Room 4 - #mylife (2013)
1. Welcome to #mylife
This experimental work has been made with the support of a Jerwood Visual Arts Emergent Artist grant and is my response to the contemporary abundance of TV series in the UK and America which create quasi investigative narratives about specific locations e.g. Made in Chelsea, The Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore, The Valleys, The Hils, Big Rich Texas and The Real Housewives of Orange County to name a few. How we present the dynamics of personal and social interaction has always been the stimulus for my art and I often use family and friends as source material but, on this occasion, I chose to motivate previously unknown volunteers from my local community. The project evolved into a study of glamour in its contemporary guise and resulted in the ‘birth’ of my alter ego ‘Megastar’ and the creation of three episodes of #mylife reality TV series.
To view individual episodes click here: Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3
2. Visiting Las Vegas
I researched this work by visiting Las Vegas, Nevada, in search of glamour and extravagance that is used as a reference point in my hometown. I intended to work as a participant observer but something stirred in my psyche as I experienced just how much people were willing to respond to the project and I was so inspired by their willingness to join in the fantasy that I spent the whole trip dressing up for the occasion and did a shoot at the Neon Boneyard in which I tried to capture the imagined persona of a disenchanted show girl. I started to see the things I filmed as ‘events’ that could be manipulated and learned how to do things ‘for the story’.
Eventually, these insights evolved into the creation of my alter ego, Megastar, a full-on Trow Vegas celebrity.
3. Viva Trow Vegas: Just a small town girl
It all started from my amusement at my hometown of Trowbridge, Wiltshire being called Trow Vegas by so many locals because I liked the irony of a dull place with a bad reputation wanting to be a twin town with somewhere as glitzy as Las Vegas. I’d been completing work about glamour, had done research in Las Vegas, Nevada, and started to look at local girls and the way they dressed and styled themselves.
To make the film, Viva Trow Vegas, I needed to make relationships with local people. This led to all sorts of interesting and funny interactions as they wholeheartedly joined in and shared their own aspiration and personalities. The ‘Meg’ part of me remained a dispassionate observer but my ‘Megastar’ persona was the force behind all the glitzy events I filmed.
4. Official Duties
I knew that I could not make sincere, relevant art about contemporary culture unless I experienced it as fully as possible so I invented ‘Megastar’. As Megastar I anointed myself as town star and official dignitary. I demanded to be treated with due reverence as if I were a celebrity. I acted as my town’s representative, honouree, dignitary, carnival queen, royal correspondent. I made a VIP appearance when the Christmas lights were switch on and was introduced on stage as Megastar by the Town Crier… that was interesting! (confused crowds). I entered the local carnival as Trow Vegas Carnival Queen and appointed my own Trow Vegas carnival princess – that was amazing. I became TV presenter and talked about events of interest and newsworthy people. For example, I interviewed local Olympic athletes and Louise Robbins creator of L’eau de Trow perfume fame and ‘covered’ the Queen’s Jubilee.
5. Manifesting Megastar
To be Megastar I needed to embrace all things social media: I posted 100s of narcissistic ‘selfies’. I embraced all things social media, twitter, instagram, fb, and built a kind of online language. In other words, I began branding and packaging myself and worked out how I could create and manipulate my ‘story’ by creating a persuasive image of my new glamorous self.
When I put this new persona on display in public, I observed how people interacted with me in new and intriguing ways. I was mesmerized to discover how far people who didn’t know me were willing to go along with Megastar’s demands. All the people featuring in the film are new friends who were mostly younger than me in their 20’s and savvy to the language of social media and they all ended up playing parts in the events that I organised.
The bright side of Megastar’s persona is based on a mix of personal messages from my family who taught me that glamour is positive, dramatic, charming and most importantly, inclusive. The darker side Megastar’s persona is based on stories of the rise and fall of pop princesses, popular culture and a personal understanding of the vacuous and narcissistic side to contemporary culture that saturates our daily lives in the media.
6. Just me, my selfie and I
For the duration of the project, I basically lived in a dressing up box obsessed with Megastar styling. I became an ebay addict, I talked about trends, I spoke in hashtags and I developed a liking for neon make up, I made tee-shirts decorated with my own image, I designed and customised my own clothes, created my own range of bows in my signature style. I promoted myself. My life became a bit like the scenes in reality TV where ‘the people are real but some scenes have been manufactured for entertainment.’
I became fascinated by the way in which stories can be manipulated, published and spread through the internet. I’m also interested how we all now create our own online stories and gossip via all the apps available to us and become the stars of our own show. These are often more glamorous than our real lives and we are more attractive filtered versions of ourselves but, on the internet, it is seductively easy to embellish our myth and create our own brand of illusion.
7. Red carpet event
For the premier of my film, ‘Agog: The Grandmother Diaries’ I created and hosted a Trow Vegas themed red carpet event at the old town hall. This was a large scale, orchestrated, performance and gathering organised through social media channels online. The invited audience assembled on the red carpet, all of them dressed in their finest gowns and suits according to taste and predilection, straight, gay, trans, in anticipation and excited expectation of the entrance of their local VIP – Megastar!
It was a strange experience for me to be Megastar especially when the lines blurred. My grandmother passed away during the preparations for the premiere, but there I was dressed in a dramatic gown, standing at the top of glitzy flight of stairs sobbing with grief that she wasn’t there to enjoy all the glamour. It was too strange! Life had got complicated.
I also experienced other emotions like the dread and exhaustion of trying to maintain a glamorous persona in public. The endless photo shoots and costumes and merchandising ideas. I had no team or entourage just a couple of friends to help and my online life didn’t always match of my ‘real’ life and I often felt caught in the middle often laughing, often crying!
8. Megastar merch
Megastar needed her own brand so I set up a "Meggymedia" company developed a brand and set about taking my home town of Trowbridge on an adventure inspired by the constructed world of Las Vegas. This required self-promoting strategies so I brought out a fictional perfume, a tell all autobiography, merchandise, clothing range and started ‘selling’ Megastar through products. I ‘packaged’ Megastar and, like all true megastars, I cashed in on Christmas and Valentine’s Day and produced my own ranges of merch (aka merchandise) and all sorts of swag.
9. Manifesting Mini-star and the Super Fans
It was intriguing to discover how far people who didn’t know me were willing to go along with Megastar. I met Vicky on twitter and she became my star struck protégé ‘Mini-star’ and worked with me on many events. I also found other locals dreaming up ideas for themselves with glamorous imaginations; I met 2 boys who have alter egos and many girls aspiring to be like Katy Perry. I discovered some local gym boys who thrived on becoming celebrity bodyguards at my Trow Vegas red carpet event. I worked with the local town crier who puts on his costume and becomes a different person. I even met one local guy who joined in my red carpet event and was so passionate about Trow Vegas he had a tattoo in homage to our hometown, which he photographed and made a video diary of his tattoo day!
Naming of your fans is also something that pop stars do Katy Perry’s are called ‘kitty kats’, Cher Lloyd ‘the brats, Lady Gaga has ‘the monsters’, Niki Minaj has ‘barbz’ short for ‘barbies’, Justin Bieber ‘the beliebers’ so I named my collective fans ‘the stargazers’. I received fan mail and all sorts of homemade art from the stargazer super fans including: Megastar giant cupcakes and a Trow Vegas slot machine costume. I was surprised with a carnival banner made by Beth who was 10 and found local people who had made their own Trow Vegas signs and parties. I shared and celebrated the stargazers art through Megastar’s social media channels. Megastar, Mini-star and the stargazers were shining like diamonds in the skies of Trow Vegas.
10. Model citizen
To become a credible online celebrity I need to ‘brand’ myself and develop a signature style. I did not employ stylists to work with me over the two years but became the stylist myself with a local friend and presented it all online as if I had a stylist. I sketched outfits, I instagrammed and shared my making of outfits and styling development like I was a team giving fans a sneak peek into Megastar’s world. I used all mainstream apps available. We styled rooms and customised shoes and clothes and printed tee-shirts which I wore in a series of professional photo shoots. The image of me as Megastar became kaleidoscopic. I put a picture of myself on a tee-shirt and was then photographed wearing that tee-shirt. That photograph was printed on to the pocket of a pair of dungarees. In this way, I manipulated the idea of how you see the image. Posters were made of me and then these became the backdrop of further photo shoots. I developed a look of my own which I then further enhanced working with a designer to develop into promotional images of myself as Megastar feeding into my glamorous online persona.
11. Reality TV Series
I used reality TV series format as a tool to control and further manipulate the footage of my film. I scripted dialogue for my voice over borrowing from the vain, self consumed, language of the contemporary stars I both love and buy into whilst seeing the manipulation in their seductive confessionals used in the inherent cultural language of these shows - “You haven’t seen the best of me yet” etc.
I developed my own story of disillusionment at trying to make it big and my hometown just always somehow not getting it right – this was a response to real life being voted last in carnival etc and also fiction that I wanted to develop a story for me. The final film is presented as 3 episodes of online reality TV show #mylife. It seems to display a funny hybrid of ‘Meg’ and the creation of ‘Megastar’. By episode 3 I have become Megastar and I chose to reflect as her in character on all the filmed footage in a in a celebrity interview where I am vain, narcissistic and down right plain bitchy! I looked into specific investigations into the perceived value of glamour and her Premier Opening Night at the London art gallery was a shining example of her personal genre. The series is not presented explaining Megastar just presenting her as she is and this being her story.
12. Music Video
This series of #mylife film episodes have a soundtrack of contemporary pop-princess anthems with girl-power linguistics so I decided to mirror the current trend for registering ‘fandom’ by posting ones own take of a favourite song online. I chose a song by Katy Perry called, ‘Part of me’ because it resonates with me for its redemptive self-empowering message. I shot the video around my hometown of Trow Vegas and even obtained use of our towns genuinely strange mascot Trowbridge Ted to feature as my cheating boyfriend. I designed him a new neon tee-shirt to bring him up to date with fashion and create a FB profile for Trowbridge Ted to have online arguments with Megastar during filming. I present myself in my music video as not a fan but as a diva using self-expression as part of my fame and my ‘story’. For me the music video is the final emancipation of Megastar.
My music video launches during the #mylife exhibition at the Rio Cinema, Dalston on the 27th July. I will be performing on stage as Megastar as part of the event ‘At Home with the Ludskis #9 Voyage & Return Edition (18) 11.30pm’ For tickets click here.
13. Jerwood Visual Arts exhibition
‘#mylife’ was created for exhibition at the Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space. I know that my alter ego would see the private view as a promotional opportunity so I created a social media hype campaign on twitter doing a glossy 20 day countdown to the show calling it the “showpening”. I also customised the name of the exhibition #mylife onto my clothing so that I was wearing the name of my exhibition with attitude – kiss my arse it’s #mylife – and turned up in character as Megastar in a fitting outfit!
#mylife was part of an emerging artist grant from Jerwood Visual Arts with curator Sarah Williams. It’s a solo presentation that features two films; Agog, The Grandmother Diaries and this film about my alter ego, Megastar, entitled, #mylife. The exhibition also includes the launch of my online music video.