Madonna has been teasing her latest venture for three months now, releasing mysterious trailers and dubbing the secret project #secretproject because, ya know, it's a secret project. The singer just unveiled the truth in the form of a 17-minute short film, the opening salvo in a new initiative dubbed Art for Freedom.
The film, directed by Madonna and New York photographer Steven Klein, opens with audio of Madonna explaining "how the collapse of economic markets make people distrustful and intolerant" before turning into Madge's own take on film noir. There is leather. There are murders. There is a jailed Madonna delivering speeches about "starting a revolution."
"I keep telling everyone that I want to start a revolution, but no one is taking me seriously," said the serious singer, seriously. "If I had black skin and an afro, would you take me seriously? If I was an Arab waving a hand grenade, would you take me seriously? If I was wearing combat gear and I had an AK-47 strapped to my back, would you take me seriously? Instead, I'm a woman. I'm blonde. I have tits and ass and an insatiable desire to be noticed."
The film plays like a extended version of "spot the cultural reference," as Sartre, Godard and Gil Scott-Heron references are interspersed with images of a baby carriage on fire and Madonna singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee." Madonna unveiled the project via a performance-art piece Tuesday night at New York's Gagosian Gallery, where covered Elliott Smith's classic "Between the Bars" and was dragged by men dressed like prison guards. Watch below.
The iconoclastic singer's film maintains an anti-authoritarian bent, preaching revolution through creative expression. "Freedom of expression sounds like a catchphrase and if you want to be an artist in this day and age, you better have strong arms," says the singer. "You better be prepared to swim upstream in shark-infested waters. You better have thick skin, because when those fascist dictators posing as righteous men come for you with their big leather boots to shut you up; to put a gag in your mouth; to send you away to a penal colony; you better be prepared to fight for what you believe in....you better be prepared to die for what you believe in."
Damn. All that's missing are snippets of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and... oh, wait, there it is at the six-minute mark.
It's a lot to take in, but it's only the beginning of Art for Freedom, a massive project created by Madonna in conjunction with Vice Media and BitTorrent (the latter offering up the film and other assets for free download.) In a press release, Vice dubbed Art for Freedom as a "global digital initiative, led by Madonna, designed to fuel free speech - to respond, address and protest persecution around the world. It is an online public art project encouraging the world to express their personal meaning of freedom and revolution, in the form of video, music, poetry, and photography. Public submissions will become part of the Art For Freedom platform: contributors can join the project by uploading original artwork or tagging original posts #artforfreedom."
If you're not Madonna-ed out at this point, Vice also released a 40-minute interview with the singer below, in which Madge discusses the film, freedom of speech and her "revolution of love" as well as the singer's cover of Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars" to protest the U.S. prison system.