London, Oct. 2009 - Jessica Voorsanger is a whirling dervish. She works with a diversity of materials in many different mediums, and the projects just keep coming. Keenly interested in exploring the relationship between viewer and viewed, desire and desired, Voorsanger has developed interactive installations and performances that range from the quirky to the outright absurd. Her work entices the audience into becoming part of the party, a party in which everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. ArtSlant's Georgia Fee met up with Jessica Voorsanger at Pellicci's in the Shoreditch area of London. Over breakfast, they talked about her work and loves. The following exchange resulted from their conversation.
Jessica is currently showing in famous: Celebrity(ies) and Visual Art at the Kunstlerhaus Dortmund (on view November 20 - December 20, 2009)
Jessica Voorsanger at Pellici's cafe, London; Courtesy of the artist
Georgia Fee: You talked about your interest in celebrity culture, and your historical involvement as a fan. What is a fan? Are you the uber-fan? Tell us a bit about your crushes.
Jessica Voorsanger: I grew up in New York City in the 1970’s. I saw celebrities in the street, in shops, etc. all the time. I even went to school with celebrities’ children. I see fans as people who admire a person, celebrity, subject or thing with great enthusiasm (maybe even too much). As in, I am a fan of football or the books of Jane Austen. Where I find the concept of fans really interesting is when they get slightly more obsessive about their interest in their object of desire. I don’t know if I was ‘the’ uber-fan but I was certainly in the deep end of enthusiasm. I’m talking about David Cassidy and my fascination with the idea of celebrity that came from my growing up with celebrity all around me.
Jessica Voorsanger , The Woody Allen Show, 2008, video still from a series of films made as part of an installation celebrating Woody Allen, Galerie 33-FON, Berlin Germany; Courtesy of the artist.
To be an uber-fan I think you really have to be ready to cross any line to be with your idol. Where I did steal Bob Geldof’s rubbish as a piece of work, I would never go so far as to break into someone’s house, as some uber-fans have done. There needs to be a sense that you don’t have a world without David Cassidy (or whoever the subject is) to fit the truly obsessive uber-fan bill. Where all I did was eat, sleep and drink The Partridge Family (David Cassidy’s TV show), I wouldn’t have crossed any legal lines. (I did lie a little though and I did run away when I was 7 to go to LA to be with David. As a 7 year old though, after I walked into unknown territory I got scared and went home). The relationship of being someone’s fan is a really interesting one, as being a fan can be both euphoric and destroying. Fandom is one of the purest forms of unrequited love. All you want is to be with them and what they want is to be nowhere near you.
Now celebrity seems to be more about notoriety and being on any reality TV show is enough. It’s become tawdry. What happened to the Cary Grants, David Bowies and Joe Namaths?
I don’t think being a fan has changed but celebrity certainly has. People used to be celebrities for actually being able to do something like sing, play sports, act, etc. They may not have always had their ‘big breaks’ easily or ethically but, at the end of the day, they did act in films, TV shows, etc. Now it seems really cheap to aspire to celebrity. The entire word has come to feel tawdry and sordid. It is more about notoriety than about being famous for a reason other than being drunk on a reality TV show. I blame reality TV for ruining the gorgeousness of celebrity! I used to see someone walking down the street, and feel the electric buzz in my belly from excitement and energy. This is why I did the installation in Walsall (Stage Struck), asking the question: Are celebrities interchangeable now? In doing that I invited the audience to dress up and sing karaoke by mixing up one vocal artist with another.
I had lots of crushes! David Cassidy was foremost and constant. I loved his pretty face, good humor, and girly hair and bubble gum music. But it didn’t stop me having crushes on other people as I got older, David Bowie, Robin Williams (I know shocking- but true -during his Mork days), Rutger Hauer, Dennis Quaid…. My tastes changed as I got older from being purely bubble gum to being a little bit more dangerous.
Jessica Voorsanger, 1967 Sgt. Pepper's, Mixed media beadwork on felt; Courtesy of the artist.
GF: Is your work really a “fan letter” carried out to the extreme? Romanticism stressed strong emotion as a source of aesthetic experience, and among other things, elevated popular/folk art to “high art.” Do you see your work as somehow referencing