Who’s afraid of fan art?
What is art? Something original? lovingly handcrafted? generated out of the primordial goo of an artist’s very being? Good luck flying that one in the age of mechanical reproduction. From Marcel Duchamp to Judy Darragh and beyond, artists have been plundering the objects of everyday life, and the world is much better for it.
It’s easy to be disparaging. If someone’s gone to the trouble of creating something original, why bother with the remix efforts of a bunch of spotty geeks? Well, you can kick around all the theory you like: at the end of the day, it’s fun.
He obliterated the image, added a label by Jasper Johns and renamed it accordingly: “Erased DeKooning”.
Here’s a classic example of the form: Starwars Uncut, made by adoring fans, whose only wish is to honour the story they love, as best they can. It’s an exact, full length remake of A New Hope, in 1,500 individually produced segments by 1,500 different artists. Lego, live action, cardboard cutouts, a vacuum cleaner R2-D2; despite the awful disparity in both style and content, it hangs together in a weirdly cohesive jumble of Star Wars goodness.
Robert Rauschenberg: Erased DeKooning, 1953. Photo source: San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art.
But fan art is not the reserve of die-hard wannabes. Fans are everywhere, it turns out, and the form cuts a swathe amongst the grown ups, too. Richard Rauschenberg bought a pencil and crayon sketch by DeKooning in 1953. He obliterated the image, added a label by Jasper Johns and renamed it accordingly: “Erased DeKooning”. In the wonderful world of 50s New York, that was an act of homage. More locally, Auckland Art Gallery holds in its permanent collection a famous work by Colin McCahon: Here I Give Thanks To Mondrian. If it’s possible to demystify that outside of the concept of fandom, please, knock yourself out.
Colin McCahon: Here I give thanks to Mondrian, 1961. Photo source: Auckland Art Gallery.
We were tipped into all this by our friend Shun-Nga Hui, a graphic design and media student who reinterprets comic book fantasies into reworked versions of her own. To some, they’re the 21st century equivalent of velvet Elvis wall hangings (and what, I hear you ask, is wrong with that?). To others, it’s a straight-ahead good time immersion in the ecstatic vibrancy of manga life. And we reckon that's worth celebrating.
Shun-Nga Hui: Roy Mustang, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.