The genius of Andy Warhol's oft-quoted quip - that 'in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes' - is not in its prescience (it's patently untrue), but in the unreasonable expectations it foreshadowed, maybe even engendered. Today, fame is no longer perceived as a mysterious phenomenon that happens to you, but a product that can be manufactured: a cultural fugue born of demographic knowledge, exquisite timing, loads of cash and, oh yeah, talent.
'Fandom' is a group show of mostly young artists whose work dallies with this theme, dancing around the core issue as art is wont to do - since visual artists crave fame as much as anyone else, except they're too interesting and/or fucked-up to play a more high-percentage game, like politics or celebrity assassination. Kevin Kaempf comes closest to the latter with documentation of his attempts to contact Bruce Nauman, arguably the world's most famous artist. A form letter from one of the reclusive star's handlers politely rejects Kaempf's request for an audience, citing Nauman's busy schedule and his Garboesque need for privacy. Kaempf superimposes his own fantasy response over this letter, screenprinted on a piece of clear Perspex: a personal note from the man himself, inviting the earnest art student to a hoe-down on his desert ranch, to join Charlie Ray, Ann Hamilton, and just plain 'Kiki' in a game of horseshoes. Nearby, Kaempf has built a concrete maquette of the fabled Nauman compound, presumably from direct (and clandestine) observation.
Kaempf's little display - neither too scary in its obsession, nor overly impressive in its persistence - is nonetheless resonant in its consternated failure: who hasn't fantasised about something feasible but unlikely, then chickened out at the first closed door, leery of the consequences of success? Kaempf probably could have met Nauman had he shown a bit more pluck and savvy; instead he builds a monument to his own fear and insecurity, while blaming the unsuspecting object of his frustrated adulation. (Such self-sabotage, is the seething core of much good art: the pantheon is strewn with the interesting tantrums of failed rock'n'rollers, philosophers, and counter-culture queens).
Failed attempts at fame are often funny (when they're not our own, of course); sometimes they're funny-pathetic, like Danny Hobart's cheesy copy-shop posters promoting his non-existent career as a film-maker and music star (and friend of Johnny Depp); other times they're just jokey, as in Scott Carpenter's appearances in the audience of dozens of daytime talk shows. Along with carefully edited videotapes, Carpenter displays art-school textbooks autographed by the shows' hosts - like inexplicably popular television star Joan Rivers' inscription of 'gossip, gossip, gossip!' in a copy of the collected essays of inexplicably popular art star Peter Halley. Such strategies flirt with banality, however, playing at the arid border of art and ordinary eccentricity; among those even further afield in 'Fandom' are CAR, a husband-and-wife team whose sole art activity appears to be showing pictures of their school-age son to passers-by.
Two pieces in 'Fandom' seem out of place in that they take a step back and dispassionately observe fanhood; not necessarily as a result, they end up being the most interesting. First is Claire Jervert's double set of Polaroid photos, shot from video screens: one set, in black and white, shows television-audience members from the 50s and 60s, while the other, in colour, depicts more contemporary faces. While all the apparently American audiences are watching ordinary entertainments (game shows, professional wrestling), their unblinking stares and clenched fists could just as easily be taken from Third Reich parade footage - or a stateside equivalent yet to come.
And then there's the pièce de résistance: a double-bill presentation of Jeff Krulik and John Heyn's Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986) and Neil Diamond Parking Lot (1997), videos shot a decade apart outside the USAir Arena (née Capital Center) in Largo, Maryland. Both are often hilarious stream-of-consciousness studies of pre-concert crowds: Heavy Metal... is the more entertaining and edgy, due to its subjects' now-nostalgic outfits (tight spandex on the men, Farrah Fawcett hair on the women) and boisterous, vaguely dangerous inebriation. One senses that Krulik and Heyn - as documentarians, rank amateurs - are getting in over their heads, especially when they purposely goad the rowdy crowd into expressing their allegiance to Judas Priest (the band in concert) and their opinion of other forms of music. One fellow, known to the video's connoisseurs only as 'Zebra Man' (for his boldly striped, form-fitting outfit), expresses the crowd's prevailing attitude toward punk rock: 'That shit belongs on Mars, man' he sneers, adding, 'Madonna's a dick'. Eminently self-assured (if probably stoned) and resplendent in his wannabe get-up, Zebra Man is the epitome of true fandom, seeing right through punk's cynicism and young Madonna's strategising, and defending his mystical heroes against a future where the line between famous and fan is only a matter of business acumen.