Tuesday 16 July 2013

Q & A with Jessica Voorsanger

Amazing artist and brilliant person Jessica Voorsanger makes work that explores the concept of ‘celebrity’ within popular culture; through obsession, fans and media representation. This month you can see her work at "I Love You Because" show at The A Side B Side Gallery. The Rebel: You studied at both Goldsmiths College and Rhode Island School of Design. How pleased were you with the education you received? Do you Michael Gove will make Art Schools a thing of the past? Jessica: "I received an amazing education. It was great to have a mixture of the American and British systems. They complimented each other really well. But I think I really formed myself as an artist with my time on the MA at Goldsmiths. I will always think back on that time there very highly. AND it was subsidised, I could never have afforded to continue my education if it hadn't been. Yes, if Michael Gove has anything to do with it, he will decimate art education. Watch him - he is dangerous." The last time we met you were getting ready for a Factual Nonsense event in which you were giving a talk about Joshua Compston. Were you a fan/friend of the late Mr Compston - why is he important to you? "I was both a fan and a friend of Joshua's. He was an inspired and fearless person. He saw great visions and possibilities and wasn't afraid to make them happen. He really created the shoreditch art scene." Which celebrities have obsessed you most? Could you compile a top ten? "Ooooohhhhhh! That's a fun question. They always change around a little. I will include historic obsessions with current ones: Johnny Depp, David Cassidy, David Bowie (lots of Davids), Carol Burnett, William Shatner (Star Trek 1), Scott Bakula (Star Trek 2). Ten is alot. I really like Audrey Tatou at the moment but that's not really an obsession I'm just watching all of her films... Claudette Colbert definitely. Two more.... Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers! You know I'm currently also really liking Doris Day. Oops sorry that makes it 11." I recently met Woody Allen (he came to see the L.S. Lowery show) are you a fan of just the stand-up and the "early funny movies" or do you like his recent output as well? "For a long time it was only the early stuff I really liked (although when I saw early I am still talking about the 80's as well). His stand up is hilarious and the timing is great. But I really loved Midnight in Paris. That might have more to do with time travel and meeting famous people from the past? But I loved everything about that film so I am keen to see his new ones...." Do you love Peckham? How did your recent Peckham project go? "For awhile I was in Peckham all the time! I was doing the residency at Peckham Space which involved working with kids from the Harris Academy school and I taught at Camberwell. Yes, Peckham is pretty fab. There is a really thriving art scene there and great folks. But I still feel my roots are attached to East London. The project went really well. It was terrific to see people loving the karaoke aspect of the project. Apparently everyday after school lots of school kids would come in and sing." What next for Jessica Voorsanger? "Well, I've been ill with Cancer for several months and am now on the mend. While I was ill I created a series of photos of myself as bald men (while I was bald from the chemotherapy). The series is really powerful and personal. So I am trying to work with that at the moment. Watch this space! Also I will have a stall at the Art Car Boot Fair at the Queen Elizabeth Park celebrations on the weekend of the 27th of July." What's your favourite Elvis song? (and why?) "Crawfish! I LOVE Crawfish. It just hits that quirky note in my personality that I could sing to it all day. I would have loved to be that backup singer." What can you tell me about the piece you're putting in the I Love You Because show - are you happy for anyone to try on your Elvis costume? "Yes anyone can wear it! The piece was originally shown at the New Art Gallery Walsall as part of a large installation (that also had karaoke). There were lots of portraits of (mostly) singers and costumes for the audience to dress up as them. They were shown in a Karaoke Lounge style installation. The installation was a reaction to Reality TV taking over 'celebrity' and making it become 'notoriety'. I wanted to celebrate people who deserved to be famous because they were actually good at something (mostly singing because I can't). I wanted the audience to be able to become them. That's why there is a portrait and a costume. I love it when people try on the costumes." Would you ever consider re-making an Elvis film? "Wow! Yes I would love to. Blue Hawaii. I didn't need to think about that answer at all!" If you and Elvis could meet and spend a day or evening together where would you take him? Are there any places in London you'd like him to see? "Hmm that's hard. I don't know if I could handle the gaze. It would be amazing to be with Elvis but I might just freeze up and start speaking jibberish. Where in London would I take him? Ummm, I think that lovely boat that goes between Tate Britain and Tate Modern. I love riding that. We could sing together on the deck!" (Photos by Gordon Beswick)

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