Having explored the various facets of America’s celebrity worship through exhibitions satirical, political, and even scatological, controversial performance artist Chris Brown recently took a page from David Cronenberg’s Crash, rear-ending a woman in an auto accident for all of us to experience. The happening—a theatrical metaphor for the nation’s fascination with watching wrecks play out in the lives of the famous, as well as an actual famous-person wreck—was staged last month in Los Angeles. According to the L.A. City Attorney’s Office, Brown now faces two misdemeanor charges that may not only violate the self-delusions we harbor about control, but also his probation, potentially sending him to prison for up to a year.
These include the charge of “hit-and-run”—evoking deliberate reference to Brown’s violent assault of Rihanna and his subsequent escape from any real consequences amid rampant obfuscation and denial. “Indeed, what is Chris Brown’s life since that night but a hit and run to which we have all borne witness?” this latest piece asks, while also accurately describing how he hit a car then allegedly left after giving false information.
Of course, much as Warhol used mechanical repetition to create distance in his own “Car Crash” series, Chris Brown has once more taken to Twitter to say everyone is out to get him again. “It’s not a hit and run if u get out the car, exchange information (who has NO DAMAGE to either cars). This is really ridiculous,” Brown said, subsequently claiming that, even though he gave the woman valid info, “She saw cameras and wanted to make a scene. She contacted the cops thinking of a payday from Chris Brown when I followed the proper procedures.” (TMZ has video of the woman making a scene—mostly by talking quietly, in the usual art film tradition.) Brown then invoked “yellow journalism,” incorporating a trenchant critique of the sensationalistic means by which the media continues to report charges against him as publicly filed in courts of law.
Ever the multimedia artist, Brown also included photos of the car he hit, captioning it, “NO damage. Just a dirty car,” perhaps as an allusion to the way his own reputation remains sullied but unbowed. Or, that in this world of supposed “victims” and “people who hit those victims and are generally assholes about it,” no one is truly clean. Or, that this woman had a dirty car.
Whatever your interpretation, the main thesis, as always, is clear: “19-24 years of age. I don't have all the answers and you can't show me a person that age who has it figured out,” Brown said, illustrating that within every man is but an innocent child aged 19 to 24, who remains bewildered by universal mysteries like why acting like a giant, petulant asshole about everything creates unexpected drama. “We live and grow. Let me live,” Brown concluded, thus returning to this restless inquiry into the human spirit.