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This photo surfaced on Twitter yesterday of Justin Bieber getting choke-slammed, and I'm still mesmerized by it today. There are a million reasons why it's compelling. The double hoodies, the texting, the amazing lighting, the confusing angles, the casual reactions of everyone around the melee. Even if you're against violence (like me!), Bieber getting choked just seems inevitable. But mostly, it really reminds me of The Last Supper.
I know what The Last Supper is because I went to one Art History 101 class my freshman year of college. The professor was like "here, look at this slideshow and also memorize some dates." I left the class that day thinking, man, forget this. I'm going to become an internet writer. What I'm saying is I'm not qualified for much, especially for explaining the technicalities of why I love this picture. And yet it pressed.
I emailed a few professors who specialize in Renaissance art at illustrious New York institutions of higher learning. They didn't get back to me. I guess the subject line should have been anything other than, "Can you explain why I like this grainy photo of Justin Bieber getting choked out so much?" Whatever, who needs college.
Cut back to me furiously Googling "how to analyze art" in an incognito tab. (Mark Ruffalo can take another stab at the Oscar when he plays me in the dramatic retelling of this unreported story.) I learned a lot on Getty dot edu. Paying attention to lines is a thing you should do, for example. This photo has so many great lines!
Compositionally speaking, which is a phrase I would use if I made it through Art History 101 long enough to write a paper, the bodies are arranged such that there are three triangles. If there's anything I learned from quotes on Instagram, it's that "the eye has to travel! - Diana Vreeland." The eye totally travels here, thanks to all these triangles.
Also, diagonal lines can indicate several things, an art analysis explainer on the internet tells me. They're unstable. They're dynamic. Diagonal lines like to party. That's why they're in the VIP area with Bieber. That's why our initial reaction is, whoa buddy, what else is going on here?
According to internet legend from yesterday, Post Malone is choking Bieber because Bieber put his cigarette out on Mr. Malone's forearm. There's no question the cig thing happened. There's a video and Justin looks like your little brother's most evil, twerpy friend as he carefully places the end of his cigarette on bare flesh. But what's actually happening in the picture is a little more shady. Post Malone denied he choked Justin, saying, "i love Justin y'all tripping lol [sic]." He also reasoned, "if we was fighting someone would have done something instead of just sit around while the beibs gets chokeslammed [sic]."
Which is TRUE. Everyone is acting like Mr. Malone is just feeling Justin's lymph nodes for swelling. But there are more clues.
Everyone in triangle A is well lit in the foreground. Everyone in triangle B is shrouded in darkness as they recede into the background. The peak of triangle A is a well-lit hooded man and he's directly across from the base of triangle B, also a hooded man, on the same middle ground.
The double hoodies with equal footing might as well have been a double rainbow thanks to the rarity of both men actually wearing their hoodies in profile on either side of the action. The well-lit man's hoody matches Bieber's beanie. The man in the shadow's hoody is the same color as Post Malone's shirt. This is magic. This is kismet. This is symmetry, a push and pull of light and dark battling for the final judgement of Bieber's soul.
And finally, there's the remaining sense of mystery that will have scholars arguing for centuries. We're told this is a VIP lounge, but why are there so many people near the famouses? Why is everyone smiling while a chubby white hand reaches from below and grasps a scrawny white neck? Who is that girl texting? Who is that guy texting? Are they texting each other?
Woman: "Post Malone is choking Biebs rn."
Man: "lol right? I heard Biebs put a cigarette out on his mom."
"Arm* sorry autocorrect."
It's all so alive. I should clarify that I'm not saying Justin or Post Malone is Jesus or even Judas. I'm just saying the mystery and the chaos underpin the energy of the moment, casting in relief the calm divine and eternal importance of Bieber getting what he probably deserves. And it gives me the same sparkly feeling that I get when I look at da Vinci's really neat painting.
Idk. I encourage you to draw your own conclusions, but I think this guy agrees with me.