M.I.A. + Beck’s: We’re not putting labels on anything.

yep art (work)


Given her “It’s not me, it’s you” response to last year’s Super Bowl hullabaloo (check back soonish for some brilliant thoughts on that whole bushel of b.s.; spoiler alert: Both sides are culpaballs), one might have the impression that M.I.A. doesn’t give a lot of thought to her participation in broad-scope, PR-driven corporate promotions.

And one might have a point there. After all, M.I.A. didn’t really exercise free will or personal choice (or responsibility or actual thought) in regards to her participation in Beck’s “Let’s get some mid-level pop stars to design our beer bottle labels” program, apparently. In fact, the whole thing was pretty much out of her hands, to hear her tell it.

[Quotes from her Spin interview on the subject cut ‘n’ pasted verbatim (M.I.A. 4 RLZ); free ‘n’ easy translation (M.I.A. 4 LOLZ) provided by a confidential source. Tough-ass, hard-hitting interrogation administered by seasoned/accredited pop music thinker Julianne Escobedo Shepherd.]

M.I.A. 4 RLZ

So how did you wind up working with Beck’s?
Things have their way. I was in India at the time doing artwork anyway, and somebody sent it to me, and it kind of fit with the theme of what I was making. And so I said yes because I felt like it was perfect.

I didn’t really peg you for a beer drinker!
I’m not too much of a beer drinker, but when I was at art school, Beck’s always sponsored shows and stuff like that. I remember it being like a beer haze, not for me, but for most of my friends.

You developed the whole label design?
Yeah, I was making that as a painting, or with those elements anyway, and I put together a version for them out of what I was making for myself at the time.

I was doing this artwork anyway. I’m not really much of a beer drinker. Back in ARTWORK SCHOOL, though, it was like beer-goggles central! I mean, not for me, mind you. Hey, anyone who remembers Beck’s in the nineties wasn’t really there, nahmean? But seriously, other people drank beer and I didn’t. I said “Beck’s,” back there, right? Not “beer”? Okay.

Anyway, when Beck’s called my agent, I just sent over some artwork I was making at the time and took the check. I mean, the check didn’t taste like beer. Beer’s just gross. Wait, I said “beer,” not “Beck’s,” right? Hey, is this being recorded?

M.I.A. 4 RLZ

What are you most looking forward to having —
I’m not going to say anything controversial in this interview.

I’m not trying to ask you anything controversial, I just wanted to ask you about your art reaching a larger audience through Beck’s. Have you thought about that?
Yeah, before artists would struggle with the art and commerce thing, but now I think you have to have a certain conviction about your work and I think the canvas is irrelevant, you can put it on anything these days. As long as you’re not like, you know there are certain things I won’t agree to, but sitting down and having a drink, and having a little chat is a good thing, and that’s what people tend to do, you know. They get drunk and get together, so.

Your style is so specific artistically, and recognizable as a generational thing so it’s sort of cool to see in a more mainstream context.
Also, it’s just like, it was like five dudes [doing the] labels and it was like getting that feminist perspective. I just wanted to make something that was like, an evolution of the design stuff but still part of what I did before kind of thing.

In the past, artwork vs. commerce was an issue artworkists struggled with. But now, you have to have a certain conviction about your work. Sure, you can quote me on that. What?

Anyhow, yeah, there are certain checks I wouldn’t take, of course, but Anheuser-Busch? Sure, why not? See if I can blag some of that Spuds McKenzie paper, girl. I mean, it’s not like Bud did those Swedish Bikini Team ads; the King of Beers would never pander to a male demographic with that kind of misogyny.

Oh, hey—“feminine” and “feminist” mean the same thing, right?

Plus, let’s be honest: When else am I gonna get mentioned in the same sentence as Jeff Koons, am I right? And… Lemme see that list. Hang on—Ladyhawke did one, too? And, wait; “Hard-Fi”? Who the fuck? Get my agent on the phone—this interview is over.


I mean, not to be a dick about it or anything, but just a note to Ms. I.A.: If you’re cool to partner with a giant corporation and take a check, but get uptight afterward about the aspects of their messaging that are sexist and disrespectful, especially toward women, you might want to consider using your Beck’s fee to pay your lawyer to stop you in advance when Hooters calls.

P.S. re: M.I.A.:

Missing In Activism
Making Income Accidentally
Missed Inebriation in Academia
Multinational Incorporated Artwork
¡Motherfuckin’ IconoKlass*tic AnarKKKista!
Maker of Inflammatory (beer label) Artwork
Molotovs, Insurrection and Accounts-receivable
Moderately Interesting Artist

* …warfare! Gotcha!