this dangerously hot pursuit for long.)
Madonna's efforts can be superficially dismissed as useless attempts to 'defy' aging, but they're not: Madonna (55), along with Tina Turner (73), showed women across the globe what their true potential could be if they don't subscribe to conventional -- and mostly misogynistic -- notions of what it means to be a free, successful and -- here comes the crescendo -- a beautifully aging woman. Through their unique talents, they re-defined beauty and combined it with physical strength, motherhood and social consciousness.
Madonna's support for the Russian band Pussy Riot, her unyielding advocacy for gay rights (even when it was not 'cool' to do so), her AIDS prevention charities, her adoption of two African boys that put a virtually unknown destitute country (Malawi) on the consciousness map, her open-minded view on the legal aspects of freedom of speech and her yet-to-be-matched stage presence makes her -- and this project -- globally significant.
Speaking of freedom of speech, Madonna was fighting for it at the front lines 25 years ago when her lyrics and videos were censored; by the same company that brings us Miley Cyrus with a 'twerking' smirk. Many people may not know that even in 2013, despots like Vladimir Putin (who sued her for 1 Million USD for criticizing him in Russia, put tens of her fans in jail for their advocation of LGBT rights after an impassioned speech at her Russian concert and incarcerated members of the band Pussy Riot for having the courage to rightfully speak against his dictatorial caprice) target Madonna on a regular basis.
The artists and journalists held captive in the ominous prisons of Russia, Turkey, China, Iran and elsewhere may have a better sense of what Madonna is talking about when she utters the word "consciousness" in this courageously curated project of hers; these projects help raise awareness and activate world's conscience. Creative freedom of speech advocates are welcome to unite at www.artforfreedom.com.
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