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I have long held a quiet fascination with Lindsay Lohan—the Parent Trap twin conspiracy, hitting a baby in its pram with her Maserati, the Mona Lisa eeriness of her mugshots, are all points of intrigue. So, when Matchbox Studios recently hosted Claire Harris to watch Lindsay’s complete filmography over 29 hours for her 29th birthday, I made certain to catch the performance art piece. I caught it through the online live stream, finding it the perfect balance between ridiculous and warmly provoking, its simplicity making it successful both as performance art and as an act of fan love. Wanting to know more, I emailed the artist:
A bit about you?
I’m a Wellington-based artist. I work in a variety of mediums mostly with some kind of narrative basis, for example performance, video, and zines. Fandom and identity as mediated by celebrity culture is a big theme in my work. I’m also a member of art band Fantasing.
How did you come up with the idea?
I first did Happy Birthday Lindsay Lohan in 2011 on Lindsay’s 25th birthday. This was during the time when she was under house arrest due to her DUI conviction. I wanted to do something to try and express a sense of goodwill and solidarity to Lohan and to refocus attention on her body of work, and looking at how prolific her acting career had been, I realised that the runtime of all the films she had been in added up to 25 hours. That’s when the idea of the movie marathon occurred to me.
I had already been musing on a kind of “deheroics” of performance art, trying to recontextualise the physical discomforts, durational endurance and repetitions of key performance art works into everyday forms of ritual and meaning creation. With the movie marathon, I was able to draw a direct analogy to teen girl sleep overs as ritual sites of construction and consumption of “girlhood”.
What drew you to Lindsay Lohan in the first place?
I’d been a fan of Lindsay Lohan since her role in Freaky Friday. I find her a compelling performer and think she would have had a great career under the Hollywood studio system. There’s a core fangirl love I have for Lindsay that’s beyond analysis. There’s also so much culturally telling stuff about our society’s dismissal of and discomfort around young women in the narratives around Lindsay.
As Lindsay tried to transition into playing adult roles, one persistent rumour was that parents at test screening for Herbie: Fully Loaded had complained about Lindsay’s breast size, claiming it was inappropriate for a family film, and that the movie producers had responded by digitally shrinking her breast size in post production. That struck me as so telling—that having had a career as a child model and actress, the reaction to her adult body was to see it as obscene by definition.
It also seemed to me like there was a ghoulish hunger for Lohan to self destruct, and a dismissive tendency toward her, like an assumption that she must be a bad actress. With the first HBLL, I was really interested in what the reaction would be to me publicly taking Lindsay Lohan seriously as an actress and culturally meaningful figure. My overall artist statement can be boiled down to “I was sick of people making fun of Lindsay Lohan”. I’ve done HBLL in some version every year since, extending the marathon by an hour each time to match her age and increasing filmography.
How was the experience itself?
The experience itself is all a very strange sleep-deprived blur. It’s great re-watching the films—I have favourite bits of each performance, usually Lindsay’s social face acting. She’s brilliant at acting so that you can see that there is a interior life to her characters. My favourite of her films are Georgia Rule, Mean Girls, and Labour Pains.
I was great doing it in the front window of Matchbox Studios this year and having interaction overnight from people on the street. I had quite a few people stop and watch along over my shoulder. I love meeting fellow Lindsay fans which also happens a lot through social media as I live stream and tweet HBLL.
There’s an accompanying HBLL zine to go with the piece. What’s inside?
The HBLL zine has documentation of all previous years, plus two essays—one by curator and artist James Bowen, and one by celebrity studies academic Allison Maplesden. They both do a very good job contextualising the project.
Do you have any future pieces in mind?
I’ll keep doing HBLL every year in some format. I’ll have to change it up next year for Lindsay’s 30th. Maybe I’ll try and find 30 30-year-olds to do a Lindsay movie marathon in a relay around the world?
Currently I’m working on starting up a new art zine called Contemporary Menstrual Art. It really hits a lot of my key concerns—gendered experience, embarrassing and/or overly earnest art, cultural discomfort with uncontrolled bodily function.
Finally, what do you foresee in Lindsay Lohan’s future?
I really hope Lindsay gets steady acting work again. I’d love if she had some weird TV protagonist roles like Nurse Jackie, or True Detective, or The Comeback.
Claire Harris’ Happy Birthday Lindsay Lohan zine can be purchased at Matchbox Studios.